Case Study

Alta Verde Workforce in Breckenridge, CO

6 min read

High Need for Workforce Housing at High Altitude

The “Alta” in the Alta Verde Workforce development in Breckenridge, CO, means “high.” And it is certainly the case that this term will aptly describe the community, as Breckenridge sits at an altitude of 9,200 feet in the ski country of western Colorado.

The altitude is certainly a force to be reckoned with in building that high above sea level, according to Kimball Crangle, Colorado market president of developer/builder Gorman & Co. Not so much in construction worker productivity, because the crews either live locally or get used to the high altitude quickly enough. But once the snow starts falling, usually around the end of November, there’s a hard stop on all site work until springtime arrives again in April.

“Building in high country, the biggest issue is how you deal with winter,” Crangle says. “You get a lot of snow.”

So, construction on the workforce project, which started last summer after an August financing close, currently is “resting,” says Crangle. “This is a methodology we’ve used before,” she says, since underground work can’t be done after the ground freezes and there’s more concern about worker productivity and safety when the temperatures dip.

“You have to be mindful of how you’re scheduling the project overall,” she says. “We let the snow fall, and we walk away.”

But a related 80-unit Low Income Housing Tax Credit project that is adjacent, Alta Verde I, has been completed and had its first move-in last month, she reports.

When both projects are completed, they will comprise more than $100 million in production. Total development costs for the workforce project come to $76.1 million, says Crangle, while the TDC for the LIHTC project was $32.3 million.

The workforce housing, targeting “the missing middle-income spectrum between 80 and 120 percent of area median income,” is especially needed in high property value towns, like Breckenridge, where workers have trouble affording housing in the same municipality where they work. The town has contributed to both projects.

Breckenridge, a resort town west of Denver, in Summit County, has a population of 5,000.

Fifty percent of Alta Verde II’s 14 studios and one- to three-bedroom units (38, 48 and 72 units, respectively) will be at or below 80 percent of AMI, the municipality notes in its description.

A Net Zero Goal
“The town has committed $6 million to this project that will achieve Net Zero designation, meaning the total amount of energy used by the buildings on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy on the site.”

 A rendering of the nine-acre site shows there is an existing solar field adjacent to the buildings and room for a potential ground-mount solar effort.

The town also matched a $650,000 grant on Alta Verde I (which has three apartment buildings) to achieve Net Zero designation on the LIHTC project as well.

Crangle says the town has been “very visionary” in its support of Alta Verde. “We’ve worked in close partnership with the town of Breckenridge,” she says, citing their donation of the land and some “pretty significant” gap funding.

“Without it, this project would not be moving forward,” she says.

Crangle calls Alta Verde “two projects that become one continuum community.” With second homeowners coming in and buying up a lot of property in Breckenridge, “they chewed up supply,” she says, especially after the Great Recession, creating a housing crunch. “Supply is dramatically limited,” she says.

Who will live in the new workforce units? According to Crangle, they will be “people who have year-round employment through local jobs.” That includes teachers, police, firefighters, town and county employees, hospital workers and people working in the ski resorts.

Norris Design is working with Gorman and the town on the look of the project. “The design aesthetic absolutely takes its cues from the natural environment that surrounds it,” Crangle says, and “has an enduring, long-lasting quality to it.”

Renderings show mountains making up a dramatic backdrop. “Amazing views,” Crangle agrees. “There are mountain ranges all around it.”

Gorman is the architect of record for the project.

Xeric Landscape Design
“Alta Verde features xeric landscape design and offers connection to the Blue River and community amenities, such as a playground, walking trails and a dog park,” according to Norris Design. “The neighborhood is also close to multi-modal transportation, like the Blue River Bikeway, Summit Stage and Breck Free Ride bus stops.”

“Xeric” landscape design refers to attempts to conserve water at projects located in arid or semi-arid places.

According to Vail Daily, Alta Verde is part of an overall $50 million investment Breckenridge plans to make in workforce housing to create 970 units over five years. Breckenridge hopes to leverage that $50 million into $300 million in investment.

The town has approved a blueprint with a goal of having 47 percent of Breckenridge’s workforce living in Breckenridge. And it wants to achieve a ratio of 35 percent resident housing to 65 percent vacation or resort lodging, according to the publication.

While Alta Verde I is a nine percent tax credit project, Alta Verde II has a different capital stack.

It is using a Fannie Mae pilot, a non-LIHTC unfunded forward permanent financing. The lender is Lument and the construction lender is Vectra Bank. The Colorado Housing Finance Authority’s Middle Income Access program, which is subordinate debt, is also part of the financing package. There is private equity in the deal as well.

Gorman, which got its start in 1984 and has a nationwide footprint, is based in Oregon, WI, while Crangle heads up the Denver office. “Our DNA as a company is to create affordable housing opportunities and work with communities to help them realize their housing goals.

“We saw a huge need in the communities in the high country of Colorado for housing above 60 percent of AMI. People could not afford to move into housing ownership.”

At the same time, they might not qualify for low-income housing. But with Alta Verde’s elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, residents will definitely be able to say they are now in high-end housing.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.