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Aspen employers eye BMC West housing

ASPEN ” Those who can afford to pay to play in the city’s plans to develop affordable housing at the BMC West site have assessed their needs and are ready to take the next step.

The Aspen School District, Aspen Valley Hospital and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority were asked to be partners in the project when the city of Aspen bought the property in December for $18.25 million ” the most expensive single purchase by the city government in history.

Officials from the hospital and the school district have surveyed their employees about their housing needs. Those results currently are being compiled and will be discussed with city officials as early as next week.

David Ressler, CEO of AVH, said the hospital surveyed about 250 employees eligible for affordable housing and about 100 of them expressed interest. Whether they want rental or ownership units, and how many family members they have, has yet to be determined.

That information will be necessary to determine how many units AVH would be able to acquire at the BMC West location.

“It all depends on cost,” he said.

The preliminary price estimate for each unit is just more than $600,000, which includes land and construction costs, according to Assistant City Manager Bentley Henderson.

How to subsidize the 100 or so units planned to be built on the 4.6-acre parcel has yet to be hashed out. But if the city sells them at their projected price of approximately $242,000 each, it will be out of pocket at least $350,000 for each apartment, Henderson said.

RFTA CEO Dan Blankenship said those prices are too rich for the bus company’s blood.

“We don’t have as deep pockets as the others,” he said, adding that developing employee housing on land downvalley might be more economical. “Unless those numbers go down or there is a financing plan, we can’t be a player.

“I think it’s out of reach, unfortunately,” Blankenship added. “I don’t want to be totally ruled out, but intuition tells me that it will be tough for us.”

Aspen School District Superintendent Diana Sirko said district employees have been surveyed and 150 of them responded. School officials will break down what type of housing mix might be needed and the assessment will be presented to Henderson.

Henderson and other city staff will be developing a financial pro forma for the development, which will also include a 3-acre parcel that the city owns next to BMC West.

The intention would be that the city treat each unit as a business transaction with the partnering entities. The city would offer the units at the same price it costs the city with no subsidy or discount.

It will be up to each entity on how to offer the units to their employees and how much they will subsidize them.

csack@aspentimes.com


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