Willits pulls request for more residences | AspenTimes.com

Willits pulls request for more residences

BASALT ” The developer of the Willits Town Center project withdrew an application to add 120 residences to the dense village core, it announced Monday.

Joseph Freed and Associates will concentrate on construction of a Whole Foods Market and other parts of the project that already are approved rather than seek additional components, said Tim Belinski, vice president of development for the firm.

Joseph Freed and Associates notified the Basalt town government staff recently that the application would be withdrawn. The review was scheduled to begin Feb. 12. Joseph Freed and Associates, based in Chicago, bought Willits Town Center from founder Michael Lipkin and his partners in September 2006.

The decision to withdraw the application for the residences came down to priorities, Belinski said. The firm is required by contract to hand the shell of a building over to Whole Foods by June 1, 2009. Its contractor will break ground this spring.

In addition to the 44,000-square-foot supermarket, that building will have 59 affordable housing units on the second and third floors. Joseph Freed and Associates also must provide hundreds of underground parking spaces and substantially complete the closest building to Whole Foods by the time the market opens.

The application for 120 residences ” 60 free-market units and 60 affordable housing units ” initially was tied by the developers to the Whole Foods project in the review process. The developer split the residences and market into different applications after the extra density proved controversial with the public and some members of the Basalt Town Council. Once the applications were split, Whole Foods sailed through the approval process.

Belinski said the politics surrounding the increased density of the residences didn’t play into the decision to withdraw the application.

Joseph Freed and Associates chose not to seek postponement of the review. It is unknown when the application will resurface.

“Certainly it’s more than 12 months out,” Belinski said. “There’s no shortage of work here.”

Other projects on the developers’ plate include building a roundabout at the intersection of Willits Lane and Valley Road, a pedestrian underpass beneath Highway 82 and a transit center adjacent to the market.

Whole Foods officials have said the grocery probably won’t be able to open the Willits market before early 2010. It needs to finish the space and train a staff before Joseph Freed and Associates hand over the shell. Belinski said the development firm hopes to accelerate its work so the grocer has an opportunity to open closer to Thanksgiving 2009.


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