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Crystal Village Plaza sold to billionaire developer

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Married to Wal-Mart heiress

John Colson

Sopris Sun Correspondent

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Carbondale’s second-oldest shopping center, the Crystal Village Plaza at the southwest corner of Highway 133 and Main Street, has been sold to a nationally-ranked real estate investment company with ties to the Walton family, of Wal-Mart fame.

Neill Taylor, a resident of River Valley Ranch and former co-owner of the shopping center, confirmed on Monday that the property had been sold recently to the Kroenke Group, headquartered in Missouri, though he would say no more.

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“The rest of it is under a confidentiality agreement,” he told The Sopris Sun.

The property manager in charge of the Crystal Village Plaza on behalf of the Kroenke Group, Mike Tamblyn of Denver, could not be reached for comment on Monday. His outgoing phone message stated that Tamblyn would be out of the office for the entire week.

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Also unavailable by telephone was Bill Small, a broker for Zenith Realty in Aspen, whom Taylor identified as one of the brokers involved in the deal.

Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington, when asked about the sale, confirmed that he had met with Tamblyn last week, and that Tamblyn had come to town to meet with tenants in the shopping center, which is where City Market and Ace Hardware are located. Attempts to contact the tenants in the center before the Sopris Sun’s early Thanksgiving deadline on Monday afternoon were not successful.

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Harrington said the new shopping center owners have not given any indication of their plans for the plaza, although the Kroger corporation, owner of the City Market store located there, has been making plans to move the store north of Main Street along Highway 133. That site was first called Crystal River Market Place and later Village at Crystal River but voters defeated both projects at the polls and the land remains vacant.

At least one proposed shopping center at the CRMP site involved a plan to bring in a “big-box” store as an anchor tenant, although no particular store was ever named by the developers at the time.

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Harrington said City Market officials, as recently as last year, held discussions with the town about subdividing the old CRMP site to enable the store to relocate, but nothing came of the discussions.

The Kroenke Group, founded in 1983 by billionaire Stan Kroenke, was referred to by Forbes Magazine as Kroenke’s “wholly-owned venture, which invests in … shopping center development projects as well as apartment buildings and storage facilities” around the U.S.

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Many of the shopping centers, Forbes reported, have a Wal-Mart at the anchor tenant.

Kroenke is married to Ann Walton, daughter of the late Wal-Mart co-founder, Bud Walton, according to published sources. Kroenke and his wife, each in their own right, are worth in the neighborhood of $5 billion apiece, according to Forbes.

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The couple reportedly own a home in Aspen, purchased in 2011 for a reported price of $20.75 million, which the Aspen Journalism media organization reported was “the most expensive real estate purchase of 2011.”

In addition to being one of the biggest developers of shopping centers in the U.S., as well as the eighth largest property holder in the country, Kroenke has amassed a global sports dynasty that includes the St. Louis Rams football team, the Arsenal soccer team, and Denver Nuggets basketball team, according to Forbes and the website.

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In his involvement in various real estate investment companies and partnerships, Kroenke reportedly has generated considerable controversy. He is involved in lawsuits with a former partner in the firm, THF Realty (which stands for “To Have Fun,” according to Forbes) and waged a decade-long court battle with another former business partner from Missouri, Raul Walters, who built many early Wal-Mart stores, according to the Denver Post and website.