Evergreen returns: Developer proposes 60 affordable-housing units just west of Rifle movie theater

Land just west of the Brenden Rifle 7 Theaters a developer looks to convert into affordable housing units.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Rifle City Council started off the new year once again speaking with a developer who originally proposed to build affordable apartments in downtown Rifle.

Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group, which, in 2021, wanted to build 50 units at Second Street, is now seeing if it can gain enough support from the city to build 60 affordable-housing units on about 4.7 acres just west of Brenden Rifle 7 Theaters, directly north of U.S. Highway 6.

Unlike its proposal to build a four-story apartment complex in the downtown area, Evergreen’s newest approach includes building multiple three-story, low-rise apartment buildings to make up the entire complex, an Evergreen representative said during a Jan. 4 council workshop.

If Evergreen submits an application to build, it will ask Rifle to allocate a $600,000 match for the project. 

“These organizations, they like to see that the local municipality has some skin in the game,” Evergreen Project Manager Javonni Butler said.

Preliminary project documents show, if built, 14 units will be charged at 30% area median income (AMI), 12 units at 50% AMI, 18 units at 60% AMI, eight units at 70% AMI and another eight units at 80%.

To put things in perspective, 80% AMI represents anyone who makes about $26.40 an hour. This includes professions like teachers and school nurses.

“That’s how bad it is,” Butler said. “The AMIs are creeping up so high, that just normal people at this point are qualifying for affordable housing.”

Garfield County Housing Authority Executive Director Cheryl Strouse said the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development is now allowing her department to offer vouchers to people making up to 120% of AMI.

Strouse said the housing authority will reserve 14 project-based vouchers solely for this development if it breaks ground.

Why this matters is because the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, a governing body required to sign off on Evergreen’s proposal, is more likely to do so when vouchers are involved.

“CHFA looks much more favorably on a development that has project-based vouchers in it than those that do not,” Strouse said.

A site plan for a new proposal to build 60 affordable apartment units west of the Rifle movie theater.
City of Rifle

When Evergreen originally proposed building off Second Street, it ran into safety and overcrowding concerns. Butler said parking issues, in particular, killed the project. Now, however, the new proposal creates 115 parking spots while it looks to connect the site with Rifle Creek Trail and take advantage of any infrastructure improvements, including the Park Avenue extension.

“I like this concept a lot better than the last one,” Rifle City Council Member Brian Condie said. “I’m all in favor — even the $600,000.”

But, he did express concerns over ratios — that is, however many single-family houses there are in Rifle compared to apartments.

“That’s my concern, on changing the demographics and not just accepting all of these proposals that come in for apartments,” he said. “At what point do we say the ratio is good enough, and we’ll let more apartments in?”

Evergreen’s newest proposal comes during a time when Garfield County itself needs about 2,100 affordable housing units for folks making 60% AMI, according to the 2019 Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing study. 

The Evergreen proposal is set to bring in at least 100 new residents to Rifle, with another 100 ancillary construction jobs and two permanent management and maintenance jobs. 

Additional possible funding sources for the project include the Rifle Planning Department applying for the Colorado Infrastructure and Small Communities grant program. There’s up to $4 million currently in that fund.

The plan moving forward for Evergreen is to first apply to CHFA in February. If all goes accordingly, Evergreen is set to break ground in June 2024, with the complex opening to residents by December 2025.

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