It’s R.I.P. for Meadows housing
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. ” A proposed 120-unit lower-income apartment project at Glenwood Meadows is dead after a key piece of funding couldn’t be obtained.
Robert Macgregor, whose Aspen-based Dunrene Group owns the land where the apartments would have been built, said the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority turned down a request for $8.9 million in tax credits.
“It was the backbone of the whole project. It clearly couldn’t be done without these tax credits,” he said.
Arny Porath, the project’s developer, said he’s not giving up on the project. He’s hoping to build it on another property.
“That’s our job ” find another location. Garfield County as you know needs rental housing,” he said.
The proposal would have restricted occupancy to lower-income residents for 40 years. A variety of partners had signed onto the project, including the county, which committed $1.5 million, and Glenwood Springs, which deferred payment of $800,000 in development fees and construction of a park on the property.
Glenwood Springs City Council member Dave Merritt said he was extremely disappointed that the affordable housing project won’t go forward. He found the timing ironic, with a meeting planned for Monday night on the need for affordable housing.
“It’s imperative that we find something. We keep getting more and more people moving in,” he said.
CHFA previously had awarded the project the tax credits, but developers couldn’t meet the deadline to use them. They reapplied once they had put together a package that included the city and county assistance, but CHFA worried about continuing increases in construction expenses for the project, Porath said.
“They felt that the project was tight from a cost standpoint, and it was, it absolutely was,” he said.
Macgregor had that same concern. While developers can reapply for the tax credits later this year, Macgregor said another construction season would have been lost and he couldn’t afford to wait any longer and face possibly even higher costs.
“It’s just no longer acceptable to us. It was always a marginal project. It made less and less sense,” he said.
Macgregor said he was surprised by CHFA’s decision, and the demise of the project is “a pretty tough blow.”
“We spent two and a half years and the best part of a million dollars working on this. It’s not easy to walk away from that,” he said.
Rachel Basye, director of marketing and strategic development for CHFA, said the tax credit application process is extremely competitive. She said a 40 percent increase in costs at the Glenwood Meadows project had been a concern for the agency.
Porath said he didn’t blame the Dunrene Group for backing out. Rather, he commended the company for the time and money it committed to trying to meet a need for affordable housing.
“I think they lost confidence in the process. … They recognized the need as well as we do,” he said.
Macgregor said his company had been offering to sell the land for the project for $20,000 per housing unit ($2.4 million) to help make it affordable.
“You can’t find land for less than $50,000 a unit,” he said.
Geneva Powell, director of the Garfield County Housing Authority, said that while the setback is unfortunate, Porath’s development group has been able to reassure CHFA in further discussions. She hopes a place can be found to build the apartments.
“I think if they could find the suitable site they could get started right away,” she said.
Porath said he has been invited by CHFA to reapply for the tax credits.
“We left with a very good feeling that they were very supportive,” he said.
As for finding land, Porath and Powell both said they’d rather not see the rental units built too far to the west. Their hope is to create housing in the communities where the residents would work, to cut down on the need to commute.
Merritt said it’s going to be hard for Porath to find developable land for the project.
“There’s not an awful lot. It’s getting in shorter and shorter supply. … I really wish him well on that one because it’s going to be very difficult.”
Porath believes his project would meet a significant need for affordable housing for workers.
“Everybody who employs any large number of people has a problem, so I wish me the best,” he said.
Meanwhile, Macgregor said he expects he will look to partner with a developer of more traditional middle-class housing on his property. Such a project would have to comply with the city’s requirement to provide 15 percent affordable housing, or contribute an equivalent amount to an affordable housing fund.
Glenwood Springs community development director Andrew McGregor credited Porath and Macgregor for their efforts on the rental housing, and said the process showed the level of expertise and commitment such projects require.
“It sort of makes you realize what a complicated, involved process it is,” McGregor said.
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