All worker housing for Little Ajax? |

All worker housing for Little Ajax?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Aspen and the developers of Little Ajax need to come up with an influx of nearly $5 million to turn the project into an all-affordable housing complex at the base of Shadow Mountain.

City Council members are hoping the subsidy can come from several public and private sources, all of which will have to commit a share of the funding fairly quickly. After meeting with the Little Ajax developers this week, the council scheduled an Aug. 19 work session, at which it hopes to have the pieces in place for a workable deal.

Architects Peter Gluck and Charlie Kaplan already have the project in the city pipeline – four free-market townhomes and 11 affordable units on a parcel at the base of Shadow Mountain along West Hopkins Avenue at South Fifth Street.

Community opposition to the free-market homes creeping up the lower slope of the mountain, however, convinced the duo to explore options for building just the worker housing on the flat land along West Hopkins. Under that scenario, the more visible land on the mountainside would be preserved; the Midland trail would extend across the parcel behind the housing.

Time, however, is critical, Gluck said, urging the council to decide quickly if it wants to participate. “We’re in a position where we need a response,” he said.

Little Ajax as originally proposed is poised for a final council decision, barring the change in plans now being contemplated. The developers have offered to instead build a 20-unit, all-affordable project with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom condos priced at categories 3 and 4. Without the free-market component, it will require a subsidy of $112,000 per bedroom. With 44 bedrooms, that means nearly $5 million.

“The fact of the matter is, that housing requires a subsidy,” Gluck said.

As an alternative, Little Ajax could be an all-RO, or resident occupied, project. RO is the most expensive category of deed-restricted worker housing, fetching higher sales prices, but it would still require a $2 million to $3 million subsidy, Kaplan estimated.

The other option is three free-market homes, one of which would be located on the sensitive land above the trail, which cuts across the base of the mountain.

“We’re certainly happy to look at any of those three options,” Kaplan said.

Council members appeared to favor the Category 3 and 4 project, but coming up with the $5 million subsidy will require cooperation.

Some of the funds may come from an open space purchase – paying Kaplan and Gluck for the upper part of their parcel and the trail easement.

Council members are hoping for a recommendation from the city’s Open Space Board on whether the city should acquire it and how much it should pay, by Aug. 19. The city will also contact the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board, Aspen Valley Land Trust and the Friends of Shadow Mountain as potential players in the acquisition, said City Manager Steve Barwick.

The land proposed for conservation is actually located in unincorporated Pitkin County, and the citizens who have formed the Friends of Shadow Mountain have indicated a willingness to help financially with the preservation of various parcels slated for development at the base of the mountain.

Council members said they also want to review the broader demands on the city’s housing fund as they explore ways to subsidize Little Ajax.

Kaplan and Gluck, meanwhile, were directed to try to get a commitment from developers of the Residences at Little Nell, a timeshare hotel project that must provide some in-town worker housing. Council members have indicated they’d allow the Residences to subsidize Little Ajax to fulfill part of its housing requirement.

If the parties can pull together a workable plan, the reworked Little Ajax would satisfy a host of community goals, noted Councilman Tim Semrau.

“We have open space, we have all affordable housing in one form or another, the Friends of Shadow Mountain should be happy, the trail is maintained – it’s time to put up or shut up,” he said. “All we have to do is find the money.”

“I agree with Tim, this fulfills our goals in every which way,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “I definitely support pursuing this.”

“If everybody’s a winner, nobody could be happier than we are,” Gluck responded.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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