Durango City Council approved three apartment developments this week after yet another presentation about the housing problem in La Plata County, this time facilitated by Region 9 Economic Development.
In all, the projects would add 472 units to Durango’s housing stock.
The projects are Three Springs Apartments, River Roost Apartments and the restructuring of a Best Western Inn.
“It’s always a step in the right direction when these types of projects move forward to help alleviate the immense pressures we face in the community regarding housing,” said Tom Sluis, spokesman for the city. “Providing affordable housing for the workforce is going to be an ongoing issue for the city. These projects are a step in the right direction.”
Three Springs Apartments will include 202 apartments and nine townhomes. Of the 202 apartments, 120 will be single-bedroom units and 82 will be two-bedroom units. The development will be situated on 4.7 acres in the Three Springs subdivision.
Three Springs Apartments will also include garages, which will reduce the amount of space needed for parking. It also includes amenities such as a pool and hot tub, a grill, kayak storage, fitness room, community center, pet washing area and a bike rinsing area. It will also have a “naturalistic” play area for children with soft-ground surfaces.
The former Downtown Durango Inn, where the Applebee’s is located at 800 Camino del Rio, was approved to become a complex for studio apartments. It will be called River Roost Apartments.
Scott Shine, assistant director of community development, said the River Roost Apartments will be developed on an existing 3-acre lot where the Downtown Durango Inn operated until 2020. The old inn will be converted from 140 hotel rooms and a manager’s apartment into 141 apartment units. That process is underway by property owner Guardsman Capital.
Sections of the Animas River Trail and Animas River will fall within a new 0.92-acre subdivision.
The apartments won’t have rental restrictions and will feature studio units in a “nice, walkable, multimodal location,” Shine said.
The former Best Western Inn and Suites on U.S. Highway 160 in west Durango will be converted into an affordable housing apartment complex with 120 units, said Eva Henson, housing innovation manager.
Councilors approved a resolution for a sale and purchase agreement with TWG Acquisitions for the former Best Western Inn at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. The total cost of acquisition and development was priced at $30 million.
Henson said the agreement requires TWG to keep 71 existing units and add another 49 units. To keep the apartments affordable as workforce housing, monthly rent will be capped at $1,104. Units will consist of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
Durango Mayor Kim Baxter said the Best Western Inn developer is assuming all development expenses and the city has pledged to help the developer with a private activity bond it receives from the government.
“That’s no money that we’re putting in for us; it might be taxpayer dollars at the state or federal level, but it’s not our taxpayers,” she said.
The city pledged a bond to the Colorado Housing Finance Authority. A developer can use the bond funding to remodel hotel or other infrastructure into affordable housing units, she said.
Baxter said the apartments that arise from the former Best Western Inn are intended to be permanent affordable housing facilities intended for people and families whose income levels equal or fall below 60% of median wages earned in La Plata County.
City Councilor Jessika Buell says it is exciting to see more than 200 housing units under development.
Baxter said the city is doing what it can to help accelerate workforce housing developments.
The city and the county can help increase the housing stock by providing land or long-term leases on land – such as 99-year leases – for developers to build workforce housing, she said. The city and the county can also provide infrastructure for water, sewer, streets and sidewalks.
Baxter said the Urban Renewal Authority is another tool the city can use for funding through taxes to pay for infrastructure so that it isn’t dipping into the general fund for every development project.
The city and the county must also encourage market-rate housing be built, she said.
“What we can do is encourage market-rate housing to be built and do our best to get as many units on the market in that workforce housing range,” she said.
She added that if Durango was producing 400 workforce housing units a year, there could be a “significant impact” on the housing shortage Durangoans and prospective residents are facing today.
“The COVID situation isn’t going to help us with this, but I’ll be optimistic and say I think we can have a significant impact in the next three to five years,” Baxter said.