50 apartments in Willits will be ready for rent in March | AspenTimes.com

50 apartments in Willits will be ready for rent in March

The Willits Seven building features apartments on the second and third floors with restaurants and shops on the ground flood. There is a parking garage for residents beneath the 73,000-square-foot building.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

The Roaring Fork Valley will get some relief from the affordable-housing shortage next month when 50 apartments open in Willits Town Center in Basalt.

About 150 people already have signed up to receive information about the apartments even though publicity has been word-of-mouth and via the Willits Town Center website, http://www.DiscoverWillits.com. Applications will be taken next month and some of the apartments will be ready to occupy by late March, according to Tim Belinski, president of IND Ventures LLC, which is a local representative of Mariner Real Estate Management.

“I expect a lot of interest,” Belinski said. “We’re going to wish we had more in the end because there’s going to be the demand.”

He noted that the classified ads in a local newspaper feature only four apartments for rent in the midvalley. A study commissioned by the town of Basalt in 2015 said 200 affordable-housing units were needed within the next five years to meet the existing demand.

“I expect a lot of interest.” — Tim Belinski, developer representative

Mariner didn’t have to build all 50 units at this time. However, it accelerated its schedule to build all units required for its mitigation at one time rather than string it out over phases.

In addition, the company is building 27 condominiums in a building that will be connected to the apartments. The majority of the condos will be purchased by the Roaring Fork School District, which includes the Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs public schools. The remainder of the for-sale units is being offered to other public agencies.

Mix of sizes

There will be 26 one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom apartments and two three-bedroom units in the Willits Seven building.

The units can have no less than one person and no more than two per bedroom.

The one-bedroom units will rent for $1,640 per month while the two-bedrooms will go for $1,870, according to information supplied by Belinski. The three-bedroom units will go for $1,966. The rents comply with Basalt’s affordable-housing guidelines.

The rent includes garbage and water. The one-bedroom units receive one designated parking space in the underground garage while the two- and three-bedroom units get two spaces. All units will have storage space in the garage, which is accessed via an elevator.

Each unit has a washer and dryer, along with new kitchen appliances. There also are trash chutes so residents don’t have to walk their garbage down to the basement.

The apartments on the second floor will be pet friendly, with cats and up to medium sized dogs accepted for an annual fee.

Belinski believes the units will be popular because of the building’s location on the southerly side of the Willits commercial core. The building, which is 73,000 square feet excluding the parking garage, is south of the Valley View Medical building and an easy walk to Whole Foods Market and surrounding shops and restaurants.

Element Hotel is next door. The bus stop is less than a block away and there is access to a WE-cycle shared bike program station.

The Willits Seven building will feature restaurants and retail shops on the ground floor. Capitol Creek Brewery is leasing a corner space closest to Element Hotel. Mezzaluna is expanding from Aspen with a restaurant and bar on the opposite corner of the brewpub, along East Valley Road.

Leap forward for Basalt

While the affordable-housing project is privately owned, Mariner must comply with the town’s affordable-housing rules. Applicants must meet employment and residency requirements as well as income and asset limits.

The oversight of the building and the handling of rental applications will be done by a local property management firm, the Romero Group, on behalf of Mariner and the town, according to Belinski.

Susan Philp, Basalt town planner, said town guidelines spell out that the developer must pay for vetting the prospective tenants. The town will pull a percentage of the tenants’ files to cross-check the property manager’s work, she said.

There is a degree of uncertainty about the demand and filling the units.

“We have not had fifty rental units come on line at any one time,” she said.

At this point, the plan is to make the units available on first-come, first-served basis with priorities established in four tiers.

The highest priority will go to essential employees working full-time in Basalt. That includes cops, firefighters, teachers, public works staff and utility company workers.

The second priority tier is for employees of Basalt who don’t fall into the “essential” category.

The third tier is essential employees working elsewhere in the valley and fourth is non-essential employees elsewhere in the valley.

Lottery a possibility

Belinski said he envisions the process will feature a rolling open-and-close weekly schedule. Applications will be accepted, open houses will be held and they will start making units available to people in the highest priority.

A webpage dedicated to the affordable housing and including an application will be set up soon and publicized, Belinski said.

“Everybody needs to feel they’ve had access to it,” he said of the housing.

If the demand exceeds the supply, the town guidelines spell out direction.

“Plan B is the lottery,” Philp said. “Our current thinking is that interest is very high as demonstrated by the number of folks on the waiting list, but that many of those won’t be able to rent the unit when offered.”

Some won’t be able to afford the rents or will have found other options since expressing interest, she said. Others will exceed the income and asset limits.

The town’s guidelines have a page dedicated to running a lottery.