There’s no place like home — especially if it’s Snyder Park |

There’s no place like home — especially if it’s Snyder Park

For players in Aspen’s affordable housing lottery – the hopefuls who scan the ads each week to see what’s for sale in Aspen’s worker housing market – it’s the one that got away.For 15 lucky households who beat the odds, it’s home. Maybe forever.No unit at Snyder Park has gone on the market for a resale since the initial lottery for the project drew record participation in early 2000. Only a couple of brand-new projects can claim that distinction. Even Seventh & Main, where highly coveted new condos were first sold in 2001, has seen some turnover. The joke among those who watch the ads with an eye for the “primo” in-town units is that a Snyder Park owner will have to expire before one of those homes comes back on the market. That may not be far from the truth, some Snyder Park residents concede.”We’re not going anywhere, any of us,” declared Toni La Fountaine, the fortunate owner of a Snyder Park one-bedroom unit.”I can’t imagine them building better employee housing than they did right here,” agreed Jack Doyle, a local mailman who resides in a three-bedroom condo at Snyder with his family.Tucked into Aspen’s east side, off Midland Avenue, the 15-unit complex contains a mix of nine one-bedroom condos and six three-bedroom units. The one-bedrooms each come with a full basement; the family units offer generous two-car garages that rival some apartments in town for size.All of the buildings face a central, auto-free courtyard and a setting that gives Snyder Park its name. In fact, part of the project is a public park, though hardly anyone knows about it, some observers note.The city Parks Department turned the Salvation Ditch, which ran through ponds on the property, into a water feature, replete with a small waterfall, large pond and wetlands that wrap around two sides of the complex. There are picnic tables and playground equipment, as well.The work earned the department a prestigious 2001 Honor Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.”I don’t think we took out a single tree when we built that property,” recalled Jeff Woods, the city’s parks director, noting the towering spruces that stand next to some of the buildings.The park was the first designed and built by the city parks staff in Woods’ tenure.”It has been obviously successful. I’d love to live there,” he said. “It’s pretty spectacular. It shows what you can do when you combine the visions of housing and open space.”The housing sort of sits very gently on the landscape,” he said.Heidi H. Hoffmann of H3 Architects, Lipkin Warner Design and Planning and Mount Daly Enterprise all had a hand in the project, which was the focus of some heated debate before it finally won city approval. Neighbors clamored for a project that wouldn’t add too much density to the area; others complained that the city was wasting an opportunity to build in-town housing with a costly project of only 15 units that didn’t use the site to its full potential.The outcome of the discussion, though, is universally praised as a crowning achievement in the affordable housing program – at least among government-built projects.”I think it’s a fantastic development, when you look at the combination of the housing, the park, the lake,” said John Rigney, an Aspen Skiing Co. executive who resides at Snyder Park with his family. “It’s a great complete package and a half-mile from downtown Aspen. It’s a pretty special place.””I think a lot of thought went into making sure they were livable places – not just inventory,” added David Laughren, whose family also calls Snyder Park home. “It was built very well. It has amenities that no other deed-restricted units have.”The two-car garages are a rarity; basements are unheard of in Aspen affordable housing.Laughren, an events promoter with Avalanche Productions, is one of the few homeowners who doesn’t absolutely rule out a move out of Snyder Park.”You’re always looking to see what’s out there … you’re always paying attention just to see what comes down the pipe,” Laughren said. Aspen’s planned Burlingame Ranch may offer the dream of a single-family home with a yard, he noted, hoping the city takes a cue from Snyder Park in Burlingame’s development and designs it with more than the bottom-line unit count in mind.Woods, for one, would like to see the kind of landscaping that is the hallmark of Snyder repeated in some site-appropriate fashion at Burlingame.Others predict Pitkin County’s Stillwater housing, which recently began construction east of Aspen, could be the project that rivals Snyder Park in both aesthetics and interest from prospective buyers.It will take some doing to surpass the numbers posted in the Snyder Park lottery, where three one-bedroom units priced at $120,800 each drew 292 bids; the $78,300 one-bedroom garnered 226 bids.The 13-unit Stillwater complex, including nine three-bedroom townhomes and four one-bedroom units, will overlook the Roaring Fork River just east of the city limits. It’s the project locals ask about when they encounter city project manager Troy Rayburn in the grocery store or at the post office.”I can’t believe how many people, today, are ready to turn in their paperwork for Stillwater,” said Laurie Brooks, who staffs the front counter at the Aspen-Pitkin County housing office. The lottery to choose buyers at Stillwater is still more than a year away (no paperwork is yet required).”I’m sure with what it’s going to look like, with what the grounds will look like, it will rival Snyder,” said Cindy Christensen, housing operations manager.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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