Who will construct Burlingame?
Aspen Times Staff Writer
After taking government out of the development of affordable housing, the Aspen City Council has been asked to let it back in.
The council will convene today to discuss several issues regarding the city’s planned Burlingame Ranch housing complex: the mix and price of units it would like to see built there; letting employers purchase units in the project for use by their employees; and whether or not the city itself should be allowed to compete with the private-sector developers who will be vying to design and build the project.
For the Parcel D housing project, currently under construction next to the Aspen Business Center, the city sought proposals from development teams and ultimately selected the winning design from among three finalists. The city has contracted with the winning developer to build it.
The council has indicated it would like to conduct a similar competition for Burlingame Ranch, which is also near the ABC. The winning team would plan the entire project, which could eventually include 330 units, and construct the first phase ” about 110 homes.
Assistant City Manager Ed Sadler, head of the city’s Asset Management Department, has proposed letting the city put together a development team that can enter the competition. Sadler’s staff would act as the lead developer, bringing in architects and contractors to put a proposal together, just as the private sector assembles a development team.
“We’d go find a planner and architect and a construction company ” whatever we needed to put together,” Sadler said.
Because Asset Management can’t make a profit in its role as the developer, though the firms that comprise its team presumably would, it may be able to offer a project for
a lower price than other developers,
“The flip side is, I can’t take a loss, either,” Sadler said. “It’s a double-edged sword.”
City Councilman Tim Semrau, a private developer who advocated taking development out of the public sector, said letting Asset Management build Burlingame would defeat the purpose of moving housing construction out of the government’s hands.
“I don’t see it as being a possibility,” he said. “It defeats the purpose of getting accountability.”
Semrau contends the private sector can build housing quickly and less expensively. In the case of Parcel D, developers set a price for their design, and it’s up to them to build it for that amount or take the loss.
“How could they [Asset Management] back up a fixed bid?” Semrau said. “If they go over budget, the city has to eat it.”
Sadler contends the city can develop housing as effectively as the private sector if it’s working under the same parameters. Instead of bidding out each component of the project, the architectural and construction disciplines would be handpicked by Asset Management and brought in upfront to work together on a design.
“My attitude is, if you treat me the same way, I can give you the same product,”
“We would like to compete for the next project on a head-to-head basis with other developers,” Sadler wrote in a memo.
If Asset Management is competing, however, Sadler and his staff can’t be involved in reviewing the design/build proposals for Burlingame, he added.
The city expects to advertise a “request for qualifications” for prospective Burlingame developers early this year. It’s the first step in selecting development teams for a design/build competition.
Actual construction of housing isn’t expected before 2005; installation of a road and utilities to the site, west of town, is anticipated this year.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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