Frisco set to move ahead with Galena Street workforce housing development with two more projects on horizon | SummitDaily.com

Frisco set to move ahead with Galena Street workforce housing development with two more projects on horizon

The site of a planned workforce-housing development in Frisco. High construction costs have delayed the project, but construction is now expected to start this spring.

The town of Frisco is nearly ready to start construction on a workforce housing project more than a year in the making after taming high construction cost estimates that delayed the project last fall.

The Mary Ruth Place workforce housing development, to be located on Galena Street, is a test case of sorts for the town's ability to build affordable housing. After setbacks last year, the town now plans to get in the ground this spring and have the eight-unit complex move-in ready by the winter holidays.

The town also hopes to move on two more housing projects on town-owned lots by the spring. Negotiations on those projects — one located at the old community center on Third and Granite and another adjacent to the Historic Park and Museum at 113 Granite — are still ongoing, but town manager Randy Ready said he expected remaining details to be ironed out within the next several weeks.

On Feb. 6, the Frisco Town Council held a four-hour, closed-door executive session to discuss housing development negotiations.

"We're about to go from zero to 100 in a short period of time here — there's a lot going on," Ready said. "We're looking at lots of different possibilities to improve workforce housing in Frisco."

Like other local governments in Summit, Frisco has been chipping away at the county's extreme shortage of affordable units mostly by approving private projects. Mary Ruth, however, is the current town government's first attempt to build on its own.

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The project has weathered setbacks along the way, mainly due to the furious pace of building in Summit County that has driven up construction costs and squeezed an already tight supply of contractors.

Since 2010, the number of contractors in the county has dropped by more than 150 despite an increase in building permits over the same period, according to county officials.

Frisco experienced the fallout of this trend last fall, when the only bid for Mary Ruth came in significantly over budget at $2.1 million. The town council balked at the price and asked town staff to head back to the drawing board and trim back costs.

"I think we've learned a lot from the development climate and the cost of doing construction in Summit County with the incredible amount of activity that's going on," Ready said.

The town has since partnered with local developer Tim Crane and one of his companies, Summit Homes, to value-engineer the project down to an estimated $1.9 million price tag.

"We brought together an architect, an owners representative and a developer to really look at the project every which way — every division of the project in terms of site plan, materials and how it all fits together to see where there may be efficiencies," Ready said.

Town staff presented the latest budget to council during a work session earlier this week and asked members to clarify some final details. Per council's instruction, all of the eight units will be apartments, owned and rented out by the town at a rate pegged to 100 percent area median income. Under that structure, the town is projected to see a return on its investment in approximately 13.5 years.

Four units will be reserved for town employees, while the other four will be rented to employees of local businesses. An existing town employee-housing unit on the site will be remodeled.

Town staff are now drawing up a construction contract with Summit Homes and expect to present it to the council early next month. Construction can begin once that document is finalized.

"We're teed up and ready to go," assistant community development director Bill Gibson told the council. "As soon as we can get into the ground, we're cautiously optimistic that we'll have a good spring. Then we'll go as hard as we can to get it done and get people moved in before Thanksgiving."