Exploring an innovative solution | SteamboatToday.com

Exploring an innovative solution

At issue

A small group of developers has entered the pre-application stage for a planned 40-unit micro-apartment/office complex on Lincoln Avenue near Safeway

Our view

The proposal is a creative and forward-thinking plan that could meet part of our affordable housing problem, and we encourage the city to take a careful look at its merits

Difficult problems often require innovative solutions that fall well beyond the bounds of conventional thinking.

In the Yampa Valley, affordable housing is just such a problem, and that’s why we were both intrigued and encouraged at the news of a recent proposal by a small groups of developers to create a 40-unit micro-apartment complex on a 2.79-acre parcel situated at Pine Grove Road and its abutment with Sundance Plaza.

The parcel was approved in 2007 for a mixed-use condominium and commercial development, but those plans were scuttled by the onset of the Great Recession.

Now, the development group — which includes part-owner Darrin Fryer, an Australian partner and local residents Jack and Mary McClurg — has entered the pre-application phase, and the project may soon enter the formal planning process.

According to the pre-application, the 104,000-square-foot building would include a first-floor covered parking area and eight incubator office spaces facing Pine Grove Road. Three additional floors would house 42 to 48 micro apartments, each offering 450 to 500 square feet.

Fryer told Steamboat Today recently that the rental apartments would afford many nearby amenities for tenants, as well as front-door access to public transit. The project would also include concierge-style storage closets to provide space for tenant belongings or storage for the on-site businesses.

“It’s a pretty cool, different concept that hasn’t been done in Steamboat,” Fryer said.

We couldn’t agree more.

But, it also occurs to us that this proposal might further serve as an opportunity for the city of Steamboat Springs to innovate in its quest to solve the affordable housing crisis.

We see the proposal as a potential test case to gauge city government and planning staff’s flexibility and commitment to enabling and encouraging creative approaches to the development of community housing, even when those approaches might not mesh perfectly with current zoning codes.

After spending several months studying the housing problem and gathering community input, the Routt County Community Housing Steering Committee in mid December released an 18-page report on the state of housing in Routt County, recommending that, in order to keep pace with current and future demand, 700 new units — plus 250 additional beds for seasonal workers — need to be constructed by 2020.

This is an ambitious goal — an impossible goal, some might argue — but we’re encouraged by the fact that, almost immediately after the report and recommendations became public, a local development group was stepping forward to propose a creative, innovative project that might begin to address some of the housing needs identified by the steering committee.

Of course, the proposed new complex is a long way from becoming a reality, and we hope city planners will thoroughly vet the proposal before moving forward with it.

But the bottom line is, this is a new and creative idea that might well solve at least some of our housing challenges, and we encourage city government to take a serious and open-minded look at it.

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