Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Elkhorn revitalization in full stride

Some question whether projects will bring real commerce to defunct area


By TREVOR SCHUBERT
Express Staff Writer

Artist rendering courtesy of C.G. Elkhorn-- An artist?s rendition of the restaurant (left) and convenience store area of the Elkhorn Springs project is now coming to life.

With the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of Phase 3 of the Elkhorn Springs development project, revitalization of the once thriving area is in full stride.

"We hope this development will help to revitalize the Elkhorn Springs area," said David Hennessy, project manager for Hennessy Co., the Ketchum-based partner of C.G. Elkhorn L.L.C., a Connecticut- and Chicago-based investment group.

The Elkhorn projects also feature a restaurant and convenience store. Though Hennessy said it is in negotiations with potential occupants, no formal leases have been signed.

Whether the latest projects will bring real commerce to the Elkhorn Village area is debatable.

"My impression is that it will never be like it used to be," said Mark Hofman, community development director for the city of Sun Valley. "There's a reason the Elkhorn Resort closed. With 60 to 70 percent of residents second-home owners, real businesses can't survive. It will be little niche business that don't require constant business that will make it."

Hofman went on to say that if the restaurant develops a strong local following, "it will bring people to the area. That and Sun Valley Co.'s new snowmaking and lift improvements on the Elkhorn-side (of Dollar Mountain) will bring more skiers there, as well."

For 25 years, Elkhorn Resort, on the same property as the current Elkhorn developments, struggled financially, but typically provided dozens of jobs for local residents, and also served as one of Sun Valley's primary convention sites and sources of local-option tax revenues.

The resort was closed by CG-Elkhorn on Sept. 30, 2002, after the owners determined it would never be successful.

The latest approval is for a reduced version of two multi-family residential buildings, one with 18 units and the other with 17. They are located between the intersections of Angani Way with Village Way and Badeyana Drive with Village Way.

Initially, developers planned for five-story buildings atop an underground parking structure with 22 units in each. Concern on the part of the commission and local citizens over the size of the project and the fact that reducing the structures from five to four stories allowed developers to build with a less-costly wood framing resulted in an overall reduction in size. The four-story buildings will still sit atop underground parking.

The entirety of the Elkhorn Springs projects has been required to provide 12,600 square feet of community housing. Initially, 15 units were required, but the reduction in the project's size reduced that to 12. Hofman said that though the overall number of units has been reduced, the square footage of each individual unit has increased.

Jim Fackrell, executive director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, said that while it is unfortunate that the total number of affordable housing units has been reduced, the larger units featuring no less than 900 square feet of livable space are an improvement over the smaller units.

"If implemented, these changes are expected to significantly enhance the livability and marketability of this unit," Fackrell said.

The project is slated for completion by next spring.




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