Old Clark’s Market site in Basalt eyed for redevelopment
The Aspen Times
BASALT — It might not look like much now, but the former Clark’s Market property in the heart of downtown Basalt is being promoted as the town’s future.
Now that a plan has been approved for the former Pan and Fork site west of downtown, the bandwagon is rolling to redevelop the old Clark’s site.
All three candidates in the April 7 mayoral election, as well as most of the six candidates for three council seats, have singled out the site as appropriate for redevelopment. In addition, Basalt officials are inching toward approval of a land-use master plan that outlines three development scenarios for Clark’s. A mix of commercial and residential uses is envisioned, with options ranging from a low of 52 residences to a high of 134.
“Public comment voiced strong support for the redevelopment of this site, with the understanding that its location and size could allow for a project that could be transformative to Old Town’s economic and cultural vibrancy,” the draft master plan says.
Planners and politicians are touting the site as a place where Basalt can pursue the “smart growth principles” of density versus sprawl, the master plan said.
Mayoral candidate Bill Kane said March 2 at a forum that a prime goal for him in office would be to engage with the property owners to come up with a redevelopment plan for the Clark’s site and surrounding area.
“The grocery store is the major missing tooth and a missed opportunity economically for the town,” Kane said.
There are several possibilities, including possible inclusion of a small grocery store on the ground floor of a multi-story building, he said.
Candidate Bill Infante also identified the property as a major opportunity for Basalt. Candidate Rob Leavitt has focused his campaign on slow growth, but he said some level of development is appropriate at the old Clark’s site. He said he prefers small, tastefully done projects.
But developing it won’t be easy. The site is oddly shaped because of historic property lines dating to downtown Basalt’s days as a railroad center. There also are grade changes, floodplain issues and, probably most vexing, multiple property owners. The site includes a gas station/convenience store, a hotel, restaurants, numerous retail stores and a 25,000-square-foot space currently vacant. The big space was once home to Clark’s Market and most recently the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.
If the challenges of multiple owners can be overcome, the site is seen as a potential place for a public parking garage, a boutique hotel, free-market and affordable housing, municipal offices and a grocery store, according to the master plan. The plan outlines three options that propose various mixes and densities of development. All options would improve vehicular and pedestrian access from Midland Avenue to the site.
One option features a retail anchor with about 35,000 square feet of commercial space plus 52 residences.
Another option promotes a 90-room hotel as an anchor with 134 residences and 31,500 “non-residential square footage.”
A third option features the hotel anchor with a public parking garage, 82 residences and 37,000 square feet of commercial space.
In a section of the master plan titled “What must occur for development to happen?” the first item is “significant public/private investment.”
One method might be formation of an urban renewal district to that tax increment financing could be used for public improvements that could spur private investment.
If the past is any predictor, redevelopment of Clark’s won’t come any time soon. It took 8 1/2 years for a compromise to be worked out on the former Pan and Fork property. A development plan with 56,000 square feet of mixed uses and an additional acre for a riverside park on the Pan and Fork site was approved last month by the Town Council. That project is still at least two years away from the first phase of development.
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