Willits plans winter farmers’ market | AspenTimes.com

Willits plans winter farmers’ market

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Willits Town Center will, indeed, have a market this year – although not the one that was anticipated.The Willits Town Center Partners, owners and developers of the project, plan to start a winter farmers’ and artisans’ market the Saturday after Thanksgiving and continue for another 13 weeks, according to Tim Belinski, a representative of the owners. The hours will be noon to 6 p.m.An unknown number of vendors of wintertime products will be invited to sell their goods in an unrented commercial space at the development, he said. Willits has a 5,300-square-foot spot available next to the Kitchen Collage, so numerous vendors can be accommodated.”I’m pretty confident we’ll have the place full,” Belinski said.Progress hasn’t panned out as planned at Willits because of the recession. Whole Foods Market signed a contract to open a 45,000-square-foot supermarket, but developer Joseph Freed & Associates, part of Willits Town Center Partners, couldn’t secure financing to complete the building. Only the parking garage and foundation have been finished. At one point, pre-recession, Whole Foods was supposed to open late this year or early 2010. The developer and natural grocer are attempting to renegotiate a contract for a smaller space.Without an anchor tenant, some of the completed space at Willits sits empty. The owners want to make the best of the situation by building off of the success of the Basalt Sunday Market, which a group of residents launched last summer. Belinski said a similar winter market, minus the fresh veggies, could provide some vitality for Willits and generate foot traffic for the existing retailers.The Town Council agreed, voting 6-0 to approve $4,000 in seed money for expenses such as marketing and paying musicians. The cash-strapped town government decided to use money from its Holy Cross Community Enhancement Fund, a special revenue stream separate from the town’s general coffers.Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt was hesitant to give municipal funds to a private, for-profit company, so it was determined that the funds will be provided when specific invoices are presented. In addition, the funds will be funneled through the Basalt Chamber of Commerce or a nonprofit organization, if one is established to run the winter market.Councilwomen Amy Capron said the planning for the winter market seemed “half-baked” since so much organization must still be done with two weeks to go before the planned launch. Belinski was confident his staff could pull it off. Interested vendors can call his office at 277-1100.In somewhat related news, the Town Council read a proclamation honoring the founders of the Basalt Sunday Market.scondon@aspentimes.com

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