Colorado Mountain College announces $40M student housing project
Plan will bring about 38 additional apartment units to Breckenridge campus
The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees approved a plan Tuesday, June 22, to invest $40 million to add about 150 apartment units to its Breckenridge, Edwards, Spring Valley and Steamboat Springs campuses by fall 2023.
Breckenridge is currently the only CMC campus with apartments on its property after the school purchased 30 units in the Denison Placer 2 development from the town of Breckenridge about three years ago. The three apartment buildings are on the south end of the college’s Breckenridge campus, and the new units would go right next door.
Matt Gianneschi, chief operating officer for the college, said obtaining the existing Denison apartments wasn’t something the college had planned to do, but when the opportunity arose, the college leased the apartment buildings from the town to see if it could work, and the college bought them three years ago.
“Housing had always been a challenge, but not necessarily something that would change the mission of the college. But we started to see the writing on the wall …” Gianneschi said. “We adopted a housing philosophy that effectively said we have to be actively involved in starting to expand housing opportunities where they’re appropriate for us, where they’re financially feasible, where we know we have the resources without compromising other aspects of the college.”
Gianneschi said the investment was made possible in part by the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment by voters in November 2020, providing an opportunity for the college to invest in housing due to the predictability of local property tax revenue going forward. Before the repeal, the amendment capped the proportion of residential property tax revenue at 45% with the rest coming from commercial property. When home values increased faster than those of businesses, residential property taxes went down, leading to smaller tax collections for school districts, fire districts and other special taxing districts, such as Colorado Mountain College.
Since the college has operated the three existing apartment buildings, Gianneschi said the units have almost always been fully occupied. The buildings include a mix of one-bedroom and studio apartments, which are also deed restricted to students living and working in the county.
The new apartment complex will feature about 38 units, also with a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments. Based on what the college has seen at the existing Breckenridge apartments, officials plan to make the studios slightly smaller and the one bedrooms slightly bigger to make room for roommates.
The college’s goal is for the new studios to cost $1,100 a month and the one bedrooms to cost $1,320. Gianneschi said the rent students pay in the new apartments will go toward paying off the $40 million project.
Dave Askeland, college vice president and dean of the college’s Summit County campuses, said leases typically run for a year from August through the end of July to go along with the college’s annual schedule.
Because there are a limited number of units, students need to have a certain amount of credits completed before they are eligible to apply to live in the apartments. Students are also required to take at least 20 credits a year through the college in order to live in the student housing.
At least one person living in the apartments is required to be a student, though students are allowed to bring in roommates who are not enrolled in the college.
What students have to say
CMC student Taylor Tennant just renewed her lease for a studio in the existing Denison apartment complex for a third year.
Tennant, who has lived and worked in the area since 2010, said the apartments present a valuable opportunity for students, especially considering how tight the housing market in the county is.
“Finding a secure home, a secure place to live is most of the stress that comes into play,” Tennant said. “Being a student comes second to finding a place to live … or third or fourth even. It’s finding a place to live, finding a job, then you can think about being a student.”
Tennant works full time as a bartender at Rocky Mountain Underground while taking anywhere from eight to 10 credits a semester. She said she is diligent about the goals she wants to achieve when balancing her work with her education.
“You have to work that much to stay in this community. The cost of living is super high,” Tennant said.
Tennant said the college’s new apartments can provide some students with peace of mind and that having a place to live will allow them to better expand and grow.
Patty Theobald, the college’s board of trustees chair, said from an academic standpoint the new apartments will help keep students enrolled in the college to finish their degrees without having to worry about finding or losing their housing.
Jon Shipley was enrolled in the college until he recently found out his landlord in Dillon Valley is selling the home Shipley rents with his family. A two-year resident of Summit County, he said he was forced to drop out of school due to the stress of finding a new place to live.
“I had to quit because I wasn’t even sure if we’d be able to stay in the county and just so many unknown factors causing too much stress where I wasn’t going to be able to focus on getting my school work done,” Shipley said.
The time Shipley had dedicated to school is now being used to try and find a new home for his family. Once his family gets settled, Shipley said he hopes to return to classes.
He said the college’s new apartments can help future students in situations like his.
“That gives a student that security of ‘I know I have a place for a year,’ and especially being affordable and not having the stress of ‘I’ve gotta work myself to death almost just to be able to afford to live here and go to school,’” Shipley said. “The tuition, that’s the least expensive part of going to school up here.”
Gianneschi said the project goes beyond housing students to educating a workforce that will stay in Summit County.
“I think we recognize that our role in these communities is to produce a workforce that meets the needs of all the different types of employment …” Gianneschi said. “We can only do that if we give people a realistic chance to finish their degrees.”
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