Aspen to seek Burlingame II sales manager
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – City of Aspen staffers got the green light on Monday to solicit bids from firms interested in managing the pre-sales effort for the Burlingame Ranch Phase II employee-housing development.
Assistant City Manager Barry Crook told City Council members a request for proposals would be sent this week to real estate firms and other companies with expertise in pre-sales efforts as well as employee-housing projects. The RFP, created by the city’s affordable housing project manager, Chris Everson, is “open-ended” and designed to encourage applicants to suggest a system for how the pre-sales manager would work with the city and deal with potential unit owners.
“We’re not trying to box (the applicants) in,” Crook said during Monday’s council work session.
City Attorney John Worcester asked Crook how many firms specialize in the kind of work that’s needed for the Burlingame Phase II pre-sales effort. Crook replied that he doesn’t anticipate any shortage of applicants for the contract.
Aspen officials, including council members, have determined that a pre-sales campaign is the best way to determine the need for future affordable housing in the area. If a qualified pre-sales manager is chosen – and is unable to find a certain number of interested buyers by late summer – then the city won’t be pushed to line up funding sources for construction. The council has until Aug. 31 to decide whether to place a referendum on the November ballot to raise money through a bond issue.
“Pre-sales may tell us there is no demand at all,” Mayor Mick Ireland said at Monday’s meeting.
Councilman Dwayne Romero asked Crook who would make up the review team to evaluate the RFPs. Crook said the team members haven’t been selected, but that the community would be represented and that it would also contain individuals with experience in affordable housing.
As for how the pre-sales management firm would be paid, Everson said a commission-only system was unlikely. The pre-sales manager could end up doing a lot of work without realizing any sales, he pointed out.
The pre-sales process represents a departure from the traditional way of finding buyers for employee-housing units. Most local worker-housing initiatives have relied on a lottery system, in which buyers were chosen through a drawing after the units were constructed. But the downturn in the housing market and uncertainties over demand have led the city to seek a more cautious approach.
The city completed the first phase of Burlingame Ranch, which consists of 91 units, in December 2008. The second phase, which is designed for 167 units but may be split into sub-phases depending on demand, would be adjacent to the first phase, which lies about 2.5 miles northwest of downtown Aspen off Harmony Road, across Highway 82 from Buttermilk.
In November, an estimate provided by Haselden Construction put the Phase II total project cost at between $90 million and $103 million, based on three different scenarios. If the project is halved, the total costs will change to reflect the split.
Real Estate Transfer Tax funds would be the likely way to pay debt on a bond issue, city officials have said, or there may be enough RETT revenue next year to pay for construction in a more direct way. Or, the project could be funded through a combination of sources.
Many facets of the process remain undecided, including outlining the different commitment stages and specific deposit amounts for potential buyers. City officials hope to receive input on those questions and others through the RFPs.
In other work-session business:
• Council members listened to a report from Community Development Director Chris Bendon on the restructuring of development fees. Basically, the city wants to raise fees in certain areas so that developers are charged more equitably for the planning and evaluation work provided by the city’s community development and engineering staff. Future projections show a continued deficit between expenses and revenue incurred by Bendon’s department, and the city is hoping to close the gap. Ireland commented that city employees, especially those in the engineering department, are often generous when assisting developers and it costs the city a lot of extra money. “It winds up costing the taxpayers because people see us as a crutch,” he said.
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