ASPEN - While some Pitkin County residents might have skied all day and partied well into the night 30 years ago, they now are looking for a quiet place to settle down and secure ongoing medical care for their golden years.
That's the driving force behind the Aspen Valley Foundation's proposal for a 148-unit continuous-care and retirement community in Basalt, representatives told the Basalt Town Council and Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission this week in the official unveiling of the project.
The number of people 65 and older is expected to surge in Pitkin County and the surrounding area - from 3,215 currently to 4,662 by 2017, an increase of 45 percent, according to Richard Shaw, of Design Workshop, citing research performed on demographics. Design Workshop is planning the project for the foundation. CCY Architects of Basalt is also on the team.
About 8 percent of population of Pitkin County and the immediate surrounding area is 65 or older right now, Shaw said in his presentation. The overall population will get much grayer and frailer as the baby boomers age.
148-unit center planned in Basalt
Meanwhile, residents of the upper and middle Roaring Fork Valley have access to a limited number of assisted-living beds. There are 118 at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale and 15 at Whitcomb Place. They have an occupancy at or exceeding 95 percent at any given time. That leaves high demand for additional assisted-living housing.
"This is a mission-driven project," Shaw said.
The project is proposed on the Stott's Mill property between the Southside neighborhood and Basalt High School. Once it's built out, there will be 78 independent-living units, 18 cottages, 28 assisted-living units and 24 skilled-nurse units. The amount of care varies from on-demand with the independent-living units to a nursing home situation in the most intense stage.
The project would be built in two phases with multiple buildings. The housing would be mixed with uses such as a community commons, where lectures could be presented, and a child care facility. Shaw said the idea is to keep the residents of the project integrated with the community. The day care and the proximity to the high school provides a multigenerational feel. The site also is adjacent to the Rio Grande Trail.
The first phase will feature 88 residential units of mixed types totaling about 130,000 square feet, Shaw told the Basalt Town Council. The second phase would add 60 units and 61,500 square feet. Additional land would be available on the campus for expansion.
Foundation wants town fees waived
The continuous-care and retirement community will be developed as a nonprofit project, so the Aspen Valley Foundation wants the town to waive building and land-use fees that it controls as well as the school land-dedication fee. A preliminary estimate by town officials predicted that the fees could add up to $400,000.
The request spurred questions from Basalt town officials about finances of the project. Planning Commission Chairman Bernie Grauer said the "deliberative bodies" and residents of Basalt don't have enough financial information to determine if the fees should be waived. He wanted to know how affordable the housing would be.
Councilwoman Anne Freedman said she was "concerned" about the entry fee being too high for some elderly residents to get into the project.
Councilman Glenn Rappaport cautioned against making the foundation provide too much detail of financial information.
"I'm nervous about trying to understand those implications," he said.
Rappaport later added that anyone who wants to live in the facility, regardless of whether they are wealthy, should be welcomed. "I don't want to be a part of a discussion about the kind of personalities we want in Basalt," he said.
Councilwoman Karin Teague responded that the issue isn't one of personalities. The council needs to know who the project will be marketed to "if the taxpayers of Basalt are going to be subsidizing" the project through the waiver of fees, she said.
Kris Marsh, president and CEO of the Aspen Valley Foundation, assured the board members that the project will be for people who have lived and contributed to the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley, not for those who recently retired to Aspen's Red Mountain.
"We don't want this to be a rich enclave," Marsh said. Though the foundation isn't ready to discuss specific rents and entry fees, organizers feel the prices they are discussing are "affordable," she said.
Marsh also assured the officials that the retirement community "is not a gated community."
More on the finances is expected to be shared when the Planning Commission takes up review Tuesday and the council begins deliberations Feb. 26.
In the unveiling this week, the project was well-received.
"I'm really glad you came here rather than Carbondale or somewhere else," Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said.
Councilman Herschel Ross said the project will have an "extremely positive" economic effect on downtown Basalt.
"I've been rah-rahing it as much as I can around town," he said.