It wasn’t too long ago that Basalt was a sleepy midvalley service community surrounded by pastoral ranches and low-key neighborhoods. In recent years, the pace has picked up, both in lifestyle and opportunities for development. And now, with year-round attractions and upcoming real estate opportunities at nearly every level of entry, the midvalley is in the midst of a transformation, into a variety of livable neighborhoods with the vibrant hub of Basalt at its heart.
Generating some buzz on the high end is a plan for 13 new whole ownership cabins at the Roaring Fork Club, approved by the town in late November. The cabins, which feature 4 or 5 bedrooms and range from 3200 to 4000 sq ft (larger than the Club’s original cabins), sit on a collective 20 acres that will include a new pond, live stream features, and views from Basalt Mountain to Light Hill. As of this writing, 11 of the residences have been reserved, and are only available to existing Club members or those who purchase a membership. Construction will start in spring 2018.
At Willits, it feels like there’s something new every season, and recently, the focus has been on affordable housing and exciting new hangouts. A 77-unit complex that includes teacher housing has been completed while a 49-unit apartment building is beginning construction. Meanwhile, the town center scene has become more vibrant with
the opening of The Temporary, a performing arts and events space that’s received rave reviews so far, the hip new brewpub Capitol Creek Brewery (by one of the founding owners of the Highlands Alehouse), and a midvalley iteration of Aspen’s popular Mezzaluna restaurant. In addition, tenants are actively being sought for some 15,000 sq ft of commercial space that’s under construction.
A couple new residential projects are in the works at Willits, as well. According to Tim Belinski, who represents Willits owner Mariner Real Estate, some compact condos — or flats — and more generously scaled row homes with two-stall garages are in the design phase. Both are planned to be delivered in spring 2019.
Moving into downtown Basalt, there’s some action on the site of the former Pan and Fork trailer park, where construction of the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s new River Center is underway. The state-of-the-art, approximately 4,000 sq ft facility, next to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s new Innovation Center and bordered by the Roaring Fork River and its wetlands, will serve as the local nonprofit’s headquarters, laboratory, and educational hub.
Another parcel remains vacant as Basalt officials continue to deliberate its fate. How much and what kind of development is appropriate on the 2.3 acres near the Midland/Two Rivers Road intersection has been a hot-button issue in the town for years, and last November, Basalt voters narrowly rejected a proposal for the town to issue debt to buy the parcel, primarily to enlarge a riverfront park. Then, local developer Jim DeFrancia of Lowe Enterprises floated an idea to purchase the land for $3 million, build a 65-key condo hotel along with some restaurant and retail space, and give up 1 acre for the public park. DeFrancia put that idea on the back burner when he sensed the town government wasn’t warm to it. Most recently, during their 2018 budget discussions, town officials have revived discussion of buying the land from the nonprofit Roaring Fork Community Development Corp, perhaps with open space funds.
Meanwhile, construction wrapped up this fall on a realigned intersection at Highway 82 and Basalt Avenue as well as a pedestrian underpass. Traffic flow has already considerably improved, with the underpass and new turning lanes from Basalt Avenue easing access to and from Basalt’s Southside — where there’s also new development plans worth mentioning.
In September, town approvals from 2009 were reinstated for Stott’s Mill, a neighborhood of 113 residences to be built across the Rio Grande Trail from Basalt High School. The 18-acre development is planned to consist of 88 free-market homes and 25 deed-restricted affordable units. Forty-three of the free-market units are planned to be rentals in multifamily buildings, with the balance being sold as “attainable” single-family homes. Construction is expected to start in the spring.
Shortly after the Stott’s Mill vote, another project near the high school got the green light from Town Council. Basalt Vista, a partnership between the Roaring Fork School District, Pitkin County, and Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork, is providing 27 affordable condos: 15 for teachers and other school district officials and 12 for county employees.
Other affordable housing projects in the midvalley include 56 rental units under construction facing Highway 82 next to Stubbie’s, an expansion of the El Jebel mobile home park, and Aspen Skiing Co.’s tiny home project at the Aspen Basalt Campground, which started with a trial run of six modular mobile units available to seasonal employees last winter. For this winter, 34 more of the Sprout Tiny Homes were ordered — these ones accommodating three people each — adding up to 114 total seasonal employees housed.
And there’s even more in the works in the midvalley. In June, Eagle County approved the 340-unit Tree Farm, across the highway from Willits. The new subdivision includes 135,000 sq ft of commercial space as well as portions of the residential that must be affordable and resident-occupied. It’s planned to be phased in over time, although when it will break ground is anyone’s guess — a group opposed to the controversial project filed a lawsuit in October contesting its approvals.
The rural area around Catherine Store a little further downvalley is poised to see some major changes. An investment group including Aspenites Marc and Melissa Ganzi, who bought some property adjacent to Catherine Store a few years ago to create the Aspen Valley Polo Club, recently purchased a 100-acre former ranch slightly upvalley from there and just west of the Waldorf School, with the intention of creating a full-scale polo club complete with some residential development. The proposal, which begins review in Garfield County in December, includes two regulation-sized polo fields, barns, a club house, and the potential for more than 50 residences.
And on the north side of Highway 82, a developer is contemplating a neighborhood of potentially hundreds of small homes, targeted primarily for upvalley workers. While there’s no formal development application as of yet, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Garfield County’s Planning Commission will consider a proposal by the developer to change the zoning on the 41-acre parcel, in order to greatly increase its allowed density.