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Citizens receptive to Marketplace plans

“Positive” was the surprisingly common term at Carbondale’s Town Hall Tuesday night from citizens reviewing conceptual plans for the controversial Crystal River Marketplace development site.The citizens, along with developers and town officials, gathered to look over the results of months of planning and haggling to come up with a new development proposal, after developer Brian Huster’s initial plans were rejected in a townwide vote in 2003.The “draft conceptual program” outlined in text and maps at Town Hall Tuesday night has yet to receive the blessing of the town’s board of trustees, but even one-time opponents of Huster’s development proposals were upbeat about the current planning effort.”It’s very easy to talk to (developer) Rich (Schierburg),” said Carbondale resident Joani Matranga, a member of the Road Map Group that has been working with the town and the developers to formulate a plan for the Marketplace.Schierburg, manager of the Denver-based Peregrine Group Development LLC, said his company is poised to buy the Marketplace site from Huster and take over the development.”It’s positive,” concurred RMG co-chair Ro Mead, who was a member of the ad-hoc citizens group named the Town Mothers that spearheaded the move to defeat Huster’s plans. “The feeling in here is more positive than since the beginning of the Marketplace discussion.”As the plans now stand, the project calls for a total of between 160,000 and 175,000 square feet of retail space, including a 60,000-square-foot space for the “anchor” store; between 150 and 175 housing units (15 percent of which must be “affordable” under town codes); three “junior anchors” at about 20,000 square feet apiece, and a mix of commercial and office space scattered around the site.The defeated proposal called for 252,000 square feet of commercial space, anchored by a 125,000-square-foot site for a big-box retailer. Huster bought the 22-acre property, located along Highway 133, from the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in 1999.Huster’s local representative, attorney Eric Gross, said there is still a possibility that the City Market grocery store will move from its current location at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 133 into the anchor space at the Market Place, but nothing has been signed. He and others said nothing has been decided about what businesses might move into the retail spaces, should the project be built.But Dan Guimond, principal of the EPS consultants who have been working with the town on Marketplace issues and other matters, said there is a list of 25 to 30 potential national chains that might be interested in the “junior anchor” spaces, naming such companies as the Barnes & Noble book stores, Office Depot, Old Navy, PetCo, Circuit City and others.The draft conceptual plans, displayed on large posters in the town’s meeting room, laid out a variety of potential related issues alongside the Marketplace plans.Included in these was the news that the Colorado Department of Transportation last week allocated $4 million for planning, design and construction of improvements to Colorado Highway 133 from the bridge over the Roaring Fork River to a point at the south edge of town. In addition, according to town officials, CDOT has given its blessing to the idea of building two roundabouts, one at the Main Street intersection and another at Nieslanik Place opposite the Marketplace site, in lieu of traffic lights.Carbondale has long discussed expanding the road to four lanes with landscaping and other amenities, as well as cutting new access streets into town from the highway. Currently, there are only three ways to get into town from the highway, and transportation planners have said more are needed.The wall posters also detailed a broad range of economic information relating to the potential sales tax revenues from the Marketplace ($750,000 to $1 million per year), and a variety of projects the town hopes to undertake to improve streets and other public facilities.Schierburg, who has been involved in the planning process for some time, said he has developed everything from golf subdivisions to “master planned communities” in Southern California and Arizona.He said he is very familiar with the Roaring Fork Valley, having come here for vacations since he was a child and establishing a network of friends here.Asked why he wants to get involved with a project with such a troubled history, he said, “Because I think I can make it work.”He said he believes the town is ready to put the past acrimony behind it and move forward.Asked if he has any plans to build the project according to sustainable development guidelines, a matter near and dear to the hearts of many in Carbondale, he would only say, “I will look at it closely and see what can work for the site.”The next public meetings about the Marketplace plans will be a Community Open House, with “completed drawings and economic information,” from 6-9 p.m. July 5, according to town officials.The town trustees and the planning and zoning commission have scheduled a joint meeting to take a first formal look at the plans at 6:30 p.m. July 19.


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