Aspen Skiing Co. says midvalley key to its worker housing plans | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Skiing Co. says midvalley key to its worker housing plans

ASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co. remains committed to building worker housing in the midvalley even though demand – or at least the ability for people to buy something – has temporarily eased.

The Skico took “a considerable amount of the proceeds” from its sale of Base Village in Snowmass Village earlier this decade and invested it in housing projects or land downvalley, Don Schuster, Skico vice president of real estate development, said in a recent meeting with the Basalt Town Council.

The company has made several high-profile purchases in recent years in the midvalley, including the 64-unit Sopris View apartment complex in El Jebel, the former Thunder River Lodge in Carbondale, and a pre-purchase of 30 units in the new Keator Grove development in Carbondale.

Schuster said demand for the housing has sagged in the recession. Sopris View is only 80 percent occupied even though several of the two-bedroom, two-bath units are available to the general public.

The Skico also dropped its prices at Keator Grove because units haven’t moved. Four of eight townhouses haven’t sold. The price has dropped from $360,000 to $275,000 for the two bedroom, two bath units. Also at Keator Grove, 18 of 22 single-family homes are unsold. Prices have dropped from $525,000 down to a range of $375,000 and $475,000 depending on size.

Nevertheless, the Skico knows the demand for housing will return and it is in the company’s best long-term interests to address it, Schuster said. The Skico surveyed employees in 2006 and got a response from 783 or about 23 percent of the total. Of the respondents, 75 percent said affordable housing was critical to the “overall success of Aspen Skiing Co. and their continued involvement with the company,” according to a handout provided by Schuster. He said several key employees will retire in the near term. They tend to be people that bought housing years ago. Chances are they will be replaced by employees that don’t have their own housing.

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With that in mind, the Skico’s goal is to have an employee housing inventory of 1,200 beds by 2013, Schuster said. It currently has 560. Although achieving the goal might be delayed because of current economic conditions, the midvalley is the key to eventually reaching the number. Skico data shows that 60 percent of its workers lived in Aspen and 40 percent lived downvalley a decade ago. Those figures are now reversed. Seasonal employees, who tend to be younger, want to live in the upper valley. Year-round employees, who are already tied to the valley or are establishing ties, tend to settle downvalley.

The Skico’s holdings in and around Basalt include:

• Aspen-Basalt Campground, a 6.6-acre parcel east of Willits. The property is accessed from both Highway 82 and Willits Lane. Schuster said the development plan could include a hotel or other commercial property along with rental housing. No application has been submitted.

• Stott’s parcel, a 1.55-acre vacant lot along Southside Drive, which is accessed by the road to the Basalt High School. The Skico wants to eventually consider a public-private partnership with the Basalt town government. The town is scheduled to acquire nearby property when a different development projects gets approved. Schuster said it might make sense to build a combined project.

• Basalt Business Center, a 1.1-acre vacant parcel which the adjacent Big O Tires used as a parking lot. The Skico’s development plan is uncertain.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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