Aspen set to pursue three options for housing projects |

Aspen set to pursue three options for housing projects

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Burlingame Village, a rental project next to the Airport Business Center and an infill project off Rio Grande Place have risen to the top as Aspen’s priority housing projects.

The City Council agreed to move forward on all three possibilities at a work session Monday, but local workers hoping to secure housing shouldn’t expect the city to break ground on any of them this year.

In fact, each site will probably take several years to develop, according to outside consultants who identified the projects as likely priorities.

Plans to construct up to 330 units at Burlingame are on hold while the city and its private partner, the Zoline family, negotiate a new proposal from the Aspen Valley Land Trust. The trust has proposed relocating the site of the housing at Burlingame to protect other adjacent lands.

Housing at what has been dubbed Parcel D, a 2.7-acre triangle of the city’s Burlingame land next to the ABC, hinges on acquiring a small piece of land from Qwest.

Acquiring the Qwest parcel and the rezoning of Parcel D are both in progress, according to City Attorney John Worcester. Outside consultants identified the parcel as a site that could accommodate 40 one- and two-bedroom rental units for low-income workers.

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The consultants also recommended, and the council agreed, that planning should begin for a mixed-use project at the city-owned Rio Grande site. It is currently a parking lot at the corner of Rio Grande Place and Mill Street.

It makes sense to plan a development there at the same time a task force is studying redevelopment options for the Obermeyer property to the east, noted Councilman Tom McCabe.

“Rio Grande makes such good sense. It is anticipated to have exactly the same components that Obermeyer does,” he said.

“Why don’t we proceed on Rio Grande . it’s there, we own it,” agreed Councilman Tim Semrau.

The consultants suggested the Rio Grande parcel could be developed with underground parking, first-floor commercial space, two floors of affordable housing and a top floor of free-market condos. The $10.8 million project could generate an estimated surplus of $1.6 million, the consultants concluded.

The city needs to wait until relevant sections of its new civic center master plan are done later this year before it decides what can be done on the Rio Grande parcel, cautioned City Manager Steve Barwick.

The master plan may make recommendations for the nearby Aspen Youth Center and existing Aspen Chamber Resort Association offices and visitor’s center that should be taken into account, he said.

The council also directed staffers to take a more proactive approach to identifying other sites that can be purchased for future housing projects.

Council members also agreed that trying to house 55 percent of the local work force is a workable goal for the housing program, reaffirming a target they debated last month.

The percentage translates to 643 additional units, noted Semrau. If the public sector builds 60 percent of them, that means about 400 more units – a goal Semrau called “achievable.”

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