Willits Town Center ready to construct defining buildings at project entrance | AspenTimes.com

Willits Town Center ready to construct defining buildings at project entrance

The entrance to Willits Town Center is currently covered in dry grass. Construction will start this fall on residential and commercial buildings.

The developer of Willits Town Center is securing approvals from Basalt to start construction of its most visible buildings.

Mariner Real Estate Management earned approval from the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission this past week to build residential and commercial buildings at the primary entrance to the development. The site, formally known as Block 3, is located near the roundabout on Willits Lane, bounded by East Valley Road on the north and Harris Street to the south. Those routes are the two primary entries to the development.

One building, closest to Willits Lane, will contain 49 rental apartments. Two smaller buildings to the east will have commercial uses. The structures will combine for about 62,500 square feet total. A pocket park will separate the structures.

Tim Belinski, Mariner's local representative, said the location at the entrance requires high-quality buildings that provide "a nice invitation into Willits Town Center, appropriately scaled and well-received" by people entering the complex.

Block 3 is currently a hole covered in dried grass. It was originally contemplated as the location for a hotel, but Mariner relocated that use closer to Highway 82 when it got approvals for the Element Hotel.

The planning commission passed a site plan approval Tuesday evening with the condition that the application returns Sept. 5 for further review of architectural issues and pedestrian connections, according to Basalt Planning Director Susan Philp.

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The building doesn't have to be reviewed by the Town Council. Review by the planning commission was required because the use was changed from a hotel.

Belinski said the goal is to start construction of the 47,500-square-foot residential building this fall. The hope is to start the 15,000 square feet of commercial space as well, but Mariner wants to have retailers lined up before those spaces are completed, Belinski said.

The approval states that the developer can create pads for the retail spaces and finish those buildings at a later date.

Willits Town Center is approved for 591,000 square feet of free market residential and commercial development. About half has been built, excluding square footage for affordable housing.

"One building at a time has been the pace for the last six or seven years," Belinski said.

The pace would increase if demand were greater, he said.

Mariner recently finished a 50-unit, affordable-housing complex with ground floor commercial space that is home to Mezzaluna and Capitol Creek Brewery. It's putting the final touches on an adjacent building with 27 condos, 23 of which will be purchased by the Roaring Fork School District.

Belinski said the 49 apartments in Block 3 will be a mix of one, two and three bedrooms. They will be completed by December 2018.

They were planned even before a potential competing project was approved across Highway 82, according to Belinski. The Eagle County commissioners voted 2-1 in June to approve the Tree Farm project with 340 residences and nearly 135,000 square feet in commercial space. A substantial number of the residences are free-market apartments.

The Tree Farm developer must still meet technical conditions to gain final approval. A lawsuit also is challenging the county's review. Groundbreaking for the project is at least one year away.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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