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Project seeks backing of city

Dennis Webb

Prospects for building 84 low-income apartment units at Glenwood Meadows may hinge on the degree to which the city of Glenwood Springs is willing to bend on issues such as parking requirements, building heights and fee waivers.Robert Macgregor, whose Dunrene Group is developing the commercial and residential project on Wulfsohn Ranch in West Glenwood, has unveiled a proposal for 120 apartments on the site. Seventy percent of the units would be income-restricted under state and federal affordable housing guidelines.Macgregor says the project is aimed at helping the city meet a goal of providing more affordable housing. He said it’s an outgrowth of feedback he received while working on other aspects of Glenwood Meadows, which includes a major commercial component.”I was reminded of the fact that we’re creating more jobs out there,” he said.He hopes the apartment project can help provide housing for workers at Glenwood Meadows, and others looking for affordable housing options in Glenwood. But the proposal depends on obtaining city support for the project, in part so developers can obtain funding for government financial assistance.”We are asking for a partnership in this community housing,” Macgregor said.Macgregor’s Dunrene Group hopes to seek federal tax credits, in exchange for a 30-year commitment to limit some of the apartments to those meeting income restrictions based on Garfield County’s average median income for a family of four. That figure last stood at $60,600 but is due for an update. Developers plan to offer 37.5 percent of their units to families with incomes below 40 percent of the median income, and 32.5 percent for those with incomes below 60 percent of the median.Macgregor noted that developers aren’t obligated to offer affordable housing, and he was initially skeptical whether such a project was feasible.Now he said he believes otherwise, although he said it’s still a difficult proposition. The project’s price tag will be about $16.5 million, but the income restrictions would mean half of that can’t be recovered through rents.Macgregor hopes to make up some of the difference by getting the city to agree to things such as relaxed restrictions on parking.City rules require 288 parking spaces for 120 apartments. Gary Prager, an architect on the project, said that seems unnecessarily high, and that apartments generally require 1.5 spaces per unit.He is recommending that the city require 216 spaces, or 1.8 per unit.During a recent conceptual review of the project, several City Council members expressed reservations about easing parking restrictions.”We’ve got lots of parking problems in other areas in town, and I certainly don’t want to create one from scratch,” Mayor Larry Emery said.At the same time, council members worry about what parking spaces will do for the look for the development.”I’m torn between enough parking and what looks like a sea of parking when we look over at it,” said Emery, who lives in the Oasis Creek subdivision, which overlooks Glenwood Meadows from across the Colorado River.Some council members would like to see developers incorporate “tuck-under” parking, so cars are parked beneath the buildings rather than out in the open.But Macgregor said that can add $15,000 in cost per unit.”I think that alone is a deal-breaker,” he said.Council member Dan Richardson said he wouldn’t want to see the project thrown out based on that issue.”This project is serving a need, and I realize that,” he said.But Richardson noted some concerns that the city’s housing commission has expressed, including in regard to building height. The commission wants to allow height variances only for the lower apartment units, in order to bring the apartments as far down the hill as possible to reduce the visual impact. Some council members also are concerned about height.The project proposes that the buildings be three stories on the uphill side and four bedrooms on the downhill side, for a total height that is more than 40 feet, and some six feet above what the city normally allows. Council members also have reservations about waiving city fees. Council member Dave Merritt said he would like to support waivers, but isn’t sure the city can afford to do so. Those fees cover the cost of providing city services, he said.Despite their concerns, council members expressed overall support for the proposed development and encouraged developers to pursue it.”I think you’ve got a pretty nice project,” said council member Joe O’Donnell.Matt Pond, principal with Spruce Realty Group, which is working with Dunrene on the project, said developers aren’t giving up on the proposal.”I think City Council knows that they need this deal. It seems like everything’s a bit of a negotiation. That’s OK, we’ll make it,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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