Willits developers turn theirattention to the town’s core | AspenTimes.com

Willits developers turn theirattention to the town’s core

Scott Condon

The developers of the Willits project in Basalt have focused for the last three years on building homes and a handful of auto-oriented businesses. Their next step will be to add a core designed to give the town an identity.The developers announced this week they will break ground next spring on a signature building that will feature 25,000 square feet of shops and restaurants on the ground floor and 42 residential lofts on the upper two floors.Michael Lipkin, who is a partner in the project with Paul Adams and Clay Crossland, said the lofts will bring the feel of chic neighborhoods of San Francisco, New York City and Denver’s LoDo to the Basalt/El Jebel area.The Willits development is located across Willits Lane, on the upvalley side of the El Jebel City Market.The town core will eventually have 600,000 square feet of living space, retail shops, restaurants and offices along a 10-block area. “This building for us should pretty much set the tone,” said Lipkin, an architect whose firm, Lipkin-Warner Design, designed the building. It’s got a “timeless brick storefront look” and what Lipkin labeled a “quasi-downtown industrial feel.”The downtown core will have narrow streets and wide sidewalks to make it pedestrian-friendly. Parking will be along the streets and in small lots, not in a sea of asphalt. No space is carved out for big-box retailers similar to what Glenwood Springs is attracting to a new project in West Glenwood or a Carbondale developer tried to get approved along Highway 133.Lipkin said a big-box doesn’t fit with what he and his partners are trying to do at Willits. This first building in the core, he said, exemplifies the plan. It will be constructed with a big courtyard in the middle, open at one end. The front of the building is along a 20-foot-wide sidewalk to accommodate restaurants with outside dining. Lipkin anticipates placing three or four restaurants there and said he’s talking to restaurant owners in Aspen about opening in Willits. He said it was premature to name the establishments.Retail space on the sides of the building will feature a “downtown mix of stuff” such as a sporting goods store, a newsstand and various small shops.There will be studio, one- and two-bedroom lofts, ranging from 703 to 1,826 square feet. There will be 15 floor plans but all will have 12-foot vault ceilings, hardwood floors and private terraces among their amenities.The prices are $221,500 to $704,700, which Lipkin said compares favorably on a price-per-square-foot basis to similar units in the midvalley.Willits has approvals from the town of Basalt for about 550 residences outside of the town core. Those include single-family homes and townhouses. So far, about one-third of the approved units have been built, Lipkin estimated.The developers constructed a general store, liquor store and bank in the first phase of commercial development – components that traditionally have been built first in towns.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com