Letter: No guarantee development will boost Basalt economy
In order to be economically viable, the Lowe Enterprise group have said the Pan and Fork project needs to add a fourth floor to the proposed buildings, a hotel with 60 rooms, 40 owner-occupied condominiums averaging in sale price between $500,000 and $600,000 and 12 luxury condos for second-home owners. The developers also stated that a “major caveat” was to have a “commitment of use” from Rocky Mountain Institute to make the hotel successful.
I believe this project is not meeting the real needs of the Basalt community and will not bring the economic and social vitality people are hoping for.
Affordable housing is the key ingredient. Basalt needs its community to be living, working and investing in Basalt by bringing their businesses, retail and restaurants to town. According to a recent study, Basalt needs 200 affordable residences in the next five years. The average cost of housing in Basalt is $583,000, and only 14 percent of households can afford housing in that price range. So why is the town saying “yes” to 52 unaffordable condominiums?
To hang the success of the hotel on the commitment from Rocky Mountain Institute seems like a risky business plan. The architectural sketches show the hotel in summer and early fall with people enjoying the Colorado sunshine. Yes, people will come for fly-fishing, hiking and biking May through September. What about the remaining seven months? Skiers will add to the Highway 82 congestion and then spend their dollars in Aspen.
The Riverside and Gold River developments have been an overall failure with empty retail, business and residential units. Why would more development produce a different result?
To make the same mistake of using the one asset that is unique to Basalt and that no other town in the Roaring Fork Valley has is frustrating. The Roaring Fork River runs right through the center of Basalt. Look around. The town of Basalt has allowed developers to come in and keep the community from physically, visually and psychologically accessing the Frying Pan and Roaring Fork rivers.
The town planning process is moving ahead, yet I believe we are missing an opportunity. This last remaining parcel in Basalt is unique and presents us with the chance to share a large-scale open space without feeling like we have intruded on hotel users or condominium owners’ “backyards.” Basalt has many under-utilized buildings that should be redeveloped before we repeat the pattern that has been unsuccessful for Basalt. The Roaring Fork Community Development group could participate in creating successful solutions for the town and its residents instead of selling out to a developer. To have the beauty and access to open space in our daily lives seems far more valuable than a hotel and condos that are no guarantee to bringing economic vibrancy to Basalt.
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