Work starts on Whole Foods |

Work starts on Whole Foods

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” Work is finally under way in Basalt on the Whole Foods Market, one of the most thoroughly discussed ” and highly anticipated ” developments in the midvalley.

Joseph Freed and Associates received a permit from the town government last week to start working on the foundation of the three-story building, which will feature a 44,000-square-foot grocery store on the ground level and affordable housing on the upper two stories.

Excavation of the site was previously allowed. Construction crews are hammering forms into place this week and they will start pouring concrete next week, according to Tim Belinski, vice president of development for Joseph Freed and Associates. A firm called Clayco is the general contractor on the job.

The building will start emerging from the ground in the fall, Belinski said. The contract between the developer and grocer requires the shell of the building to be turned over to the finish crews of Whole Foods by early June 2009. Belinski said it behooves the development firm to complete the shell as soon as possible so that the market ” the anchor for the Willits Town Center ” opens as quickly as possible.

“We’d love to have them opened by the holidays ’09,” Belinski said. The opening might not be possible until early 2010, he acknowledged.

Whole Foods officials weren’t available for comment Wednesday. Will Paradise, the regional vice president for Whole Foods, previously explained that the opening will depend on when the finish crews are available in Basalt. The natural foods chain is rapidly expanding, so its finish crews are shuffling between various sites.

The Whole Foods website said Basalt is one of 89 sites where leases have been signed for new stores. They are in various stages of development. The trend for the chain is to build larger stores.

“Existing stores average 34,700 square feet while stores in development average 51,100 square feet,” the website said.

The grocery chain had $6.6 billion in sales last year and anticipates demand for its organic and natural foods to continue growing.

Whole Foods typically is found in dense urban areas. The company’s website said it generally requires a market where at least 200,000 people are within 20 minutes of driving time from the market. Basalt won’t provide nearly that exposure and it will be the first store in a Rocky Mountain resort area. Paradise previously explained that the company’s marketing analysis indicated customers at the Basalt store will likely buy more groceries than typical customers.

The Whole Foods building will be the third major structure in the core of the Willits Town Center. The Triangle Park Lofts building was finished first; the Market Street Lofts building was recently completed. The center also includes the Willits General Store and Alpine Bank buildings.

Eight more buildings are approved in the core along with a performing arts center and a bus station. One of the eight buildings is a hotel. Belinski said one of the highest priorities for Joseph Freed and Associates is to sign on a hotel operator and get that building completed.

The Whole Foods building is located adjacent to Highway 82, although access will be from within Willits Town Center. The building will include a 98-space underground parking garage and a 200-space surface parking lot to the south. That parking will be reserved for the store.

The Whole Foods building, in its current form, was approved Dec. 11. Initial approvals for Willits Town Center didn’t allow a space larger than 27,500 square feet on one floor. The developers needed to amend approvals for allow a 44,000 square foot market.

The review for the market got tangled in a request from the developers for additional residences in the Willits Town Center. Once those components were separated, the market sailed through the review process. A petition in support of approval for the market was signed by 521 residents of the Roaring Fork Valley.