Willits land coming off the market | AspenTimes.com

Willits land coming off the market

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT The developers of a Basalt subdivision have pulled their last undeveloped single-family-home lots off the market after skyrocketing prices there caught even veteran real estate agents off guard.The ownership group of the Willits subdivision pulled 20 to 22 undeveloped lots off the market earlier this month, according to managing partner Michael Lipkin. He said the “recent significant appreciation” in property sales prices prompted his group remove the lots from the multiple listing service so they could “take a breath” and evaluate what they want to do with them. Lipkin said he and his partners might want to build homes themselves rather than sell the remaining lots in the hot market.Some observers speculated the high prices of home sales in Willits would attract speculators who would sit on the lots and wait for the prices to rise rather than build homes. That might not match Lipkin’s vision for Willits. He wants the residential section built out quickly to provide the critical mass of residents necessary to make an emerging commercial center, called the Willits Town Center, a success.Wendy Lucas, whose company is the listing broker for the Willits developers, said undeveloped lots have sold recently for $285,000 to $338,000. Prices hadn’t been raised in a while, she said. Now, she believes most lots would sell in excess of $350,000.There are 155 single-family home lots in Willits. About 135 have been developed, Lipkin said. The subdivision provided upper middle class housing when it was first developed earlier this decade, but sales prices on two homes topped $1 million in January.Recently, one of the first homes built in the subdivision also went under contract for more than $1 million, surprising real estate agents and indicating the earlier price spike was no fluke.Before the $1 million sales, the previous high sales price in Willits had been $770,000.Cranes return for springWhile the residential market sizzles at Willits, there also has been progress in developing the commercial core.Lipkin’s group and their partners at Joseph Freed & Associates, a high-powered Chicago development firm that bought into the project last fall, broke ground on another building that will mix commercial and residential uses in the Willits Town Center. The foundation was poured last month and a crane with a towering boom, visible throughout the El Jebel area, crawled into place last weekend.Lipkin said the new structure is scheduled to be completed by late 2007 or early ’08. It will be similar in size and design to the Triangle Park Lofts building, which is already in the core.Lipkin announced last year the lineup of restaurants and retail shops that had purchased or leased space in the Triangle Park Lofts building. Since then progress has been slow and some observers have wondered about the delays. Montecito Loft and Home has been the only business to open thus far.Lipkin said construction is under way or about to start in several other commercial spaces. Smoke Modern Barbecue will be the next to open, probably in mid-March, he said. El Korita’s, a popular midvalley Mexican restaurant, plans to relocate to Willits and a restaurant called Crave also will open there. Work on retail spaces for Dwell On and P.E. 101 is also under way, according to Lipkin.The new mixed use building, called the Market Street Lofts, will have 36,000 square feet available for commercial space with residential units on the upper floor. The original approval capped the commercial allocation at 27,000 square feet, but the Basalt Town Council increased it to improve Willits’ chances at landing a specialty food store.What about a grocer?Lipkin said he gets bombarded with questions about the possibility of bringing a grocer to Willits. “No question, everybody in the valley is interested in getting a specialty food store,” he said, adding he and his partners are diligently trying.For now, Lipkin said, he has nothing to announce. Pam Brady Ferrara, Joseph Freed & Associate’s leasing agent for Willits, said interest in the project has increased in the last three months.”The level of interest at Willits is tremendous,” Ferrara said. She said she fields at least one call per day from a potential tenant.Her company has boosted efforts to tout Willits and the demographics of shoppers in the Roaring Fork Valley.While Lipkin offered commercial space for sales or rent, Joseph Freed & Associates shifted strategy after it bought into the project. Commercial spaces will now only be leased, not sold, Ferrara said.Only a few small spaces remain available in the first Triangle Park Lofts building. Ferrara is trying to sign tenants for the building now under construction.One goal, she said, is to sign an anchor tenant. She said it is premature to name the names of companies that are negotiating.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.

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