Rejuvenating Old Town Basalt

Look out, Willits. Your great-great-grandfather, Old Town Basalt, is on the move.

Not that the two areas are designed to compete. Willits Town Center, after all, is part of Basalt, lying just a few miles north on Highway 82 and having been created following Basalt’s annexation of it nearly three decades ago. Public officials and private developers alike strive to make the two areas complementary.

But as the newer Willits retail-restaurant-residential-medical community moves toward the verge of being built out, Basalt proper is abuzz with activity. Longtime dormant spaces, seemingly all of a ­sudden, are hotbeds of construction and planning efforts.

In reality, nothing happened overnight: The wheels of private speculation, community input and government approval don’t turn so fast. Still, to the occasional or casual observer, it might seem that downtown Basalt is racing toward a newfound relevancy.

Is the sleepy little town that straddles the lines of two counties starting to wake up?

“We’ve got a lot on our plate for sure,” Mayor Bill Kane said Friday. “But it’s all good stuff. We want to make the town more attractive, more sustainable for our businesses and residents.”

Kane and others acknowledge that Basalt has had some tough times recently. It took awhile for real estate values to recover from the Great Recession. Then there were a few years marked by political and community divisiveness. That was followed by the Lake Christine Fire (summer of 2018), which came close to ­swallowing the town. All of these situations were well-documented over the last decade-plus.

The last few years — pandemic concerns aside — have been more stable. The summer seasons have been busy from a tourism standpoint and officials have been working with the community to develop long-term goals that will contribute toward year-round vibrancy.

“We’re prospering now,” Kane said. “We want to take advantage of this ‘up’ economy by getting some things done.”

Read the rest of the article on the Aspen Times website.

By Andre Salvail
He can be reached at

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