Willits officials optimistic on new deal with Whole Foods in Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Willits officials optimistic on new deal with Whole Foods in Basalt

Scott Condon The Aspen Times Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Officials with the developer of Willits Town Center in Basalt expressed confidence at a public meeting Thursday that they will still re-sign Whole Foods Market as an anchor tenant. Tim Belinski, vice president of development with Joseph Freed & Associates (JFA), told the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s board of directors that the next building scheduled to be completed will include the natural grocer. He was accompanied by Jeff Arnold, executive vice president with JFA’s Chicago office. “We’re finalizing our final layout with Whole Foods,” Belinski said. That is the most definitive word issued by JFA since the project stalled last summer. Construction stopped on the Whole Foods building on Labor Day weekend, when JFA ran into financial problems related to the recession. The developer defaulted on a contract to provide Whole Foods with the shell of a building for a 44,000-square-foot supermarket by June 1. Whole Foods originally intended to complete the interior of the market itself and open late this year or early 2010. Whole Foods regional president Will Paradise said June 2 that the company still wants to open a grocery store in the Roaring Fork Valley. He said negotiations would begin anew with JFA, but that a store would have to be smaller than what was planned prior to the recession, and at a more favorable rent. Paradise has since declined comment, saying only that the two sides are talking. Belinski, JFA’s top official in the Roaring Fork Valley, attended RFTA’s meeting in Carbondale Thursday to say the development firm is open to designating Willits Town Center as a future transit stop. RFTA is working on a massive expansion called bus rapid transit, which requires additional parking and bus stops. The plans for the Willits Town Center supermarket include an underground parking garage for 98 vehicles and surface parking for another 200. Not all of that parking will be required for a smaller store. Belinski said there may be an opportunity to share the parking for a supermarket and transit stop. Following Thursday’s meeting, Belinski reiterated the favorable outlook for reaching terms with Whole Foods. “We’re both optimistic and expecting it to come through,” he said. When asked if the development firm had secured funds to resume construction, Arnold said that JFA’s focus is to find a tenant and finalize the design. Whole Foods Market’s website continues to list Basalt as the site of a store in development.scondon@aspentimes.com

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