Lowe addresses affordable housing, phasing of Basalt hotel | AspenTimes.com

Lowe addresses affordable housing, phasing of Basalt hotel

Lowe Enterprises President Jim DeFrancia unveils additional details of the firm's proposal for a hotel and residences Thursday night for a packed house at Town Hall.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

The developer of a proposed hotel and residential project in downtown Basalt unveiled a plan Thursday night to build nine to 15 affordable-housing units to meet its obligations.

Lowe Enterprises President Jim DeFrancia also said his firm will try to build a 60-room boutique hotel concurrently with condominiums that are part of the project. Previously, DeFrancia said the condos needed to be built first and the hotel would be in a second phase. That made friends and foes of the project nervous that it would stall before the hotel is constructed.

At a community meeting at Town Hall on Thursday evening, DeFrancia said Lowe Enterprises is “working hard” to figure out a way to start earlier on the hotel. The challenge, he said, is that lenders might be hesitant to fund the project because there is little evidence that a hotel in Basalt can be successful. Bankers will want to see a record of strong occupancy rates for other accommodations in the area.

Lowe hasn’t submitted an application to the town for review yet, but the town government is holding community meetings to discuss the project. Phasing of the project will likely be a hot topic once formal review starts.

Lowe Enterprises’ affordable-housing plan also is certain to be scrutinized. Basalt’s current replacement-housing code would require Lowe to provide 15 affordable housing units to meet its obligations for the project, according to Chris Touchette of Cottle Carr Yaw Architects, which is working on the planning and design of the project.

However, Basalt town staff and Lowe’s team have discussed the possibility of reducing the affordable-housing requirement to nine units.

“This option acknowledges the Town’s desire for downtown revitalization by offering an incentive for redevelopment that puts no greater burden on downtown properties than what the current affordable-housing obligations are for the Willits Town Center,” Touchette wrote to the town. “This option requires implementation of a slight code modification.”

The Town Council hasn’t discussed the possibility of lowering the affordable-housing requirement for Lowe in return for revitalization.

Lowe Enterprises also will be required to repay the town $823,350 that the town spent removing 18 mobile homes and relocating the families from the property that Lowe aims to buy. The site is the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. The town purchased about half of the mobile home park and took the lead on relocating the families and removing the trailers. The work was done with the understanding that whoever purchased the developable portion of the Pan and Fork would repay the town.

Lowe Enterprises wants to build a handful of the affordable-housing units at the former Pan and Fork site and some off-site. There is a possibility, Touchette said, that Lowe could team with partners, such as the town government, to build a larger off-site project.

The Town Council is taking public comment on Lowe’s plan at a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Basalt Regional Library. After that meeting, Lowe and the town government will start working on a predevelopment agreement, which spells out responsibilities of both parties.


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