Eagle County Schools breaks ground on Edwards employee housing project | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Schools breaks ground on Edwards employee housing project

The project is expected to bring 37 units of employee housing by August 2023

Ground is broken on the site for the new employee housing for Eagle County School District Wednesday in Edwards. The site will hold more than 30 new units.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

On Wednesday afternoon, Eagle County Schools broke ground on a new employee housing development in Edwards. The project, located just east of Battle Mountain High School, will provide 37 units and 33,000 square feet of living space for school district employees.

After breaking ground Wednesday, the district is targeting August 2023 for the project’s completion.

“This project — and providing affordable housing opportunities in general to staff of the Eagle County School district — is a critical component when we look at recruiting and retaining high-quality educators,” said Michelle Stecher, Eagle County Schools’ board of education president. “Limited housing, especially opportunities that are financially feasible for our local workforce, puts a strain on our education system and other critical community systems.”

The Edwards campus specifically, Stecher added, will add a number of rental units, with a variety of floor plans and bedroom options, in close proximity to the district’s six public schools in Edwards.

While the district has been making strides toward its goal of creating 120 diverse housing opportunities by 2030, this project marks a significant milestone, as it’s the first employee housing development the district will build from the ground up.

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Eagle County Schools Superintendent Philip Qualman speaks about the new employee housing Wednesday in Edwards.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The 37 units from the Edwards project will compliment and significantly increase the district’s current employee housing inventory. According to Matt Miano, the district’s chief communications officer, the school district currently owns eight homes/apartments that are rented to employees, 17 units that are master leased and 15 mobile home lots in Maloit Park in Minturn.

Additionally, the district has partnered with the local Habitat for Humanity to get district employees’ ownership preference on 12 home units at the Grace Street development in Gypsum. It is also working with Habitat on a second development agreement for up to 16 future homeownership opportunities at the Third Street development in Eagle. While these are tied to two specific Habitat projects, district staff may be placed at other Habitat locations.

While lack of housing inventory has certainly presented a challenge for the local school district, lack of affordable housing is another significant hurdle. With the Edwards housing development, the district calculated rental rate affordability based on what it pays its employees.

The district is targeting rent including utilities at $1,130 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,470 for a two-bedroom unit and $1,910 for a three-bedroom unit.

“Affordable housing continues to be a challenge for everyone through Eagle County, so by removing that barrier we hope it will allow for hiring and retaining teachers to become easier as it is one less obstacle needing to be taken care,” Miano said.

Not only has the district made attempts to keep the units affordable for its employees, but Miano added that the district relied on certificates of participation rather than taxpayer dollars to fund the project.

“Certificates of Participation are paid back by the rental income generated from the project over the next 20 years, similar to a mortgage. We are hopeful we can pursue other similar opportunities to create more housing opportunities,” Miano said. “Eagle County School district really is excited about our ability to break ground on this project without it hitting the taxpayers pocket.”

A rendering by 2757 Design Co. of the Eagle County Schools’ employee housing project in Edwards.
Courtesy Photo

The Edwards housing project was designed by 2757 Design Co. and includes a unit mix of 19 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom units and seven three-bedroom units ranging in size from 754 to 1,267 square feet.

The current plans include accessible units, in-unit laundry and out-of-unit storage and large outdoor rooms for each unit. The development will also include covered and surface parking as well as close access to Miller Ranch Road and Freedom Park. Plus, the PV-ready, all-electric design will employ sustainable building features.

Local contractor RA Nelson will be building the project — adding 37 units to the over 1,000 units of affordable housing it has built throughout Eagle County.

“As a local contractor, we are passionate about helping solve the affordable housing crisis in our community. It is particularly rewarding to build for the school district and the teachers that will soon call these residences home. We are grateful to build this project and intend to deliver as promised,” said Travis Bossow, the president of RA Nelson and the general contractor selected to build the project.

And as the district breaks ground in Edwards, it is continuing to look forward to future housing opportunities for its employees.

“Housing will continue to be a priority for our district for the foreseeable future,” Stecher said. “High quality, affordable housing in safe and desirable locations will allow Eagle County Schools to be a more competitive and favorable option for educators, administrators and support staff. In a community with a generally high cost of living, additional employee housing options will be one weight lifted for our team members whom we value so much.”

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