Granby takes lead on design for affordable housing project

The Wellington neighborhood in Breckenridge is full of a variety of affordable housing units restricted to the local workforce, something that Granby trustees couldn’t help but imagine in the local community.

The deed-restricted development, designed by Wolff Lyon Architects and Pel-Ona Architects and Urbanists, is serving as a kind of vision for what officials in Granby hope can soon be built on the US Highway 40 Workforce Housing Project, formerly known as the Rodeo Apartments.

Trustees Kristie DeLay and Chris Michalowski have been working with Town Manager Ted Cherry on planning for the 30-acre town-owned parcel after the deal for an affordable housing project with the previous developer fell through. By getting a plan in place, the board hopes to speed up the project, while ensuring it meets the town’s needs.

Wolff Lynn has a history of designing similar affordable housing projects in mountain communities, like the Wellington neighborhood that DeLay, Michalowski and Cherry toured a few weeks ago. All three were impressed with what they saw.

“It felt like you were walking through a — I was looking for the apple pie because it was just this piece of Americana,” DeLay said.

The Wellington neighborhood is a mix of affordable single family, duplex and triplex units. All of the homes are deed restricted to people who work locally, and 80% of the homes have a reduced income requirement. Michalowski said a few of the homes have accessory dwelling units, also deed restricted to the local workforce, to provide for that single-bedroom need as well.

While built densely, the design centered around gathering spaces. The trio from Granby emphasized that the Breckenridge neighborhood has a strong sense of community.

“It’s really densely built, but there’s just a lot of community gathering places, a lot of front porches, a lot of kids running around,” Michalowski said. “It was a beautiful fall day. It was like a picture when you walked through there.”

Granby’s Highway 40 project might not look exactly the same, but the design firm’s proposal outlines roughly 300 residential units providing a variety of building types including tiny homes, single-family homes, duplexes, row homes and apartments. The land is currently deed restricted to incomes at 80-120% of the area median income, though the town is contemplating changing that.

“Obviously we know we need rental units, but maybe some for-sale units could be an option for people to start building some equity in homeownership,” Cherry explained over the phone Thursday. “Getting that good mix of a transitional type neighborhood.”

The board felt that the economic future of the community is reliant on affordable and sustainable housing options for all types of employees.

“Granby’s economy is out of balance as we see a development and tourism boom that outpaces the infrastructure to support this growth,” Destination Granby Executive Director Lauren Huber said. “An affordable community to house locals and workers is an important piece of the puzzle to grow in a sustainable way.”

Because the project would be on town-owned land, the board emphasized that it wants to work with nearby communities.

“It’s very important for the town to have some say on what this neighborhood looks like in the future,” Cherry said. “We want to be good neighbors to the community, to the other areas that surround this property (and give) them a voice in the process.”

The design work will cost $35,000, which is unbudgeted, but the town board unanimously agreed that spending the money would be worth it. Other mountain communities have found that for every $60,000 a town invests in housing, the town sees an annual return of $4,000 in taxes alone.

“It’s another step forward for a developer to come in and pick up the project,” Cherry said. “It’s one less thing they have to do and have to spend money on. We realize that this is an investment in the community and we should see a return on that investment in multiple different ways, not just financial.”

Design the project should move forward through the last months of the year and into the beginning of 2022.

While there is not a yet a developer in line to take over the project, the design is the latest in a number of town investments toward affordable housing. Last month, the board purchased a nearby parcel to allow for direct highway access to the development along with financing nearby sewage line improvements.

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