Aspen council to discuss Burlingame pre-sales |

Aspen council to discuss Burlingame pre-sales

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesThe pre-sale of residences for phase II of Aspen's Burlingame Ranch worker housing development is up for discussion by the City Council on Monday.

ASPEN – City of Aspen officials will start the new year in earnest today with a work session that tackles three proposals: a pre-sales effort for Phase II of the Burlingame Ranch affordable-housing development, an increase in community development fees and a lease for Theatre Aspen’s summer tent at Rio Grande Park.

The meeting starts at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers, Aspen City Hall, 130 S. Galena St. The council’s next regular meeting will be held Jan. 10.

Monday’s discussion on Burlingame follows a November work session in which council members directed staff to develop a request for proposals to find a firm to manage the Phase II sales effort. The firm would help the city and the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority in finding suitable buyers for up to 167 units designed for Burlingame’s second phase.

Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager, said all plans are in the early stages and subject to change. The city has decided to look for a pre-sales manager – instead of going the usual route of building the units and holding a buyers’ lottery – because of uncertainty over demand in the affordable-housing market.

“If we get a good, inexpensive offer [from a pre-sales manager] we will go that way,” Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said. “We don’t want to overbuild.”

Ideally, the firms submitting proposals will have experience in housing pre-sales as well as familiarity with affordable housing and the Aspen market, Everson said. The pre-sales process is “a way to measure whether the demand for employee housing exists,” he said.

And that’s not the only question that requires an answer before construction can start on Burlingame’s second phase. Everson said many other factors in the process still need to be decided, including:

• whether to pay the pre-sales manager a fixed fee or a commission based on sales;

• whether to split Phase II into two separate projects (A and B) based on demand;

• outlining the different commitment stages and deposit amounts for potential buyers; and

• determining if a public bond issue will be placed on the November 2011 ballot to raise money for construction.

A previous estimate for construction and other costs related to Burlingame Phase II, provided by Haselden Construction in November, was between $90 million and $103 million. As for previous bond issue estimates to help fund construction, a range between $30 million and $50 million has been discussed in the past, but that may no longer be accurate, Everson said.

“The full amount for Phase II [bond issue] has yet to be determined,” Everson said.

Another idea floating around City Hall was to have a bond issue for two consecutive years at $15 million per year. But that idea was discarded just prior to the recent adoption of the 2011 budget, he said.

Basically, the city is taking a “measured, cautious approach” to the project, Everson said. The pre-sales manager, if chosen, will work as a team with the city and housing authority to determine demand for affordable housing. Then, if demand warrants all or a portion of the second phase, the City Council will have to decide on a funding approach.

Real estate transfer tax (RETT) funds would be the likely way to pay debt on a bond issue, Everson said, or there may be enough RETT moneys next year to pay for construction in a more direct way. Or, the project could be funded through a combination of the two.

“If voters say no to a bond issue, the council would have to decide what to do next,” he said.

If council members today find the draft request for proposal to solicit a pre-sales manager agreeable, the requests will be sent to potential applicants in the following days, Everson said.

Phase I of Burlingame Ranch, completed in December 2008, consists of 91 units. It has already been constructed, sold and occupied. Both phases are in the same general area, 2.5 miles northwest of downtown Aspen, accessible from Highway 82 and Harmony Road.

Other scheduled work-session items:

• The community development department is expected to provide council with more details on proposed fee increases. During a November meeting, Ireland and other council members cautioned staff to ensure the city’s building and planning fee hikes would be fair so as not to discourage homeowners from undertaking relatively small projects.

• Theatre Aspen is seeking a 10-year lease that would allow the continued presence of its summer tent at Rio Grande Park. Paige Price, the organization’s artistic director, said fundraising is under way to purchase a new $1.1 million tent to replace the outworn tent Theatre Aspen has used since 1995. A long-term lease would enable the group to work with the city’s parks department to create infrastructure and atmosphere changes that are more aesthetically pleasing. “We are looking for the council’s guidance regarding our upgrade,” she said.

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