Willits Town Center developer sells last holdings for $18.7M to Kroenke-backed company
Platform Ventures bought project in bankruptcy and completed Whole Foods building
A real estate investment company that rescued Willits Town Center from the economic morass of the Great Recession has sold its remaining interests in the development.
Platform Ventures, formerly known as Mariner Real Estate Management, sold portions of three buildings at Willits for $18,754,000, according to a deed filed with the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s office on July 30.
The sale included five commercial spaces in block 7, the building that is home to Capitol Creek Brewing; commercial space in block 10, home to the Kitchen Collage retail store; and a unit in Market Street Crossings, according to the deed.
The buyer was GKT Willits Two, of Columbia, Missouri. The address for the firm is the same as TKG Willits Town Center LLC, which purchased the Whole Foods Market building and Starbuck’s buildings in Willits from Platform Ventures in March 2016. That purchase was for $30.46 million.
GKT Willits and TKG Willits Town Center are companies affiliated with the Kroenke Group, the real estate arm of billionaire Stan Kroenke’s empire. Kroenke is the owner of the Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids and Los Angeles Rams.
The Kroenke Group did not return a request for comment on Friday. The company has significant real estate holdings in Colorado’s Front Range.
Platform Ventures’ departure from Willits comes after a decade of success with the project for the company based in Kansas City. When Platform was known as Mariner Real Estate Management, it bought Willits Town Center out of foreclosure from Bank of America.
“They took a risk when nobody else wanted to,” said Basalt Mayor Bill Kane, who was town manager at the time Mariner entered the picture.
Kane recalled 2008-11 as a bleak time at Willits. The only the buildings that existed were those that housed Kitchen Collage and Korita’s. Development stalled on Labor Day 2008 when former owner and developer Joseph Freed & Associates ran into financing problems at the start of the recession. Construction stopped on the Whole Foods building and left a hole in the ground.
There was a danger that Bank of America would attend to other, bigger troubled assets before it got around to marketing Willits, Kane said. That would have left the town with that hole for an extended time.
Whole Foods’ commitment for a grocery store at Willits expired during the foreclosure. Mariner was wary of acquiring the site without an assurance of an anchor tenant. Kane and the town government helped nurture Whole Foods’ renewed commitment to a smaller space. Mariner finished the Whole Foods space and the development took off.
Mariner’s co-founder and co-president, Ryan Anderson, told The Aspen Times in December 2015 that his company paid about $20 million for the project, including mechanics’ liens. Development over the next few years boosted Mariner’s investment in Willits at that time to about $75 million, according to Anderson.
Mariner/Platform oversaw development of some of the commercial and residential spaces in Willits and also sold off portions. The biggest transactions included a $2,050,000 sale to Aspen Skiing Co. of vacant land that was developed for worker housing.
Anderson couldn’t be reached for comment Friday about his company’s sale of its remaining Willits holdings.
Platform’s website said it manages more than $1.4 billion in assets.
“We specialize in middle-market real estate opportunities and have invested throughout the U.S.” the website states. “As a result, our portfolio is diverse and our risk is not tied to a single niche or strategy.”
Kane said the Kroenke Group’s investments in 2016 and again this year “expresses confidence in Basalt.”
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