A big step for Vail
The board members of the Vail Local Housing Authority issued the following statement after breaking ground on the Middle Creek affordable housing project in Vail this week:
On July 28, ground was broken for the Middle Creek development near the Mountain Bell tower along North Frontage Road, just west of the main Vail roundabout.
The citizens and leaders of the town have for many years recognized the enormous importance of employees living near their place of work. Discussion on the feasibility and ultimate need for affordable housing in this location began in the late 1970s and progressed throughout the ’80s and ’90s. During that time multiple different groups identified this site as having the best potential for development of affordable rental housing within the town of Vail.
In early 2001, the Vail Town Council initiated the development of Middle Creek, and reinstated the Vail Local Housing Authority to oversee this process. The impetus for this development was to not only provide additional affordable rental housing near the town’s employment centers, but also to invigorate Vail Village and Lionshead on a year-round basis by providing housing opportunities for full-time residents within the town.
Of the nearly 24 acres that the town owns surrounding the Mountain Bell (now Qwest) communication tower, a 6.67-acre parcel has been carved out for the development. Of these 6.67 acres just over 2 acres will be covered with buildings and paving, leaving nearly 22 acres (over 91%) of the site as landscaped area and Natural Area Preservation District. Significantly, the stream tract along Middle Creek and the mature cottonwood stands will not be affected.
The portion of the Mountain Bell site on which Middle Creek will be built is being leased to the developer, Coughlin and Company, for 50 years at $1 per year. At the end of the lease, all improvements will revert to the town. Most importantly, title to the land is not subordinate to any project financing, assuring that ownership will always remain with the town of Vail.
When completed in late 2004, Middle Creek will provide 142 units of deed-restricted rental housing, as well as 247 parking spaces for its tenants (mostly underground). The development will have a mix of smaller studio and one-bedroom units aimed at singles and couples with longer-term leases, and larger two- and three-bedroom units which will likely be occupied by seasonal employees in roommate situations. Rents will vary from $546 to $1,750 per month, and most units will be subject to maximum household income guidelines. Additionally, all rental rate increases will be capped at statewide rates set by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority. Such restrictions are in place at Lake Creek Meadows in Edwards, and have proven to make the units relatively more affordable with each passing year. Adherence to rental rates and maintenance standards is assured by terms of the bond financing and by deed restrictions on the project.
In addition to the rental housing development, work will begin on a new childhood education center. Encompassing approximately 4,500 square feet, with its own parking lot, driveway and grounds, this facility will replace the 30-year-old buildings that housed Children’s Garden of Learning. Building and development costs for this new facility exceed $1.5 million. When completed, this building will be deeded free and clear to the town of Vail.
Design of the Middle Creek development was scrutinized and molded into its final form through more than 20 public meetings with Vail’s Planning and Environmental Commission and Design Review Board. The Housing Authority wishes to thank the members of Planning and Environmental Commission and Design Review Board, town planning staff, Architectural Resource Consultants, and the parents and staff of Children’s Garden of Learning for their perseverance and hard work in this endeavor.
They would also like to express their appreciation for the extraordinary time and effort spent by the general public – those who attended public meetings, provided valuable input, and wrote letters of support. The Middle Creek development is better because of their participation.
The development team led by Coughlin and Company, Odell Architects, Shaw Construction, and Peak Land Consultants deserves recognition for their dedication to this project. They were willing to take input from various sources and act on it with creative solutions.
While financing of affordable housing developments is typically difficult, Middle Creek was even more so because it is on leased land, which is not available as collateral. Coughlin and Company did a masterful job of putting together the required financing.
Significant support was provided by Eagle County in the form of a Private Activity Bond allocation, and by the state, which also provided tax credits. Additionally the Colorado Division of Housing provided a grant of $850,000, the largest in the state’s history. Without the county’s and state’s help, this development would not be possible.
Although anecdotal evidence suggests that the Vail/Eagle County rental market has softened substantially in the past year, recent surveys by the Colorado Division of Housing indicate that Eagle County still has the lowest vacancy rate in the state (2% in February) and the second-highest average rental rate, second only to Aspen.
In coming years, more than 1,500 new jobs are projected to be created in Lionshead and Vail Village due to the many proposed new and redevelopment projects. Middle Creek will provide housing for a portion of this needed work force, relieving them of the burden of long commutes. Additionally, Middle Creek will provide 247 parking spaces for its residents, thereby reducing the demand for new parking spaces for these employees in Vail Village and Lionshead.
In summary, rental housing (including the town of Vail’s recent purchase of Timber Ridge) is an important part of the infrastructure necessary for a revitalized Vail.
Middle Creek has been developed with a consensus of town citizens and Town Councils over more than a decade. Middle Creek is being built with developer, not town of Vail, money, and the developer is at risk for changes in market conditions. Additionally, the town will receive a new childhood education facility.
The development approval process was arduous, but the result is worthy of being a part of the Vail community.