Carbondale, that once-sleepy town at the base of Mount Sopris about 30 miles from Aspen, has long lived in the shadow of the resort’s glamour and glitz.But starting next year, Carbondale may sport a resemblance to Aspen in ways very few ever expected – a construction boom that jams the streets with dump trucks and other work vehicles, puts cranes on the skyline and throws dust in the air.Town officials note hopefully that the construction sites are “dispersed” around the town’s eight defined neighborhoods, so the disruption may not be as noticeable as some might fear.Town Manager Tom Baker, describing the impending activity at a recent Carbondale Community Chamber of Commerce meeting, said he “wanted to let everybody know we have a lot of stuff happening.”A flurry of new construction of retail, commercial, industrial and residential developments is either already approved, going through development review or nearly ready to do so, said Baker and town planner Doug Dotson.”There are a lot of opportunities to grow tax base in Carbondale,” added Dotson, emphasizing that where once the town had only one prospective commercial project in its sights – the troubled Crystal River Marketplace along Highway 133 – now there are several. And Baker said that all this growth is being taken into account by the town’s citizen planners, from the planning and zoning commission to the Road Map Group, as well as the elected trustees on the Town Council. The town’s coffers, once thought to be in danger of depletion, have been filling up, thanks to annual sales tax growth in the 14-percent range.Pointing to the recently completed, 15,000-square-foot Gateway Plaza building at the corner of Cowen Drive and Highway 133, Baker said another large structure is already approved just up the highway, north of the intersection with Dolores Way. That’s where the American National Bank is planning to move from its current location on West Main Street.Nearby is the site where the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority plans to build a new park-and-ride lot, and the town expects to begin receiving applications for “transit-oriented development” between Dolores Way and the railroad tracks, adjacent to the new NAPA auto parts store and other existing industrial uses.Baker said the town will be expecting those applications to be for mixed-use projects, with light industrial and commercial businesses on the ground floor and residential units above The basic premise is that residents will be able to walk to the nearby park-and-ride lot and take a bus to work. One such project, called the Edelman building, already has approvals to build, Baker said, and more are expected once the town completes enabling changes to its land-use code.Farther up the highway, the Paint Store structure in the old Sopris Shopping Plaza, once home to the town’s only grocery store, Circle Super, is to be torn down by plaza owner Ron Stein and replaced with what town officials expect to be a two-story, mixed-use building.An old plan by Stein to have Colorado Avenue closed, so he could build across to land he owns on the other side of the street, is off the table for now, Dotson said. But it may be revived in the future, particularly if the town succeeds in connecting Industry Place off Highway 133 to Eighth Street, a goal of planners for several years. Linking the highway to Eighth Street via Industry Place would provide another entry route into the downtown area, which might mean Colorado Avenue could be closed off, Dotson said. Town officials have long considered the close proximity of Colorado Avenue to Main Street, a matter of 30 yards or so, to be a safety hazard because of the high volumes of traffic that tend to bunch up at the juncture of the highway and Main Street.In the downtown area itself, right next to Town Hall, the new Carbondale Recreation Center is expected to start going up next year on property now occupied by a parking lot and a small house and yard along Colorado Avenue between Fourth and Sixth streets.Across Colorado Avenue, developers Ed Podolak and Bill Smith are planning to build another mixed-use, three-story building next to the Thunder River Theater building. It is to be similar to the one they built earlier at the corner of Fourth and Colorado.On a vacant lot at the corner of Main and Fourth, formerly owned by Dale Eubank but now owned by an investment group led by architect Charles Cunniffe, town officials are expecting another two-story, mixed-use project, possibly by next summer. And next door, another former Eubank property, European Antiques, is about to get a second story, according to the building’s owners.Across Fourth Street, the old Mountain Aire apartment complex, now owned by developer Don Ensign, is to be demolished and replaced by a three-story mixed-use project, with retail and residential on the ground floor and residential above.Further east along Main Street, the old yellow wood frame house next to Miser’s Mercantile disappeared recently, torn down in a matter of hours, to make way for yet another mixed-use project.Heading south along Highway 133, 52 homes are planned for the Kator Grove subdivision. Next door, at Cerise Park, another 40 homes are anticipated once annexation is complete and the developers submit their plans.Ongoing construction of the new Roaring Fork High School, the adjacent Carbondale & Rural Volunteer Fire Department training facility and the Crystal River Elementary School complete the picture of a town experiencing considerable and sudden growth. Not to mentions plans by the Colorado Department of Transportation to start work next year on the intersection of Highways 133 and 82, and a new Highway 133 bridge across the Roaring Fork River at the north end of town.And it’s not likely to end soon, Baker said, explaining that as the baby boom generation retires and seeks nice places to spend its declining years, Carbondale seems to be at the top of many lists.”There are developers who think this is going to keep going for a decade,” Baker said.
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