Music Associates of Aspen housing to go to general public during COVID-19 pandemic

Aspen City Council on Monday agreed to let the Music Associates of Aspen out of its lease at the Marolt Ranch seasonal complex for the summer.

Instead, the 97-unit complex will be rented out with short- and long- term leases, as city officials acknowledged there is market demand for the apartments based upon inquiries from for profit, nonprofit and government entities.

Demand is further compounded by scheduled closures at Burlingame seasonal housing for major capital projects and will only have 50% of units leasable this summer.

Waiving the music associates’ 2020 lease payment, which is from June 1 to Aug. 30, is a $500,000 loss to the city and is a direct reduction to revenue into the Marolt Affordable Housing Fund.

However, the city can absorb it because the Marolt property is in a net cash-positive position each year, so annual rents exceed operational and capital expenses, according to city officials.

Marolt is set aside for the summer to house visiting music students, faculty and staff. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the music associates has canceled the festival and no longer has a need for Marolt.

The units are typically spoken for from the fall through April 30 in seven-month leases.

Roughly half of the employers in Pitkin County reserve them and the others go to Aspen Skiing Co. seasonal employees.

Council agreed to a short-term summer lease ending Aug. 30 and a long-term lease ending April 30, 2021.

“Making both lease term options available to address the ever-changing COVID-19 impacts could reduce housing stress for our community as well as fill the property,” reads a memo to council from Michelle Bonfils Thibeault, the city’s project manager in the capital asset management department and Hans de Roos, director of the department.

They pointed out that “considering the unknown future around the current COVID-19 situation, there is risk that not all units will be rented during the winter season. … It is unknown how the current economic conditions may impact the number of reservations received.”

Council members discussed during Monday’s work session what the occupancy levels should be in the dorm-storm style units given the social-distancing protocols in public health orders.

The majority agreed that each apartment should not have more than two individuals unless they are a family unit, consisting of parents and children.

Some council members supported a flat $750 a month rental rate and others preferred it to be based on occupancy.

City Manager Sara Ott said she would come up with options and present them at Tuesday’s City Council work session.

The music associates has a lease agreement with the city for $1,653.43 a month per unit for three months, plus a lease for the cafeteria space.

Seventy-seven of Marolt units are vacant and are being disinfected prior to summer rental beginning around June 15.

The remaining 20 units have leases ending May 31 and would be disinfected and possibly ready for summer leasing at the end of June, according to city officials.