New employer-owned workforce housing enters Aspen market

King Louise Building on Main Street gives local businesses chance to invest in housing

Local employers are investing millions of dollars to secure affordable housing for their employees in a new development on Aspen’s Main Street.

Private developer Ted Guy is selling eight two-bedroom apartments to local businesses in the redeveloped the King Louise Building. Not even a month on the market, three units have been sold and two are under contract, according to Judy Sullivan, a real estate broker with Compass who is handling the sales.

The units, which are going for between $710,000 and $745,000, are deed-restricted, with maximum rent caps and income levels for tenants. However, there is no cap on the sales price once they turn over to a new owner.

They are designed for employers to be able to house their employees, whether it’s mid-level managers or other important positions.

“This is to keep key personnel with you because the cost of training new people is so expensive,” Guy said last week during a tour of the new housing at 201 W. Main St.

Sullivan said the retention of employees is not only a cost savings but also building community.

“The point is you want people to stay here,” she said. “The point is to keep good people.”

Bank of Colorado has purchased two of the units in the building, and the Residences at the Little Nell has closed on another.

Bank of Colorado does not have a branch in Aspen yet; it had been planning on opening one but the pandemic has slowed those efforts, said Jared Houghton, branch manager at the Bank of Colorado.

But once there is a branch, the Main Street units will be critical for recruiting and retaining employees, and saving them from having to commute to work.

“You are only as good as the people you have,” Houghton said. “This is something we can offer to provide them with stability.”

Mark Pearson, senior vice president at Bank of Colorado, has lived in the valley for 33 years and said he recognizes the housing challenges here.

“Employees are the backbone of this community and we have to do our part,” Pearson said. “We are thrilled to be part of providing private sector housing.”

Carol Lucey, general manager of the Residences at Little Nell, said the homeowners’ association board decided a few years ago to invest in workforce housing.

In addition to the Main Street property, where a concierge and a valet live, the Residences at the Little Nell owns two units in the Mill Street Condos on Rio Grande Place and another one in Willits in Basalt. It also has eight units dedicated in its slopeside luxury property.

“They knew it was important to buy housing as a recruiting tool but also to retain employees,” Lucey said. “I’m so grateful for the homeowner board because they want the best employees possible.”

Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals and Surefoot have two more units under contract, leaving three units remaining for sale.

The combined maximum income for two adult residents in the category 3 units is $146,000 and the rent cap is $1,750 a month, plus utilities.

The combined maximum income for two adult residents in the category 4 units is $235,000 and rent cap is $2,227 a month, plus utilities.

By developing affordable housing at that site, Guy receives 18 affordable housing credits, which have a value in today’s market of between $250,000 and $306,000 each, depending on the category.

It’s part of what’s called the Certificate of Affordable Housing Credits Program and was the brainchild of longtime local Peter Fornell. He convinced city officials in 2010 to create the program, which allows a developer to build affordable housing and get a credit for each unit that comes on line. That credit can then be sold to another developer who uses it to fulfill employee mitigation requirements on a separate project.

“This is a great program because it gets the government out of it and lets private business do it,” Guy said.

The new apartments on Main Street are well-appointed, and all come with washer and dryers, decks, one parking space and large subterranean storage units.

Lucey said the Residences at the Little Nell had been interested in the Main Street building since Guy first started the project in 2017. The Residences is the only employer who has occupied one of the units so far.

“We got to pick which one we wanted and ours has a nice view of the mountain,” she said. “They did a nice job with the building.”

Houghton agreed.

“I think it’s going to be an attractive place,” he said. “It’s in a good location and Ted designed a good project.”


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