It’s still difficult, but if you squint, you can almost see what downtown Basalt is going to look like a few years from now. Between the “Eddy Out” plan for the river park and the application submitted for final approval last month for the rest of the former Pan & Fork property, the future of the big open space at the corner of Midland Ave. and Two Rivers Road is all sketched out.
Now the first dominos just need to fall – which still has a slight chance of not happening.
Everything hinges on the application gaining approval from the town council, which will most likely vote on the matter later this winter or spring. The application was submitted in December by a group, Basalt River Park LLC, led by local businessman Tim Belinski, who also heads the Willits development team.
Right now, the former Pan & Fork property is owned by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. Once its application gains approval, Basalt River Park LLC has an option to buy the property from the RFCDC and sell the portion of the land closest to the Midland-Two Rivers intersection (about an acre) to the town to complete its river park.
If, for whatever reason, the application fails to gain approval, Belinski and his group won’t buy the property, and Basalt will be right back where it is now, with a half-hearted park along the river and a giant, fenced-in vacant lot along Two Rivers Road.
The next step for the application is a review by Basalt’s planning and zoning commission, which will take a look at the project this month before passing it on – with or without a recommendation – to the town council. It’s expected that the commission will be in favor of the plans, as an earlier version of the application received the first of two necessary approvals last May, and little has changed in the latest iteration.
“Everything’s revolving around the final approvals,” said Belinski. “After the approvals get put into place, we can all move forward with our work, respectively, which involves the town’s parcel for the park and the development parcel with the plans for buildout.”
With some of the details still being hashed out, those plans, drawn up by Basalt-based CCY Architects, call for 24 residences, including four affordable housing units, at the end of the property nearest the Rocky Mountain Institute; a 3,000-square-foot restaurant with a patio overlooking the park; a new, 6,000-square-foot home for the Art Base; and 11,500 square feet of commercial space in what’s being called the Maker Building along Art Base Alley, with 12 percent of that space dedicated to nonprofit offices.
In total, it adds up to about 55,000 square feet of total floor area development, which is a number that is sure to upset the faction in Basalt that wanted to see the entire property turned into a park. But Belinski insisted that his group and CCY factored both the 2014 Our Town planning survey and the ongoing master plan update heavily into their deliberations.
“We relied on the Our Town survey a tremendous amount,” said Belinski. “That was the lead indicator all the way through and our guiding principle. It was pretty well documented for us to follow in the tracks of what was laid out through all those meetings and all the energy devoted to Our Town and the downtown advisory committee’s work. That’s page one of all of the work.”
Page two, particularly over the course of 2019, was to collaborate with CTA Architects Engineers, which has offices in Denver and elsewhere, and Basalt-based Connect One Design as they updated the town’s master plan, which is set to be fully presented to the Basalt Town Council this week.
“We’ve worked with them quite a bit,” said Belinski. “We’ve attended those meetings and we’ve been involved in interviews to ensure that what’s happening here is in sync with the master plan.”
The hope, for all involved, is to inject vitality into downtown Basalt while avoiding some of what many see as the problems that have plagued Basalt’s last two large-scale riverside developments. In one case, 2003’s Riverwalk building along Midland Ave., a private parking lot sits between the building and the Fryingpan River, and in the other, 2000’s Riverside Plaza/Gold Rivers Court, which sits on Two Rivers Road directly across Midland Ave. from the Pan & Fork parcel, public access to the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers is limited to a trail that runs within a few feet of the front doors of townhomes.
“It is kind of overwhelming at the river edge there, and it does feel private,” said Belinski, “so we worked hard to not let that kind of thing happen. We get that, that it’s an area that doesn’t welcome people in and doesn’t feel welcoming, and I think the design team, as well as the park designers, have worked together to keep that from happening.”
Should the application get approved this winter or spring, Belinski said his group hopes to break ground on the development some time in late summer, which is about when the park improvements would begin, as well. Construction, which is slated to be done in phases, should take about three years. After that, only time will tell if vitality has been injected and unwelcoming pitfalls have been avoided.
One thing is certain, though: Given the bickering over the Pan & Fork parcel for most of the last decade, there’s nothing Basalt River Park LLC can do that will get everyone to see eye to eye. But at least there will be something there for people to see.