Housing project remains on hold | AspenTimes.com

Housing project remains on hold

The Park Avenue apartments, at the intersection of Park Circle and Park Avenue, in Aspen. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN A proposed affordable housing project at the base of Smuggler Mountain will not escape the jaws of the city’s building moratorium.The Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority officials asked Aspen’s City Council to exempt beneficial public projects from a three-month extension to the current moratorium, but the council refused. In particular, the housing board was concerned about a proposal to redevelop several properties at the corner of Park Avenue and Park Circle.The project would be a joint venture between the housing authority and the Minnesota-based private partnership Primepoint, LLC.

Housing officials and others connected to the project were concerned that if the project continues to be caught in the moratorium, the private side could back out. The plan has yet to come before the council for approval, and it can’t as long as the moratorium is in place.”They have other things to do with that money,” housing board member Ron Erickson said at a meeting Tuesday. “We want to see them spend that money in the community.”Erickson said the apartments the new development would replace are “dismal housing at best.”Demolition would eliminate 25 low-cost rental apartments, 14 at the private Park Avenue complex and 11 at the city’s Smuggler Mountain. In return, Primepoint would build 22 affordable housing units, in addition to 15 free-market residences of some configuration.

Housing Director Tom McCabe said the housing authority would make every effort to help residents in both complexes relocate to other affordable housing, perhaps giving them first priority in a lottery for the new units, which are expected to be for sale rather than for rent.But all that could change if the project does make it to the council, which has the authority to tweak or even kill the plan. In August, County Commissioner Patti Clapper cast a critical eye on the project, which would give Primepoint the Smuggler Mountain property for $750,000.But Sheri Sanzone, chairwoman of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority board, responded by noting that price tag is misleading when taken out of context. Primepoint will carry all the costs for constructing the 22 new affordable housing units for the authority to manage.After Wednesday’s meeting, Erickson said the authority is very “single-minded” in its goal of providing as much deed-restricted housing for the community as possible.

“It’s still a good project,” he said of the joint public-private venture. “Hopefully it’ll still be around” after the moratorium.The housing board has already given its enthusiastic approval to the project, and at the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Councilman Torre said he still supports the plan.”I hope that project can still move forward,” he said. “But I understand the hesitation by council. … Hopefully it will hold out for [three] months.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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