ArtSpace locks in 65-year term for workforce housing project
As developer, town settle on location, much more work lies ahead for Grand Lake’s Space to Create project
Grand Lake trustees voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a state-awarded workforce housing project in town, but it’s voters who will ultimately have to approve the project.
A marathon of public comments ensued during a workshop that made the night’s regular meeting run late.
Opinions expressed ran the spectrum. A few locals were opposed. Others want the town to proceed with caution. A number of residents said they fully support the project and told trustees: “Don’t screw this up.”
Grand Lake was one of a handful of Colorado communities awarded a Space to Create workforce housing project through a competitive process furnished by the state in 2018. The state selected ArtSpace, a nonprofit developer, to manage the project, which will include live-work spaces for creatives and creative-types.
After a failed attempt to build next to the Grand Lake Center, the nonprofit developer and town trustees settled on the parking lot at the corner of Hancock Street and Park Avenue.
Conceptual site plans have been drawn for a 20-unit project and one with 30 units. The size will depend largely on available financing, according to town staff and members of ArtSpace’s senior management team.
One of the concerns voiced Monday revolved around who might live in the units. Some feared ArtScape would lease the units in Grand Lake to people wait-listed for ArtSpace projects in other cities and towns. Overall, the locals wanted assurances the housing would go to people in Grand Lake, perhaps with preference for those already living here.
Responding to the comments, Will Law, ArtSpace’s chief operating officer, said that their projects are managed separately and any units in Grand Lake would be occupied by people who live and work in the community, not people awaiting housing in Loveland or elsewhere.
Law suggested some of the concerns might be focusing too much on the marketing aspects of the Space to Create project, explaining that “creatives” could be as simple as someone who plays piano in their spare time up to people who work for themselves full time in the arts or a creative pursuit.
Most important, Law said, creatives are people who live, work and contribute to the community.
Furthermore, he added that building a project with creatives in mind was “a marketing strategy” designed to help fill the building, and just as ArtSpace has done with its other projects, he said any units in Grand Lake would be leased to people who need affordable, workforce housing locally.
While trustees agreed to move forward with ground lease option, Grand Lake’s workforce housing project is a long way from breaking ground. Items like building blueprints, including the number of units, are behind other hurdles that still have yet to be cleared.
On the immediate horizon, the town and ArtSpace must hammer out the finalized ground lease, and there could be some haggling there.
Previous discussions framed a lease that would last 40 years. On Monday, the proposal before trustees was for 65 years. Law said the longer term was an important piece of the financing packages they’re looking at for the project.
Trustee Cindy Southway said she was hesitant to vote for the 65-year term without some considerations and lobbied for language locking ArtSpace into refurbishing the building, or at least ensuring things like plumbing and electrical are up to code, before the building is given over to the town.
“Without that kind of guarantee, I’m not comfortable,” Southway said after noting that getting a 65-year-old building is a lot different than inheriting a 40-year-old structure.
“There’s nothing in this document that states we’re going to get a good building back,” Southway said.
But Town Manager John Crone responded by saying that many lease details were not included in the option before trustees, and that some of these things would be worked out before the ground lease is finalized. Killing the option now, Crone said, could lead to the end of the project.
“There’s nothing in this document that actually states we’re going to give them the property,” Crone said. “This is just an option to lease. The next document will cover all those details regarding income levels, who can rent it, what the condition of the building needs to be maintained in. All those issues will be in the lease document. Nothing goes forward without the lease document, except (ArtSpace) can go after state and federal funds that are only available right now.”
Overall, the lease option approved Monday spells out expectations that ArtSpace will lease the parking lot property from the town for $1 a year over 65 years. The contribution of the land at a nominal fee would satisfy the town’s required contribution for its part of the multi million dollar workforce housing project.
Whatever lease details emerge in the final draft, trustees still will have to approve the agreement before it can to go voters for their approval. Meanwhile, the lease option passed by trustees will help ArtSpace establish control of the site as it begins to seek state funds and financing.
Because the property the town plans on leasing has been put to a town use — namely parking — town staff has determined with legal advice that voters will need to approve the final lease. If voters do not approve the lease, the project would likely die there, according to a memo from town staff to trustees.
In other business:
• On Oct. 5, Grand Lake voters will decide if Mayor Steve Kudron should be removed from office. The recall ballot will feature a second question asking who should replace him, which will be applicable if a majority of electors decide Kudron should be recalled.
During the town manager’s update Monday, Crone said former Grand Lake mayor Judy Burke was the only person to file to run in the upcoming recall election, so the second question will feature her name only. With a career in the real estate industry, Burke previously served for more than 28 years as a trustee, mayor pro-tem and mayor.
• Trustee Jonah Landy resigned from his position on Monday, necessitated by a change in address. He was elected to the board in April 2020 and has been serving as mayor pro tem. The board will appoint a replacement until the next general election in April 2022. Interested electors have until Sept. 20 to apply, and the board is scheduled to vote on an appointment Sept. 27.
• The board approved a special event liquor permit request from the Grand Lake Area Historical Society to sell liquor during its Community Picnic from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Smith Eslick Cottage Court, which served as an early “motel” for automobile travelers.
• Trustees passed a resolution recognizing volunteer efforts at Grand Lake Cemetery. A large portion of the cemetery was damaged during the East Troublesome Fire, and trustees backed the measure after hearing an update about restoration efforts from Mandy Hanifen, chair of the Cemetery Committee, who expressed gratitude for the large number of people and organizations that have helped the cemetery recover.
“They have just been overwhelmingly generous and selfless — absolutely selfless,” Hanifen said. “I’m just tickled as punch you’re doing a resolution to recognize all the volunteers.”
• Organizer Mike Tompkins reminded trustees that Grand Lake US Constitution Week will be Sept. 13-19. He said they won’t serve food or alcohol, instead pushing those sales into local businesses. Also, the band Doterso will play at 2 p.m. on Sept. 18 with fireworks planned for later that night.
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The Grand County Sheriff’s Office fielded 177 calls from Jan. 9-15 while dispatchers answered 487 calls for all first-responder agencies in the county.