Frisco developers eye workforce housing projects as tax funds set to roll in
March 1, 2017
New workforce housing proposals are starting to crop up in Summit County, and existing projects continue to plug along with the added backing of dedicated sales-tax funds approved by voters in November.
Those funds, which are projected to raise around $7-8 million annually over 10 years countywide, are also stirring up the interest of developers, who are floating ideas to local governments for public-private partnerships that could help alleviate Summit's severe housing crunch.
The revenue will be routed through the Summit Combined Housing Authority and back to the towns, and while the cash isn't in hand yet, the coming stream of funds has government officials eyeing a number of potential projects.
"There have been some developers reaching out and testing the waters to see what projects might be in the pipeline at the county level," said county manager Scott Vargo. "There's no doubt that having a new revenue source coming in with specific funding for these projects can help us get them off the shelf and out of the ground."
In Frisco, town council members are considering ways to take a step back and carefully weigh all of the options, possibly with a task force or advisory group to vet project proposals, said Councilwoman Deborah Shaner.
Earlier this month, a developer approached the town about amending a previously approved development plan to convert the project from free-market condos to 100 workforce housing units.
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The council was intrigued, but ultimately balked: The deal was estimated to require all of the town's projected 5A revenue over 10 years.
"Ten million dollars over 10 years sounds like a lot," said Shaner of Frisco's cut of 5A money. "But when you start to spend it, it goes fast. I don't want to put all of our eggs in one basket, and I want us to diversify how we spend this money. There's a long list of potential projects and ideas."
One of those, which may not actually require 5A funding, is a potential mixed-use workforce housing and commercial development at the Basecamp property, a shopping center anchored by Whole Foods in Frisco.
That property, sold to developer David O'Neill in 2013, was divvied up into five pads, four of which have now been built on.
At a town council meeting Tuesday night, O'Neill floated the idea of developing the fifth and final pad as a three-building complex with workforce housing on the second level instead of a big-box retail building.
O'Neill said he and his company, Brynn Grey Partners LLC, are looking to finish out Basecamp's development with what would be Summit County's first transit-oriented local's housing with easy access to the nearby Frisco Transit Center, which has a major overhaul in the works.
That idea is still in its very early stages. Frisco's Galena Street development, however, is currently being drawn up by architects, and there could be shovels in the ground by this spring.
That project would have originally reserved eight units for town employees, but council decided to set aside half of those for local workers after hearing from business owners who were struggling to retain hires because of the pinched housing market.
"We are hearing from a lot of people, and I don't think anyone can deny there is a housing crunch," Shaner said. "We're looking at all the options, and there are so many, so we want to make a smart decision."
Breckenridge, meanwhile, has had a number of workforce housing projects in the hopper that predate the 5A vote, although those funds could help ensure they get completed.
On the top of that list right now are the two Denison Placer affordable housing projects near Airport Road. One of them, slated to be completed in June, is likely to be sold to Colorado Mountain College, although negotiations are still ongoing.
The other, a 76-unit complex called Denison Placer 1, hasn't been started yet due to funding issues. If the deal with CMC goes through, however, that money could be combined with 5A funds to bring the project to completion, and work might start as soon as this spring.