City to lease Castle Creek land for seasonal housing?
ASPEN ” City Hall is in negotiations with the Aspen Skiing Co. and the Music Associates of Aspen (MAA) to lease publicly owned property.
The Skico plans to absorb the costs of building affordable housing at 488 Castle Creek Road, a 1-acre site that the city purchased last year for $5.4 million. The MAA would partner with the Skico in financing the project, and the two entities would pay the city to rent the land.
“We don’t have any clear idea on how many units we would build yet,” said Skico attorney Dave Bellack, adding the units would be set aside for Skico and the MAA.
The Skico has taken a leadership role in the community as a private company in building affordable housing for its workers, and private-public partnerships are increasingly attractive as a way to make it less expensive. Bellack noted a recent project as an example in which Skico partnered with the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District, which owned the land but was short on cash to build housing there. The Skico financed and built the housing, and provided units to the district in exchange for the use of the land. The Castle Creek Road project is envisioned to be a similar set up.
“If a building gets built out there, we’d probably build it because we’ve done it before,” Bellack said.
The property is near the Marolt Ranch housing complex on the east side of Castle Creek Road, above Aspen Valley Hospital.
“The meetings have been extremely positive and there is a great likelihood that the best use of the site is to expand seasonal housing and link it to Marolt,” said Alan Fletcher, President and CEO of Aspen Music Festival and School. “From the beginning, we have been open to a number of means to accomplish this but Skico is really the expert in terms of development and it makes sense for them to be the prime mover.”
City Manager Steve Barwick said the parties have been in negotiations for three months. A memorandum of understanding has been sent to both entities. Once those are signed off on, a lease will be drawn up, Barwick added.
“We’re making good progress,” he said.
The city government would likely be a co-applicant in a land-use application to develop the property, which is located in Pitkin County, according to city officials.
When the city bought the land in May 2007, it was thought that the city would develop the property, own the affordable housing units, and either sell or rent them to private entities.
But as the city government finds itself with no cash on hand to build affordable housing, acting as the landlord on property it owns will generate revenue for the housing fund, enabling to it finance future projects.
The acquisition of 488 Castle Creek Road was part of City Hall’s effort to “land bank” relatively affordable properties on the market.
The city of Aspen last year spent $31 million on land purchases for affordable housing, including the $18.25 million BMC West property by the Aspen Airport Business Center. The city also bought 802 West Main St., a 9,000-square-foot parcel for $3.7 million and 517 Park Circle, a 14,458-square-foot property for $4.15 million.
There are no current plans for those properties but it’s been discussed among city officials to partner with the private sector to provide affordable housing for their employees.
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Development in Basalt barely skipped a beat in 2020 despite the coronavirus. It’s expected to be busier next year.