New hope for development

West End Village may become reality this year

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— The land for West End Village, the city's first deed-restricted affordable housing project, is under contract and could be sold within the month.

Connell Resources has scheduled a closing date of Jan. 15 to purchase the 30-acre parcel off Downhill Drive. Half of the homes in the project as many as 83 are to be set aside for affordable housing. The company is now doing due diligence to review development plans and other factors before deciding whether to close.

The company can choose not to complete the deal, but this first step has given some a renewed sense of hope that the project might become a reality this year.

As in the original development plan, the Regional Affordable Living Foundation will purchase half of the property and offer it to people who earn less than 120 percent of the area median income, which comes out to $67,200 for a family of four. While original plans called for a total of 137 units, the actual number will depend on how many secondary units are built, RALF Executive Director Rob Dick said.

The rest of the property likely would be sold at market rates.

Dick urged caution given that the deal has not closed. But he did say the Connell contract has breathed new life into a project that had been stalled for months.

"We're doing everything we can to bring this project to fruition in difficult economic times affordably and quickly," Dick said.

"We're thrilled Connell Resources has stepped in to assist in our efforts and we're cautiously optimistic that the project will meet with their final approval and the land will close on Jan. 15."

Tony Connell, vice president of Connell Resources, was a planning commissioner when West End Village came through the city planning process.

He said he hopes to have good news come Jan. 15, but he was equally cautious in his optimism. Connell added that if his company purchases the property, he will work with RALF to ensure the original intent of the project is realized.

"It would meet their goals of being affordable," Connell said. "It would be the cheapest thing in Steamboat, that's for sure."

West End Village was approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Dec. 19, 2000, and includes subsidies from the city and county.

The project sputtered through 2001 as RALF and a private developer failed to buy the land. Financing problems during an economic slowdown were exacerbated by the events of Sept. 11 as creditors got tighter with cash and some investors lost interest, Dick said.

Local builder Steve Cavanagh's investment group had an option on the property, but that option expired Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, interest has waned. RALF originally had 75 people on a waiting list, but several of those have since found other options for housing or have moved away.

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