At its meeting on Tuesday, Avon City Council will consider a conceptual design for a new community housing development for the first time. Although in its preliminary stages, the development, Swift Gulch, could bring more than 40 new rental apartments to the city.
The Swift Gulch land — located north of I-70 on approximately 2 acres of building land on city-owned land — has been considered by the city for housing since 2015. It was later identified as a priority in the 2021 Community Housing Plan.
“The housing development on the Swift Gulch property is the best opportunity to build new housing on City-owned land. The City of Avon Property Plan has identified the development of Swift Gulch as a priority and it continues to be considered a prime property for new housing development,” the recently adopted Community Housing Plan states.
The plan also calls for preliminary site and design analysis to take place in 2021 and 2022, including financial analysis and exploration of private and public partnerships. It has been identified that this property will be used as community rental housing for Eagle County employees.
Then, in October 2021, the city took its first step in the design process by approving a $151,000 deal with design firm 2575 Design Co. to begin planning for the property.
Since October, a team of stakeholders – consisting of design professionals 2575 Design Co, Stan Clauson Associates and JVA Consulting Engineers; Council members; staff from Avon as well as Vail and Eagle County – met several times to identify project goals and provide feedback on preliminary site designs. On Tuesday, City Council will review the concept plan developed as a result of this process and provide feedback and confirmation of next steps.
The conceptual plan, as included in the meeting file, identifies two site designs that emerged from this design charette process. A site design was recommended as part of this process and includes three buildings that would provide 42 apartments. Also under this option, a fourth building would be considered in the future financial and cost analysis of the project.
The preliminary building layout for this design option envisions a mix of one bedroom, two bedroom and studio units. The option also states that each unit will have washers and dryers, covered outdoor patios and more.
This site design also responds to the seven project objectives as defined by the stakeholder group. These objectives include providing efficient building and unit layouts while maximizing the number of sites and units; have storage spaces, terraces, views and common spaces for residents as well as environmental objectives around all-electric passive solar design, electric vehicles and xeriscaping; minimizing operation and maintenance requirements and more.
In his recommendation in the package, City Manager Eric Heil writes that this option “achieves the highest density that is likely to be the most cost effective per square foot.”
Heil’s recommendation continues that there is a “long list of design details that have yet to be fully addressed and determined” and that “design, cost modeling and financial planning would occur concurrently as this project progresses” .
The plan outlines the next steps for city staff regarding project funding, indicating that staff will develop a pro forma draft of project costs and projected revenues. Project costs will be established as the city hires a general contractor and establishes cost estimates for construction and financing; projected maintenance and operating costs; and the creation of a reserve and replacement fund.
Revenues from the project, according to planning director Matt Pielsticker’s report in the package, will be based on “affordable rents relative to employee salaries that we believe will apply for housing in this project” as well as expected occupancy rates.
Heil wrote in his recommendation that this planning will help ensure that the project will be financially balanced in the “short term”.
As outlined in the community housing plan, Avon will also seek private and public partnerships to help fund this project. Previously, Heil said the city intended to explore partnerships with Eagle County and the City of Vail for this purpose.
Going forward, the immediate next steps for the project include further design and planning, including schematic designs and design development, as well as the hiring of a general contractor for pre-construction consultation, soil sampling and more. The city plan envisages construction starting in 2023 or 2024.
The regular meeting of Avon City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22 at 5 a.m. online via Zoom and in person at Avon Town Hall (100 Mikaela Way). The Swift Gulch concept plan is scheduled to be discussed at 5:40 p.m. Register via Zoom for the meeting at Avon.org.
Journalist Ali Longwell can be reached at [email protected]