Winter Park plans to buy housing, parking | SkyHiNews.com

Winter Park plans to buy housing, parking

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

The Town of Winter Park aims to purchase 41 attainable housing units and a 144-space parking garage in a future downtown development.

The town council approved two letters of intent outlining the purchases at its March 1 meeting.

The letters, which are not binding agreements, will facilitate negotiations on purchase and sale agreements between the town and the developer, Town Manager Drew Nelson said.

Both the housing units and parking spaces are part of a proposed development on the Sitzmark South property, located near Telemark Drive.

The Winter Park Development Company, registered to Devil's Thumb Ranch co-owner Bob Fanch, plans to construct a grocery store as well as commercial and residential space on the property, according to development agreements.

The letter states that Winter Park would purchase 41,000 square feet of housing space, a mixture of one and two-bedroom multi-family residential units, for $230 per square foot – $9,430,000 in total.

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The price is in line with per-square-foot construction and land costs in other resort communities, Nelson told the board.

In Vail, similar projects reflect costs between $250 and $281 per square foot excluding land costs, while projects in Breckenridge are between $293 and $393 per square foot including land costs, Nelson said.

"Again, I think our price point is very competitive there when you're looking at attainable units," Nelson said.

The town's affordable housing consultants identified storage as their biggest concern with the project, which Nelson said would be addressed "on the management end of things."

The 54,000-square-foot, two-level parking garage would cost $4.5 million.

The structure would be accessible via U.S. Highway 40, Baker Drive and Hi Country Drive.

Taking into account parking needs generated by the overall project, Nelson said there could be between 14 and 23 leftover spaces in the garage.

"Clearly, as we've seen this winter, with the change in parking that has gone on at (Winter Park Resort), there has been a much higher demand for parking down here," Nelson said.

The town is working with municipal financial consulting firm Ehler's Inc. to identify funding avenues for the purchases and has approached bond counsel, Nelson said.

Possibilities for financing the purchases include certificates for participation, a type of municipal debt secured with lease revenues from a proposed project.

During the meeting, Nelson told attendees that there are a number of possibilities for how the town would manage the attainable units.

"Our estimation at this point is that we're going to hold onto these units for a period of time, so we will essentially be apartment owners," Nelson said.

Possibilities include entering into long-term leases with employers to house workers, Nelson said.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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