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Aspen looks outside public realm for housing partners

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” City officials will look to private companies and nonprofit groups to see if they want a piece of the affordable housing pie at the BMC West property.

The Aspen City Council directed staff Monday to ask other players from the private sector to join in on the plan to build up to 140 units on several acres near the Aspen Airport Business Center.

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.



Those entities currently are weighing their options and assessing their employee housing needs.

The impetus for tapping private employers is that if they buy into the development, those organizations would be housing their own employees, allowing more units to be offered by the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority.




Mayor Mick Ireland said if the city used all of the units at BMC West, there would undoubtedly be employees of various organizations that would be living there at the expense of city taxpayers.

“I’m interested in leveraging this,” Ireland said of the housing stock and the financing.

The council agreed that the city could fill the BMC West property several times over before it met the housing needs of the local workforce.

“We could fill that parcel three times and still not fill the need,” said City Councilman Jack Johnson, who said he’s concerned with the public’s perception of the city making deals with individual companies. “The perception that we are facilitators for one worker over another, that’s a problem.”

City staff said they will be clear with prospective partners in that they will be buying their own housing with no subsidy from the city.

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 with no discount.

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

The Aspen Skiing Co., one of the valley’s largest employers, will be asked to be a partner in the project, which is a few years away from coming to fruition.

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

How to subsidize the 90 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.

Henderson and other city staff are developing a financial pro forma for the development, which also will include a 3-acre parcel that the city owns next to BMC West that could hold up to 50 units, or possibly more.

If private employers choose to buy units for their workers at BMC West, it will not count toward the city’s mitigation rules in order to win approval for future development.

City Councilmen Johnson and Dwayne Romero said in addition to housing, they want to pursue commercial and mixed uses on the land. Johnson said a lumber yard in some version should remain at the property.

csack@aspentimes.com

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