Breckenridge affordable-housing project hits choppy waters
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – Complications with Breckenridge’s 42-unit Valley Brook affordable-housing development have pushed the likely move-in day to early 2011.
The future residents were told earlier this year that the town-sponsored, $12 million development would be ready for occupancy by summer 2010, but issues involving the developer and contractors – as well as government grants – have slowed progress.
“We were under a lot of pressure to try to get the project going this summer,” said developer Christopher Auxier with Mercy Housing, adding that the intent was to bring more jobs to the community.
BASE Building Solutions, which in July entered an agreement with the developer to be the general contractor, recently bowed out of the project.
Auxier said the project will go back out for bid in January or February. He said the project could be completed by late 2010, but that January 2011 is “probably a better bet.”
“I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to disappoint people counting on a possible tax credit in 2010.
BASE president Nick Farkouh said his company withdrew from the project because of inefficiencies and communication problems, which he said could lead to more serious problems after the ground is broken. He said the decision was unanimous among the staff.
BASE project superintendent James Keller said there was an “exorbitant amount” of minor issues that left an unclear picture of how the project would move forward.
“All the small items add up,” he said. “You put enough pennies in a jar, eventually the jar is full.”
Level One Building Company president Lou Fishman conducted estimates for one of the project’s bidders. He serves on the Summit Combined Housing Authority board. He said he has the “utmost respect” for the people at BASE.
“The moral of the story is we should look hard at why BASE pulled out – or just the fact they pulled out,” he said. “If they withdrew from being involved in the largest public project in Summit County in this economy, there’s got to be some real reason.”
Auxier said in an e-mail that there were “some missteps early in the competitive bidding process” because of incomplete drawings detailing the project. Then the Breckenridge Housing Committee made an unexpected request that a third party review the drawings, further slowing the process.
Government grants awarded for the project, while helpful, add a further level of complications and restrictions, he said.
“But that’s the nature of an affordable-housing project using lots of finance sources,” he said, adding that the partnership with the town adds another factor.
Regarding the withdrawal of BASE, Auxier said the financial terms the company needed weren’t consistent with Mercy Housing – a nonprofit’s goals.
“We just didn’t come to terms on the financial risk and return, and I think they decided that it just wasn’t for them,” Auxier said.
Tom Vitalone, co-owner of 2 V’s Landscaping and Irrigation, was to be a subcontractor on the project. He said his company was given landscaping plans for trees that “don’t even grow up here” and that there was little guidance on the irrigation designs.
“They’re asking for disaster,” Vitalone said. “They’re trying (to be as) cheap as possible … and let the contractors be responsible for mistakes.”
Town Councilwoman Jen McAtamney, who serves on the housing committee, said Friday town officials were meeting with Mercy Housing regarding the project.
“We’re still committed,” she said. “I expect Mercy will continue to have their role.”
Fishman said it’s unfortunate the project didn’t start in the fall because “a lot of locals are hurting” in the construction industry.
“Not to mention locals qualified to buy these, who have to put their lives on hold another six months because the project’s not starting,” he said.
Breckenridge resident Julie Anya Friedman, who has a unit reserved with her husband and infant son, said the family hasn’t been “super disappointed” by the delays.
“It makes difficult in terms of just being able to plan that far ahead, but it also gives us time to save for the down payment,” Friedman said. “We’re excited to have a unit, and we’re doing everything we can to save for it – but I think at the end of the day we’re hoping it happens sooner than later.”
Auxier said there are still a few units available for reservation.
“It’s an important project and it’s meaningful to the community,” he said. “I don’t want to let this noise get in the way … Mercy is committed to moving forward and has other viable partners with which to work, and we’ve already been in contact with them.”
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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