Frisco unveils Mary Ruth Place workforce housing units
November 14, 2018
Frisco officially cut the ribbon on the new Mary Ruth Place workforce-housing units on Tuesday as part of a concerted effort to bring more affordable housing options to employees in the Tenmile Basin.
The new complex, located on the corner of Galena Street and Fourth Avenue in downtown Frisco, will feature nine new workforce-housing units, including six one-bedroom units, two two-bedroom units and a studio apartment. All but one apartment has currently been rented, and tenants will start moving in as early as Thursday.
"The message is that we're following the needs of the community, the needs of the workers and the needs of businesses," said Mayor Gary Wilkinson. "We've heard from them that we need workers and they don't have enough. The problem is housing. We'll continue to look at opportunities, be creative and find whatever ways we can to meet that need."
The Mary Ruth Place development has been in the works for more than a decade, according to town staff. But the town finally found funding for the project in the form of Summit County Ballot Measure 5A, a small increase in sales tax to fund workforce-housing units that voters passed in 2016.
The project was slated to begin more than a year ago, though a lack of quality contractors and swelling construction costs pushed the units back to 2018.
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"This project has been in the works with different councils even before this current one," said Wilkinson. "Ten years ago we looked at doing affordable housing here. We didn't have the funding at that time. Two years ago 5A passing helped to contribute to that … When we started looking at what we wanted here, we saw that it's very competitive to get good builders and to be cost conscious on these projects. But we were able to refocus on that and come out with a really great project. The units are great. We were able to do it on budget, and appreciate the support of the voters in Summit County, along with the council past and present."
The $1.15 million project consists of three separate structures in the small complex, just a block removed from Main Street. The units are available to individuals who work at least 30 hours per week in Frisco or the Tenmile Basin (Frisco, Copper Mountain and unincorporated areas near Frisco). The apartments themselves are pet friendly, include a washer and dryer, and provide easy access to public transit, trails and views of the surrounding mountains.
Mary Ruth Place is the second workforce-housing project Frisco rolled out this year, along with the Coyote Village Townhomes that opened in June. The Coyote Village project consisted of four "buy-down" townhomes, which the town purchased for $425,000 a piece and turned around to residents for $332,000.
But other projects are on the horizon as well. Construction is currently underway on the Basecamp Project, a private development of "micro-condominiums" at Frisco's Basecamp shopping center that could provide up to 18 workforce units, though not necessarily affordable ones as they're expected to be priced between the mid-$200,000s and low $300,000s as well. But the most substantial project Frisco is working on is the Lake Hill Project in cooperation with the county, promising hundreds of new workforce units on unincorporated property adjacent to Frisco.
"We'll be looking at future projects as well, not just here in the core, but Lake Hill in the future," said Wilkinson. "There are a lot of things in discussion."
While the Lake Hill Project is still a long way off — Frisco and county officials are still waiting on the results of a site impact study, and the project will be built in phases over the course of several years — there is certainly forward momentum. Following the ribbon-cutting at Mary Ruth Place, the county commissioners and their staff joined the Frisco Town Council to discuss the next steps for the ambitious development, deciding to create a dedicated group of staff and elected officials from the town and county to work in coordination on the project.
In the meantime, Frisco continues to chip away at housing issues in town with smaller projects. While nothing is yet set in stone, the town is currently in discussions for possible workforce-housing projects on a number of properties including the Sabatini Lot on Granite Street and Third Avenue, the CDOT property off of North Summit Boulevard and the old medical center property behind the town's Walmart among several others.
"When you look at having a sustainable community part of that is having your workers live in that community so they don't have to commute an hour and a half to work," said Wilkinson. "We were focused on doing something like this for a number of years, and we're just glad to finally be able to do it."