Aspen officials forge on with new housing at Airport Business Center

Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a $2.9 million contract with an architecture and engineering design team to move the Lumberyard affordable housing project forward at the Airport Business Center.

A portion of the contract, for $695,728, was approved for the Montana-based Cushing Terrell to help the city in schematic design and land use application support for as many as 300 units on the city-owned, 10.5-acre parcel.

Cushing Terrell will join the city’s Lumberyard team, which includes DHM Design, a land planning consulting firm and Connect One Design, which has helped with community outreach, among other tasks.

The city paid $30 million for the property where the workforce housing will be built, and the project is estimated to cost $330 million.

Council is following the direction of previous elected boards in accelerating the project due to the housing shortage crisis in the valley, particularly in Aspen, and is aiming for construction to begin 2024.

“It’s a year ahead of what was originally scheduled, and I applaud that effort and support it,” said Councilman Ward Hauenstein, who is serving his second term. “I think that our team has done a great job to respond to council’s requests about a timeline and getting housing online as soon as possible because it affects everything in this community.”

The project hit a significant road block when council members went into analysis paralysis mode last fall when picking apart a conceptual master plan that had been worked on for the better part of the year and was based off months of community outreach and public feedback.

“The scope of work for this contract aims to pick up the ball where we left off at the end of 2020 and address those concerns that council had in November on that topic,” said Chris Everson, the city’s affordable housing project manager.

While it is council’s desire to keep the project forging ahead, it will require conversations with Pitkin County officials about Highway 82 access, traffic at the Entrance to Aspen and myriad other issues related to additional development in that area.

“You may want to be discussing this in perhaps a joint work session with the county commissioners or any other groups that you wish to dive in with, but we do plan on maintaining a process of community engagement, stakeholder engagement and filtering all of the design through the public engagement process,” Everson said.

Future tasks by Cushing Terrell are intended to be added to the contract by written amendment as the project moves forward, Everson said.

Seven proposals were submitted and Cushing Terrell was selected for many reasons, including cost.

Cushing Terrell has provided guaranteed “not to exceed” fees for the first four parts of the scope of work.

For the first two phases of work combined, Cushing Terrell’s guaranteed fees are nearly 20% lower than the next-lowest interviewed team, according to Everson.

And for scope of work parts one through four combined, Cushing Terrell’s guaranteed fees are nearly 40% lower than the next-lowest interviewed team.

The money allocated for the contract is coming from the city’s 150 Fund, fueled by a sales tax and a real estate transfer tax.

There is currently $546,090 remaining in the 2021 budget.

With the approval of the Cushing Terrell contract, the anticipated expenditures for the remainder of this year are $896,090, creating a shortfall in the Lumberyard budget of $350,000.

Council will approve the additional expenditure in the annual fall supplement budget requests.