BMC purchase part of bigger housing push | AspenTimes.com

BMC purchase part of bigger housing push

ASPEN ” The city’s purchase of the BMC West property is just one piece of a larger affordable housing puzzle that the local government is putting together.

The city government has been buying up land whenever it can for the eventual development of affordable housing. It’s part of a larger strategy that the City Council in September directed staff to pursue.

Putting affordable housing on the fast track is a result of elected officials’ two-day housing summit held in September. Officials acknowledged the severity of the housing problem and believe it is one of the highest priorities in the community.

“There was an agreement at the housing summit to do as much as possible as soon as possible,” said City Manager Steve Barwick. “Toward that end, we’ve been directed to come up with a short-term and long-term plan.”

City Hall currently is looking to hire an affordable housing project manager who will be responsible for handling all aspects of pushing the projects to fruition, including financing, potential partnerships with other entities, preliminary design and acting as a community liaison.

The position will pay between $65,629 to $90,592 annually. However, for the 2008 budget it will pay slightly higher ” $68,778 to $94,906. The position will last for two years, and will then be reviewed in the context of what’s been accomplished and what the city’s future needs will be. Applications must be submitted by Dec. 4; interviews will be held Dec. 11.

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The city also in the past few months has purchased three other parcels specifically for affordable housing: 802 West Main St. is a 9,000-square-foot parcel that was bought for $3.7 million; 488 Castle Creek is 35,895 square feet and cost $5.4 million and 517 Park Circle is 14,458 square feet and was purchased for $4.15 million.

With the BMC West property, which is 4.64 acres, the city is poised to make significant strides in building affordable housing within the next few years.

“I mean, holy cow,” said Bentley Henderson, the city’s asset manager. “Between all of them, it’s in excess of six acres … that’s a pretty good effort.”

If the grand plan comes to fruition, the city government could become the biggest developer in Aspen. Another 400 units could be realized on existing parcels.

The council in September directed staff to come up with a detailed analysis on the development potential of a small parcel on the east end of town called Shadowood, as well as adding second floors onto the city-owned red and yellow brick school buildings. They also want to know how many affordable housing units could be built in the redeveloped civic center area on Main Street, currently the focus of the so-called ZG Master Plan.

Another top priority for the council is to start the second phase of Burlingame Ranch, which would add 116 units to the 120 units already built there. Phase two is estimated to cost more than $50 million, which would exhaust the city’s housing fund until the project’s completion in 2011.

Building all that’s identified likely will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The city’s housing plans likely will mean going to the voters in November 2008 to approve a bond to pay for hundreds of more units.

“Obviously, we don’t have the cash all at once,” Barwick said.

The additional housing also would require reauthorization of the Real Estate Transfer Tax and the housing/daycare sales tax, which are revenue streams that currently contribute to the city’s housing fund.

Staff also will look into the possibility of adding a third floor to Marolt Ranch, putting more units in the Twin Ridge development near the hospital, and investigating if there is any development potential at Centennial and Castle Ridge as part of adding density to unused land. City staff also will pursue whether Forest Service land where the Aspen Ranger District station is located can be purchased.

In addition, the Aspen Music Festival and School has approached city officials to pursue building seasonal affordable housing on a parking lot it owns near the Music Tent in the West End neighborhood.

Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is csack@aspentimes.com.