Colorado Mountain College enters discussions to buy Breckenridge housing project

Kevin Fixler
The 30 rental housing units in Breckenridge near the Colorado Mountain College campus have been targeted by the community college network for purchase from the town. CMC first hopes to lease the three-building property before potentially buying it outright.
Kevin Fixler / |

As construction continues on a 30-unit rental housing development in Breckenridge, the nearby Colorado Mountain College announced last week that it hopes to buy the workforce property from the town for student and staff use.

The board of trustees for the 11-campus community college system, with locations in Breckenridge and Dillon, directed staff last week to enter formal negotiations for possible purchase of the Denison Placer 2 development. The $5.7 million housing project broke ground in summer 2016 and is scheduled for completion this spring or summer. According to town officials, CMC has long been considered a potential buyer of the first phase of housing on the 5.5-acre parcel for student residences.

“When we started building this, it was always with the intent of a partnership opportunity,” said Rick Holman, Breckenridge town manager. “CMC was one of the ones that had voiced interest in some student housing. That’s what they alluded to, which you know what, if it all works out, that’s what we want. We’re not in the business to build and continue to operate them.”

Details on the completion of construction are still being finalized for the three buildings on 1.05 acres with 20 studio and 10 one-bedroom units, but the current target is June, with occupancy by sometime in July. Early estimates place monthly rent at $900 and $1,100, respectively, without utilities. But with the next academic year at CMC starting in August, the timing for housing students and maybe even a few college faculty could be seamless.

“Most ideal would be if we can complete negotiations in a time frame to communicate with the potential occupants by the time the fall semester begins, preferably a few weeks beforehand,” said Matt Gianneschi, COO and chief of staff for CMC. “Our first priority is students, and then staff if sufficient housing is available there in the first year.”

A formal offer has yet to land on Holman’s desk for review by town council, but he and CMC representatives said they would be for a lease of the complex with a sale option later on. An outright and immediate purchase is not expected so that the college’s board may contemplate the deal over the next one-to-three years’ time. As far as a conceivable purchase price, Holman said the town wouldn’t necessarily anticipate making any money on the deal, but would at least plan to break even on its expenses to produce it.

The 30 units are part of a larger plan on the site for 54 adjacent for-sale townhomes and as many as 20 apartments on the second phase of Denison Placer. Initially the town had hoped to receive some federal funds for the additional construction as part of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but it did not receive that approval. So instead, the project has been modified slightly from its original conception, though work there is still slated to begin this spring or summer. The $1.5 million the town poured into the roads and infrastructure — like sewers — for the first phase directly benefits construction of the second.

CMC, which presently owns no student housing in the area, consistently hears from students about the shortages and challenges of housing in its mountain communities. It recently commissioned a housing study across the whole college network, and results were released last spring. The survey showed that the most appropriate style of housing in Summit County would not be traditional dorms, as the region’s students are predominately older, working people. Aside from Denison Placer’s proximity to the Breckenridge campus, as well as being near public transportation, it also fulfills the need for independent-living accommodations pinpointed in the consultant study.

“The idea of obtaining housing that students would be looking for in this area, and it’s also along a bus route so they have the ability to go to school and work in the community in town, is appealing,” said Dave Askeland, vice president of CMC’s Summit campuses. “That it’s right next to the current property of the college also seems appropriate.”

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said if CMC were to eventually own the property, it would still help solve some of the ongoing housing crisis in the county, because it would meet a community need by offering housing to people who go to school but are also employed here. The funds from a potential sale would also go right back into the town’s construction budget for future housing projects.

“The people who end up going to college and renting those units are still part of the workforce in the community,” said Mamula, who also owns and operates Downstairs at Eric’s on Main Street. “A bunch of people who work for me go to CMC, for example — not that they’d necessarily live there — but it would satisfy part of the workforce housing needs. And it would also free up money for the town to build housing somewhere else.”

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