Willits Bend

Willits Bend live-work spaces, left, would have new neighbors under a proposal by Archdiocesan Housing Inc. of Denver. The 75 units of affordable housing eyed for a 4.6-acre parcel would be sited near Aspen Skiing Co.’s tiny homes, Umbrella Roofing and the trio of existing Willits Bend buildings.

A 75-unit affordable housing project for Willits Bend proposed by Archdiocesan Housing Inc., an affiliate of Catholic Charities, is being reviewed by Eagle County, community development director Morgan Beryl said Tuesday.

The county on June 1 lifted its development moratorium. That has allowed planning and review of the proposed rental housing project — which would be located midway between downtown Basalt and Willits Town Center — to continue, according to Robert Tobias. He’s part of the ownership group behind Willits Bend LLC, the mixed-use development notable for its brightly colored buildings where residential and commercial functions coexist. The property is under contract for an undisclosed sum.

An amendment to Willits Bend’s 2006 planned unit development is sought to accommodate Archdiocesan Housing’s proposal, according to the application submitted to the county and the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission on Friday.

“The proposed amendment requests revisions to develop the remaining property (proposed buildings 2, 6, 8 and 9) into 75 rental residential units affordable to households with incomes up to 80% of the area median income rather than the approved mixed-use commercial and light industrial uses…,” it reads.

Beryl said a height change from the existing 35 feet to 40 feet also is requested. Potential issues that have been identified at this juncture could include increased density and increased traffic, she added.

Comments from referral agencies are requested by July 3. Beryl said public comment will be taken for the next several months. Hearing dates are expected to begin in early August. Information is available online at eaglecounty.us/Planning/Active_Land_Use_Applications/.

Buildings would be removed

In the Roaring Fork Valley, AHI, which purports to be “one of the largest affordable housing owners in Colorado,” has developed Machebeuf Apartments in Glenwood Springs and Villas de Santa Lucia in Carbondale, according to the application. 

All told, AHI oversees more than 1,700 units in the state.

Its website notes, “Archdiocesan Housing provides affordable, service-enriched housing for individuals and families who cannot access decent housing in the broader marketplace. As an affiliate of Catholic Charities, we mandate to care for the poor and those who are vulnerable by building communities that are welcoming and provide opportunities for them to flourish.”

Archdiocesan Housing’s vice president of development Justin Raddatz said in an email he wasn’t able to answer specific questions about the project in time for this article’s publication, but promised to address specifics at a later date.

According to Tobias, and as referenced in the project application, Archdiocesan Housing has benefited from the largesse of modern-day Aspen pioneers Fritz and Fabi Benedict, who bequeathed a large gift to serve the nonprofit’s stated mission of providing affordable housing.

“There’s some heritage around this as Fritz and Fabi are legends. And their legend will live on,” Tobias said. 

Included within the project summary: “With the generous financial support of the late Fritz Benedict and his wife, Fabi, AHI is eager to serve the tremendous housing needs in Eagle County.”

The 75 units of housing, located near the intersection of Willits and Widget lanes, would have as their neighbors the three existing Willits Bend buildings, Aspen Skiing Co.’s tiny homes and Umbrella Roofing.

Within the application it’s noted that the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study highlighted a need of 2,100 affordable rental housing units available at 60% of the area median income.

“The combination of Willits Bend existing mixed-use orientation and its location and proximity to public transportation make it uniquely suited to help address the county’s critical need for affordable housing,” it read.

A trio of 50-year-old buildings, on about a 4.6-acre site, would be removed to make way for the new housing construction. New buildings for the units would pick up elements from the colorful corrugated steel buildings of the existing Willits Bend that were originally designed by Basaltine Glenn Rappaport. A Denver firm would design the new structures.

Tobias said original discussions with AHI started more than a year ago and that in the meantime, the parcel went under contract and the design phase was undertaken. He said COVID-19 did not impact the timetable, but the county’s development moratorium did cause a delay.

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99