Snyder costs jump in rebid
With a Snyder Park price tag that’s even higher following a secondround of bidding on construction, Aspen City Council members mustdecide whether the cost of affordable housing can be too high.The 15-unit, east-side project was rebid in hopes that off-seasonconstruction work might come at off-season prices. The rebiddingwas timed with an eye toward enticing more bidders, which in turn,might have driven down prices.Not so. While the rebidding did attract a larger pool of bidders,the cost of the project has jumped to $7.1 million – $270,044more than the low bid the first time around. For taxpayers, thattranslates to about $3 million in public subsidy to keep the SnyderPark unit prices at affordable housing levels.The City Council will take a look at the new numbers tonight.”We hoped that the figure would decrease, but we feel very confidentthat we’re paying the prices that anyone else would pay,” saidDave Tolen, executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County HousingAuthority. “I feel very comfortable with the project as a whole,in terms of providing quality affordable housing to people whoreally need it.”Four months ago, council members voted to rebid construction ofSnyder Park when the $6.9 million final cost of the project toppedHousing Authority estimates by more than $1 million.Unconvinced that $6.9 million – or a $108,045 subsidy per bedroom- was the best they could do, council members crossed their fingersand hoped that another round of bidding would yield a more favorableoutcome.”I wanted to halt things because I didn’t feel comfortable withthe numbers,” said Councilman Jake Vickery. “I felt the projectgot off on the wrong step and just kept on going … I guess Ihoped it could be rescued somehow.” But the new bottom line of $7.1 million – or an $111,719 subsidyper bedroom – for Snyder leaves the City Council in the same quandarythat put the project on hold last October.”I think the new figures are symptomatic of our times,” said CouncilmanJim Markalunas, who advocates the consideration of “sweat equity”to lower costs. “Sweat equity” refers to letting owners put theirown labor into building their homes. “My concern was and is, how to make affordable housing affordable.We may have to have a reality check and be more innovative, butI think we have to move forward,” Markalunas said.Vickery, however, isn’t entirely convinced that Snyder, as proposed,is the best use of the property. Far from “overjoyed” by the escalatingcost of the project, Vickery suggested a redesign might be inorder. Starting over, however, could mean a lengthy delay in gettingthe new affordable units built, Vickery conceded.”But I feel that a more balanced project could be more cost effective,”he said, noting the preponderance of one-bedroom units in thecurrent Snyder plans and the low overall density of the project- a concession to neighbors. “I understand that we should listen to the neighbors’ concerns,but sometimes there should be a judgment of whether or not thoseconcerns are reasonable,” Vickery said.Should the project – as planned and newly priced – receive thego-ahead from the council, construction could start in the nextfew months.”Everything’s all lined up and ready to go,” said Lee Novak, HousingAuthority project manager. “The contractors are chomping at thebit.”
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