A New Horizon: Soda Creek Apartments emblematic of new era at Horizons Specialized Services | SteamboatToday.com

A New Horizon: Soda Creek Apartments emblematic of new era at Horizons Specialized Services

Horizons' new transitional independent living project, Soda Creek Apartments, was built with the help of a $1.27 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Tom Ross

— There comes a time in the life of every single young adult when they attach a certain degree of urgency to living in a place of their own — without roommates.

If anyone has any doubts that axiom applies to clients of Horizons Specialized Services, listen to what Rhianna Gifford, 28, has to say on the subject.

"I want to move now," Gifford said during lunch at Colorado Mountain College in late February. "I'm excited, really excited. I just need more privacy. I want to have some 'me' time."

Gifford is one of seven Horizons clients, selected with consideration for their compatibility, who will move within the next two weeks or so into the nonprofit's brand-new Soda Creek Apartments at 445 Eighth St. in Steamboat Springs.

The apartment complex was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of adults who are ready to move out of traditional group homes and begin raising their skill sets to a level at which they someday might be able to move into apartments throughout the community that aren't run by Horizons.

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To be sure, there is an eighth apartment at Soda Creek to accommodate the 24-hour availability of a Horizons counselor. And there also is a community room where the residents can gather, if they choose, for communal meals or activities.

However, each of the seven fully furnished client apartments is equipped to offer self-sufficient living. They have full kitchens, bathrooms and even stacked washers and dryers.

The Soda Creek residents will decide how they want to spend their time at home, and Gifford will finally enjoy her privacy. The front door even has a peephole so residents can observe who has come knocking.

The new apartment building was built with the help of a $1.27 million Housing and Urban Development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Architect Jan Kaminski, of Mountain Architecture Design Group, whose daughter Jamie will move into one of the apartments overlooking Soda Creek, designed the building with his colleague Chancie Keenan. The apartments were built by Calcon Constructors of Steamboat Springs using all Routt County subcontractors.

Try, try, try again

Horizons Board President Bob Grover said the $1.27 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which made construction of Soda Creek Apartments possible, wasn't easy to land. In fact, it was one of those cases when the third time was the charm.

"We applied three times and were turned down twice," Grover said.

Before applying for the third time, Grover and Horizons Executive Director Susan Mizen got together to decide if it was worth the effort to take another crack at it. They didn't hesitate, and it's a good thing — the grants no longer are available.

"This is our first opportunity to build our own concept from the ground up," Grover said. "We want it to be a model for organizations like ours on the Western Slope that they can come and tour it."

Grover gives a great deal of credit to Adult Program Director Tatum Heath and Kaminski for the way the handsome Soda Creek building turned out.

"For Jan, this is a labor of love," Grover said. "And it's all about Tatum. He took on construction oversight in addition to his regular duties."

Kaminski and Heath collaborated with Calcon on numerous details in the apartments. For example, one of the new residents is small in stature. For the convenience of that person, the peephole in the front door is just a few feet off the floor.

All of the external walkways are underneath overhanging eaves, helping to ensure snow and ice will not build up and create a hazard. The apartments have a high energy rating that exceeds the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Qualified Homes 3.0 standards.

Water use will be reduced by low-flow plumbing fixtures and the use of xeric and drought-resistant landscaping. And Grover made certain the roofs are wired to accommodate solar panels in the future.

One of the seven client apartments is wheelchair accessible and includes a roll-in shower. And though none of the first set of new residents is a wheelchair user, one of them was selected for that apartment because that individual will be more secure with a sit-down shower.

Fitting in with the neighborhood

For Kaminski, who has worked on numerous historic preservation projects in Old Town Steamboat, it was essential to design a building with exterior elevations that would fit into the neighborhood on Eighth Street, just a couple of hundred feet from Soda Creek Elementary School.

Grover said he has received several compliments on the building from residents of nearby single-family homes.

Although Kaminski had just 540 square feet to work with, each apartment has an open floor plan that is unique.

"It was one of our goals," Kaminski said. "Even though they are the same size, each is slightly different."

Kaminski's daughter Jamie is among the adults waiting to move into Soda Creek this month.

"Jamie is so excited to be moving in here," he said. "She is 29 (years old), so she has spent the last eight years in a group home."

Another longtime Horizons client who is eager to move into Soda Creek is Don Pearce, who anticipates his new home will make it easier for him to enjoy his music collection.

"It's a good thing. I get to have my own place. I don't have to have roommates," Pearce said. "I can do what I want to do. I can listen to my music when I want to."

Pearce currently lives a short distance away on Eighth Street, sharing an apartment with a roommate. He has a collection of about 100 music CDs and is a Ted Nugent fan, though Pearce doesn't share Nugent's enthusiasm for hunting.

Pearce also is looking forward to moving his electronic keyboard to the apartment so he can play along with his CD collection.

"I took piano lessons a long time ago, and I wasn't very good, and I'm still not very good," Pearce said. Still, he loves to jam with recordings by his favorite musicians.

Heath predicted that Pearce will be able to play his music without disturbing his neighbors. In addition to a layer of spray foam insulation between adjoining apartment walls, there is an extra sound barrier installed, Heath said.

Pearce also knows it's time to step up his game in the kitchen.

"I'm going to cook. I made a zucchini pizza once. It was all right. I'll probably cook with some of the other" residents, he said.

Pearce also is looking forward to visiting his old roommate Bruce Rule for some video game action even though Rule usually wins. He'll be just a few steps away in his new apartment. And Pearce expects the ground-level apartment to make it easier for his father, Dick, to visit him.

The new residents of Soda Creek Apartments promise to make it a lively neighborhood.

During a recent conversation with Jamie Kaminski, it was easy to understand why she is eager to take the next step in her young adult life. She and Katie Henderson had just returned from an overnight trip to the Special Olympics in Ski Cooper near Leadville. Henderson competed in super G and giant slalom. Kaminski raced slalom and giant slalom. Both skiers came home with medals.

"I like to go really, really, really fast," Kaminski said. She added that she enjoyed the Special Olympics flag ceremony and the dinner dance.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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