Affordable-housing project eyed in Willits
An affiliate of Catholic Charities has a contract to buy land in Willits Town Center in Basalt for construction of an affordable housing project.
Archdiocesan Housing Inc., of Denver, wants to build 66 apartments for low-income renters on about 1 acre of land, according to Josh Russell, executive director of the nonprofit organization. The property is under contract for purchase from the developer of Willits Town Center, Mariner Real Estate Management, he said.
Archdiocesan Housing has attempted to build a housing project in the Roaring Fork Valley for nearly a decade but has been stymied by high land prices and troubles in the review process. The patience paid off, Russell said. The Willits site is ideal for affordable housing, he said, because it is within a “stone’s throw” of a bus stop and close to grocery stores, restaurants and shops.
While the site is zoned and approved for the housing, one significant hurdle remains. Archdiocesan Housing needs to get approval for low-income housing tax credits from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Russell said. If awarded, those credits will be sold to investors to raise a substantial amount of the capital needed to build the project, he said.
The project is estimated to cost “just under $20 million,” Russell said. Most of the expense is for construction. He declined to disclose the land sale price.
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said a deal was negotiated between Archdiocesan Housing and Mariner “at a price that can make the project work.” Mariner benefits from the deal, as well. The units built by Archdiocesan Housing will count toward the developer’s affordable-housing obligations as part of the land-use approvals, Scanlon said.
Mariner has approvals for about 500,000 square feet of commercial and residential space, not including affordable housing. About half the project is built or under construction. However, the approval documents require Mariner to provide the affordable housing before it can advance further, Scanlon said. Mariner officials told him that they want to complete construction within two or three years, he said.
Basalt town government has committed at least $750,000 to the housing project, Scanlon said. Eagle County has pledged $500,000, according to Russell. Pitkin County declined to contribute. The project is in Eagle County.
Archdiocesan Housing also has $2 million donated by the late Fritz and Fabi Benedict, of Aspen, to contribute to an affordable-housing project in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Archdiocesan Housing already operates two low-income-housing projects in the Roaring Fork Valley — the Machebeuf Apartments in West Glenwood Springs and the Villas de Santa Lucia in Carbondale.
Demand for those units remained high through the recession and slow recovery, according to Russell. The Roaring Fork Valley “has a bottomless pit of need for this type of housing,” he said.
The Willits project would include one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Rents would range from $700 to $1,150 per month. The nonprofit is targeting residents with household incomes between $30,000 and $50,000.
The nonprofit organization should learn by the end of September if it earns tax credits for the project, Russell said. He is “cautiously optimistic” that the Willits project will earn the credits. The reviewers will look at the need for housing in the area and how well the project fits with the surrounding community.
“You’re hard-pressed to find another part of the state that has as acute of a need as the Roaring Fork Valley,” Russell said.
If the credits are granted, groundbreaking will be in the spring, he said. The housing will be constructed in a three-story building, which will include a small amount of retail space, Russell said. The housing will be adjacent to the existing Triangle Park and Market Street loft buildings and be consistent with their architecture.
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