Hampton, Fairfield hotels to be converted into workforce housing to help alleviate crisis

The Hampton Inn & Suites in Steamboat Springs is planned to be converted into workforce housing.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Ski Town Commercial LLC has over 100 workforce housing units that can be delivered in 30 days. The only roadblock, according to the developer, is the city of Steamboat Springs’ planning process.

Jon Sanders, founder of Ski Town Commercial, which has completed other motel conversions such as the Flour Mill and Main Street Apartments, said he hopes to close on the purchase of the Hampton Inn & Suites and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott next month and quickly turn them into much-needed workforce housing.

“There’s just such a demand for housing,” said Sanders, who initially hoped to deliver units to at least 50 local workers Nov. 15. But the process, he said, has become complicated.

Ski Town has applied for temporary dormitory approval per conditional use for workforce housing at the Fairfield Inn, located at 3200 S. Lincoln Ave. on Steamboat’s east side.

For the immediate term, the units will essentially remain as they are, already equipped with microwaves and mini fridges with a shared common area, which is the breakfast area.

The Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“That’s just to absorb the winter seasonal workforce demand,” Sanders said.

At the Hampton Inn, located at 725 S. Lincoln Ave., there are already units with kitchenettes, which are to be occupied right away, Sanders explained.

The ultimate goal is to convert half the Hampton Inn within six months, namely adding cook tops to units, then send a construction team to the Fairfield next April to install fuller kitchens.

“They’re higher-quality buildings than what we ended up with when we started our other projects,” he said, referring to the Flour Mill, formerly the Iron Horse Inn, and Main Street Apartments, which used to be Alpiner Lodge. “They’re different configurations, different views, different locations.”

There will be 50 one-bedroom and 30 studio units at the Hampton Inn, along with 72 units, a mix of one-bedrooms and studios, at the Fairfield. All together, Sanders and his team plan to add 152 housing units.

“We have an opportunity here to solve a crisis, and it is a serious problem,” Sanders said, “I know it, because we get calls every hour of the day from people looking for places to live.”

His company will also rent to pet owners, as well as offer units furnished or unfurnished.

Sanders said prices for a studio would begin at $1,200 per month, but that would include all utilities, parking and high-speed dedicated internet.

That price point is doable, even for seasonal workers, according to Sanders, who has already had years of success with renters at Ski Town’s other projects in town. But Sanders also works with local employers, including Resort Group, One Steamboat Place, Vacasa, Moving Mountains and the city, to offer bulk leasing arrangements. The pre-leased units at the two hotels due to be delivered next month, he said, are for specific local employers.

“Those people start coming here Nov. 15, and they have nowhere to stay if we don’t close earlier,” Sanders said.

Sanders had expected an expedited process considering his project addresses housing, a dire community need. But he was informed last week that wasn’t going to be the case.

“We understand these projects are important,” said Rebecca Bessey, director of the city’s planning and zoning department. “We are doing the best we can to get things done faster.”

Bessey leads an already overworked department, which has further been impacted by its own issues with staffing levels.

As a response to the local housing crisis, Steamboat Springs City Council members last month asked Bessey to explore removing some of the red tape for developers when their proposed housing project is earmarked for affordable or workforce housing.

So far that process has resulted in the planning department reaching out to developers and asking for input, particularly as to what level of affordable or workforce housing they felt most comfortable requiring of a project.

“We want to create meaningful incentive for these projects,” Bessey said. “We don’t want to draft a policy that doesn’t have results.”

Adoption of a potential ordinance to expedite housing projects could come by the end of the year, Bessey said.

But Sanders says that’s not fast enough.

“If we want to solve the problem, why don’t we all get in a room and figure it out. We can get it done in one day,” Sanders said. “The system doesn’t allow that to happen right now.”

Bessey indicated Friday afternoon that her department was able to quickly turnaround the comment review portion for Sanders’ development, and his plan is under review.

“It’s not a complicated ordinance to create; it’s just that internal processes will need to be adjusted and modified to fit with it,” Bessey said.

Owners of both hotel properties were contacted by Steamboat Pilot & Today but did not respond to requests for comment.

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