Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ketchum CDC shifts affordable-housing locale

Plans call for 4-story building at First Street and Washington Avenue

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum Community Development Corp. is planning a four-story affordable-housing building at the city-owned First Street and Washington Avenue corner lot.

Plans to cover the Ketchum city parking lot at Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue with an affordable-housing building have been scrubbed. Instead, developer and nonprofit Ketchum Community Development Corp. has shifted its sights to another quarter-acre property across town at First Street and Washington Avenue, just west of the US Bank building and adjacent to another city parking lot. The for-rent housing wouldn't affect the parking lot.

CDC Executive Director Jon Duval said that even though the Leadville site is preferable, the CDC can't get past one issue: The city requires ground-floor retail there due to the downtown location. The property is one street away from Main Street. Duval asked the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 25 to create an exception for affordable housing, claiming that federal tax credits, the project's funding mechanism, wouldn't be given to projects with retail. It must be all affordable housing.

The P&Z decided that even though the city's comprehensive and downtown master plans express a goal of providing affordable housing, the master plan also advises adding retail shops in the downtown core. Plus, other options are available to the CDC. The city owns another site that it has considered for affordable housing, the property on First Street.

That land is still in the city core but within the Urban Residential zoning subdistrict. That means no retail would be required. Duval said the organization could lease the land and wouldn't need to fight for an exception to zoning rules. Plus, the area limits buildings to three stories, but a fourth floor is permitted for buildings exclusively providing affordable housing, meaning an allowable height of 48 feet.

Project architect Derek Ryan, of Williams Partners Architects, told the P&Z at its Monday meeting that they're planning to meet the maximum building height. The CDC hasn't filed an application for the project and only has basic block designs for each floor, but said it wanted to talk with the P&Z as early as possible to get a feel for the city's design desires.

Greg Dunfield, director for the developer, Vitus, said the group wouldn't apply for the federal tax credits until September and will then design the building if it's awarded funding in December. He said construction would then begin in late spring or early summer of 2012. Vitus, formerly called Allied Pacific Development, oversaw the CDC's first affordable-housing project, Northwood Place, adjacent to the Wood River Community YMCA on Saddle Road.

Construction finished this winter and, Duval said, only two of Northwood's 32 units are unoccupied. He said the CDC has realized there's a "clear demand" for one-bedroom apartments.

While Northwood included six apartments of three bedrooms, 14 of two bedrooms and 12 of one bedroom, the new project, dubbed Washington Place, would consist of mainly one-bedroom units. Plans call for 24 units in the one building, 17 of which would be one-bedroom apartments of 600 square feet each. Five units would have two bedrooms and be of 1,000 square feet. The building would have a pair of three-bedroom units of 1,200 square feet each.

Dunfield said prospective residents can earn up to $48,000 a year, depending on apartment size, and rents would be $50 to $75 less per month than those at Northwood because the units would be smaller. Rents would range from $400 to $600 for one-bedroom units, be $725 for two-bedroom units and be about $1,000 for three-bedroom units.

Even though designs are in the earliest stage, the P&Z already had some concerns, such as storage and outdoor space per apartment and parking.

"Hopefully, through this collaboration early on, we're able to get some issues out of the way," Dunfield said.

Designs show 19 parking spaces on ground level. Even though the city doesn't require any on-site parking for affordable housing, P&Z Commissioner Rich Fabiano said it's going to be needed, and at a rate far more than 19. He advocated one space per bedroom, which would be 33 parking spaces.

Dunfield argued that many one-bedroom occupants wouldn't even have cars.

"I, personally, don't buy into it," Fabiano said, adding that he knows Ketchum is trying to push a pedestrian lifestyle. "But in the real world we have cars."

Developers asked the P&Z to consider relaxing the 50 square feet of storage and 50 square feet of outdoor space required per unit.

The P&Z was hesitant to give them a pass on storage space, knowing the amount of outdoor toys Ketchum residents own. How this will play out remains to be seen.

The conversation is just starting.

Trevon Milliard:

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