Summit and Park county hotels become workforce housing
Alpine Inn and Fairplay-Valiton Hotel transform into transitional housing to help the local workforce
Summit County’s lack of workforce housing is an issue that cannot be solved overnight, and one that will take multiple partners and solutions to fix. Local leaders and business owners continue to identify potential short- and long-term strategies, and one of those is turning hotel spaces into long-term rentals.
This isn’t a new concept in the region. In nearby Eagle County, a hotel was converted into an apartment complex in 2018. Called The House, the property has 54 studio units that have about 300 square feet of space, including a living area, bathroom and kitchenette, according to the property’s website
Similar concepts are now making their way to Summit County.
County turned landlord
During a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session meeting June 15, Summit County Housing Director Jason Dietz outlined multiple strategies the county could use to help mitigate the affordable housing shortage, one of which included working with Alpine Inn in Frisco to lease its units.
Isabel Rawson is a manager of the Alpine Inn, which is owned by her father. Rawson said she and her father were aware of the critical housing need in the community and had already been thinking about ways they could use their property to help be part of the solution.
The two partnered with Summit County to nail down a one-year lease agreement, which Rawson said will work well for both parties.
“We’re longtime locals, so we know what a big local housing issue we have here in the county, and we saw this as an opportunity where we came to great terms,” Rawson said. “It’s going to work wonderfully for both parties and kind of also give back to the community, which is so super important.”
The 37 units at the inn will remain the same, no renovation needed, and the county is taking care of most of the details, such as determining the rental price and how payments will be made.
Rawson said what few staff members the Alpine Inn had will no longer be needed as the county plans to hire a property manager and a cleaning company to take care of common areas.
Dietz said many of the details are still in the works, such as changing the occupancy from a hotel to a condo hotel with the town of Frisco and confirming the rental price. Dietz said the units would be priced at or below 80% of the area median income, which is $53,840 for one person. At the county commissioners work session meeting on June 15, Dietz said the units would be around $850 a month.
Dietz reported that the county paid about $550,000 for the lease for the year, and it expects to recoup roughly $150,000 through rent and other means.
As far as how long locals can live there, Dietz said the county is planning to offer a variety of lease lengths, such as three months, six months and longer.
“We’re looking at doing a variety of lease lengths since some people may be using this as transitional housing in between housing or while they find something else,” Dietz said.
Within the units, Dietz said there are rooms with two queen beds, which would likely hold a maximum of three people, and lockoff rooms that could hold a maximum of six. Dietz said some units will also be reserved for families and for those who need Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant rooms.
According to Dietz, all the units will have at least one bed, a desk, a dresser, a closet, a bathroom, a refrigerator and a microwave. Tenants will have access to a shared kitchen and dining area, which was previously used to serve breakfast to hotel guests. Dietz said the county plans to add additional hot plates so tenants have space to cook their own meals.
In addition to the shared dining space, tenants will also have access to a washer and dryer on-site.
Dietz said one of the downsides of the property is that there’s only enough parking for one vehicle per room and that the county is not planning to secure overflow parking, though the inn is near the Frisco Transit Center.
Other utilities and services — such as internet, cable, trash and snow removal — will be paid for by the county. Dietz noted that each room has its own heating and air conditioning.
As far as when the units are going to be available, Dietz said he and his team are targeting leases to start later this month or by Aug. 1. For those interested in living at the Alpine Inn, Dietz recommended emailing the Summit County Housing Department at email@example.com to join a list. Dietz said the county plans to use that list, as well as other channels like social media, to spread the word about the availability of housing.
Dietz noted that the project has already shown interest from community members and that he hopes the project will help fill the growing housing gap.
“Right now, the county is looking at multiple mitigation routes for the housing crisis, this just being one of them,” Dietz said. “This is an opportunity that we found and wanted to take advantage of to help people out that are in need of housing.
“Just from the article about the housing plan a couple weeks ago, we’ve had people reaching out and wanting to understand more about this hotel and be put on an interested list. Those people include teachers looking to move here from other places and local residents that currently have been living here for long periods of time but are losing their long-term rentals. We hope that we’re able to provide some sort of transitional housing for the local workforce with this project and potentially bring on additional projects like this while we work on more permanent solutions.”
Work together, live together
Alpine Inn isn’t the only hotel-turned-housing property in the region. Shuttle service Peak 1 Express based in Breckenridge bought the Fairplay-Valiton Hotel in Fairplay in nearby Park County and is now offering the property as employee housing.
Owner Duke Bradford said that since 2012, hiring challenges have gotten progressively worse due to the housing shortage. In 2018, he began thinking about purchasing a property to help fill the need, and in 2019, he bought the Fairplay-Valiton Hotel.
“The housing issue is not a new issue,” Bradford said. “Since the VRBO and Airbnb world has come to be, and the resorts, it’s really taken all the housing from the local workforce. So that being the case, we had determined that we had to make lodging our priority, so we decided to go into that and try to develop some workforce housing.”
With 22 units, Bradford said he currently has 20 people living there, all of whom work at the Breckenridge location of Peak 1 Express. Between the Breckenridge and Vail locations of Peak 1, in addition to owning AVA Rafting and Zipline, Bradford said he employs about 150 people in and around Summit County.
Bradford said this particular property made sense for his business because of how many units it offered, its proximity to Peak 1 in Breckenridge and also because the Summit Stage has a Park County route that runs through Fairplay.
As for who gets to live there, Bradford said the property is really meant to be transitional housing.
“Our goal of our particular housing system was to attract people to work at Peak 1 Express, and then we allow them to be on a month-to-month lease so … they could get their foot in the door and stay at Fairplay at our employee housing,” Bradford said. “Then if they want to continue to look for housing, either in Fairplay or in Summit County, they could. If they were able to secure housing, they could move out of our employee housing … into the house they found whenever they felt like it.”
Bradford said Peak 1 also subsidizes the units to make them affordable, ranging in price from $500 to $650 per month, plus $60 for utilities.
Each of the rooms has a bed, a wardrobe, a private bathroom, a small refrigerator and a microwave. Tenants can also use the shared living spaces, which include a communal kitchen where they can make meals.
In addition to offering the hotel as housing, Peak 1 Express states on its website that other perks include free ski passes, free passes to one of Summit County’s recreational centers, paid training, free shuttle services, family-friendly discounts, discounted rafting trips with AVA Rafting and Zipline and more.
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