Aspen officials focused on quality of life in dense Lumberyard housing project
Fitting over 300 units and parking for 400 vehicles on a 10.5-acre site at the Aspen Business Center has its challenges
Aspen City Council members spent two hours Monday drilling down how to make the municipal government’s next workforce housing project be livable while accommodating more than 300 people and more than 400 cars.
The 310 units and 423 parking spaces previously agreed on by council as part of conceptual design all has to fit on a 10.5-acre site known as the Lumberyard at the Aspen Business Center.
The design team presented to council during Monday’s work session above-ground parking options, as previous direction from elected officials was strong opposition to underground structures due to cost and other concerns.
Council members leaned toward two of the four parking options presented to them, but with modifications.
The project team will incorporate council members’ comments into revised plans before going to the public this fall for community outreach, which will be the fourth round of such activity on the Lumberyard project.
Community outreach will go through Dec. 20, the results of which are scheduled to be presented to council at a Jan. 10 work session.
Council’s concern about 100% underground parking is a fundamental site master planning issue that has to be managed prior to continuing with the schematic design process, according to Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager.
Cushing Terrell, a Denver-based architectural design firm on the team, has been working on alternatives to underground parking with buildings no taller than four stories.
The four parking alternatives all include the same amount of space and parking for a child care facility but they have varying amounts of usable outdoor areas and the layouts of buildings are different.
Most council members leaned toward two options but with modifications.
The “Hinge” layout has 263 spaces underground, 78 in carports and 91 uncovered. That plan is estimated to cost almost $22.6 million in today’s dollars.
The “Flange” plan has no underground parking, and has 201 on-carport surfaces and 231 that are uncovered. That plan is estimated to cost $7.3 million in today dollars.
Those costs are outside of the estimated $330 million it will take to build the housing on the city-owned land, which is scheduled to begin construction in 2024.
Council members said the values that are important in design of the project are green space, accessibility, sunlight into the apartments or condos, environmental and sustainable practices and open areas between buildings.
Council members Rachel Richards, Ward Hauenstein and John Doyle said they would be open to parking structures facing Highway 82 and surrounding the housing development toward the back of the site, abutting Deer Hill.
“I would put higher value on the people who are living here and their quality of life and their green space than I would on people commuting in on Highway 82 and looking at a parking structure,” Hauenstein said. “I think we can put some lipstick on the pig, camouflage it maybe, but really the depth of this for me is the quality of life that people are going to be living here.”
Everson said findings from a recent study looking at available housing in the Roaring Fork Valley suggest that the crisis is even more heightened than officials thought.
That’s why the Lumberyard is now being considered for lower income households, specifically category one and two in the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority guidelines where individuals generally are making between $30,000 and $60,000 a year.
“One of the key things we are starting to find is there’s not only a lack of housing at lower incomes, there’s actually a declining amount of households in the valley at lower incomes, which is different than what we thought we were up against before,” Everson said. “But we’re also finding on the job growth side is that jobs in Pitkin County are increasing largely in the lower incomes as well … I think it’s no surprise to us, it’s just a little bit worse than we had even thought.”
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Alex Rager believes that the search for affordable housing in the Roaring Fork Valley can sometimes boil down to luck and timing. “When you least expect it and when you most need it is when things happen,” she said.