Steamboat Springs City officials are entertaining the possibility of demolishing the Iron Horse Inn and rebuilding from the ground up.
The City of Steamboat Springs issued a request for qualifications on July 1 to developers, development teams or joint ventures interested in redeveloping the Iron Horse. It originally was purchased by the city in November 2007 in an effort to ensure availability of affordable housing for city employees. Its future now includes the possibility of complete renovation. That could mean a mix of rental and for-sale units combined with commercial or retail uses.
"Basically, we're saying, 'Here's a great parcel of land. If it was yours, how would you develop it?'" Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said Monday.
The RFQ process precedes the request for proposal process, and the goal is to identify developers who are qualified to submit a proposal. DuBord said there are about 35 interested companies that have requested RFQ information, and she predicts there will be more before the July 24 deadline.
According to the RFQ, "The City wishes to redevelop the Iron Horse site into an affordable housing development that provides attractive, affordable work force housing which may be a mix of rental and for-sale units."
DuBord said the city is encouraging creativity from developers, and no redevelopment possibility has been ruled out.
Residential, commercial and retail uses such as day care and offices are encouraged in the RFQ, and the city urges a mix of housing types and income targets that includes at least 20 units for households below 80 percent of the area median income and a possible mix of affordable and market-priced residential units.
"We believe the site is currently being under-utilized," DuBord said. Based on the potential density for the site, the city possibly could double the number of units to more than 100. Currently, there are 53 units, and the city leases 11 of them to city employees. The remaining units are being used for long-term work force housing and nightly rentals. DuBord said at any given time, the city estimates it will need 10 to 20 of the units for city employees.
The city sought private-sector partnerships for the management of the inn earlier this year and awarded the contract to Resort Group. The plan was to use the Iron Horse for workforce housing only. Resort Group originally planned to take over management of the inn June 1, but the date was pushed back to Oct. 1 or Oct. 31 because "Resort Group felt they did not have time to gear up for the high summer demand," DuBord said in June.
"Yes, we are interested in the redevelopment aspect of the Iron Horse. It's part of why we took it on," Resort Group Vice President Tom Simmins, said Tuesday. He said he is envisioning better quality work force housing and more of it.
"We want to offer the total work force package," Simmins said, and he thinks that different unit types will allow them to do that. With leases that vary from 4 months to a year, he said they plan to supply housing for not just seasonal employees but also for families that need short-term housing while they find something more permanent.
Currently, rents at the Iron Horse range from $750 per month for an efficiency to $1,800 per month for a two-bedroom unit. Simmins said Resort Group will charge "what the market can bear" for rent.
"We're all in the business to make money, but we also want to make it palatable and not kill anyone on rent," Simmins said.
Just as the redevelopment plans for the Iron Horse are up in the air, so is the funding model to pay for it. The RFQ states that the city is willing to contribute the land and may be willing to consider other subsidies, joint funding, concessions and fee waivers. DuBord said she wasn't sure how the project would be funded and that it's up to the developers to propose funding ideas.
DuBord plans to select a committee to review qualification submissions and proposals.
After the committee identifies qualified applicants, the next step in the process is to review redevelopment proposals in August or September.
Although the RFQ says "The city would like to redevelop the site as soon as possible," DuBord said the city is not rushing the proposal process. The Steamboat Springs Workforce Housing Demand Analysis is due out in August, and the Routt County Housing Needs Assessment is due out this fall. DuBord said the results of the surveys will help identify work force and affordable housing needs in Steamboat and give the city and developers a better idea of how to redevelop the Iron Horse Inn.
DuBord predicted the earliest construction would begin on the Iron Horse is the summer 2010.
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