Paintbrush Affordable Housing Project Almost Ready to Occupy – The Crested Butte News
Gates sees the project as an example of what he can do in the future …
[ By Mark Reaman ]
Walking through what was just over a year ago a wasteland filled with brush, the dream of a vibrant neighborhood filled with local workers now seems about to come true.
The latest affordable housing project in the valley is set to accept its first residents later this month. The first phase of Paintbrush development located in Gunnison near the Gunnison Rec Center is nearing completion in hopes that final inspections will be done next week and then people can start moving into the first 13 units. by the end of September.
In what most admit to have been a remarkably fast construction schedule, Paintbrush will go from coming out of the ground on July 20, 2020 to filling 77 units by Thanksgiving in 2021. All 14 buildings look great with stone exteriors and wooden and bright, airy apartments with solid fixtures and fittings.
Owned and funded by Gary Gates and Gatesco Inc. of Houston, the project is sort of meant to make a statement and prove a point. Gates, who has owned a home in the North Valley for years, has encountered sometimes strong resistance to his affordable Corner at Brush Creek housing proposal south of Crested Butte. This project ended in a dead end after many public meetings and hundreds of hours of public commentary.
âWe wanted to take that out of the park and exceed expectations,â Gates explained during the project tour last week. âI wanted to prove that we could do a quality project and do it quickly. I don’t want to do just one of these projects, I want to build from it. And I guarantee you no one will be able to do it for less money than me. I don’t want to make any money with it today, I just don’t want to lose any money. I don’t need any construction or project costs. I want to be part of the solution to the housing problem. I’ve always wanted to do something like this to help solve a problem.
Gates has made it clear that he will focus on the housing element of the developments, but expects local governments to deal with ramifications of growth such as public transport or expanding schools.
Brush a blip in the wallet
Gates said he was on the cusp of owning more than 9,000 rental units in the Houston area. Gunnison Valley’s projects are said to represent less than 1% of its real estate holdings. But his business allows him to do things like buy building materials in bulk at big discounts. He can use the knowledge and time of his Gatesco employees to help cut costs. He said that although no one would believe it, its construction costs are almost half of the perceived market rate.
âOther than some leeway on the ground, I don’t want government money for these things,â he insisted. âI don’t have any partners so I can be quick and not worry about things other people are doing since it’s all my money. For example, I did not ask for a break on the costs of taps (water and sewer) with the city on this project and that helped to speed it up. Now I have the basic architectural plans and can use them for future projects. We can adjust some things to fit better in a particular neighborhood, but we have the basic design. We have learned some things, but the basics have been laid.
Gates said he still owned the first property he bought in 1986 and never intended to sell it. The same goes for his Gunnison County projects. âI’m building for the long term, so it’s not cheap rental construction,â he said. âI want it to work in 30 years. “
Gates said his contacts through his properties in Houston were sometimes helpful. He said he could get a big discount on supplies, for example, by purchasing them in advance with longtime partners. âI had the ability to cut costs,â he said.
Speed ââand efficiency
On-site project manager Arie Bogaard said that although 77 units have been nearing completion in just 15 months, the goal is to be even faster in the future. âLike everyone else, we have had to deal with labor shortages at times that have made us back down,â he explained. âWe had some supply issues, but Gary was able to pivot and if, say, something like farms weren’t available here for months, we found them elsewhere in the country and we made sure that they get here. The material costs went up pretty high as they have everywhere, but Gary didn’t let that get in the way either. Overall we had to be creative at times, but it all went really well. There has been a lot of moving parts in the last few months, but it has gone really well despite it. “
According to Bogaard, the biggest delays were in cement and asphalt, but these were ultimately taken into account as well.
General contractor AJ Cattles said the project grew rapidly for a mountain construction project and part of the reason was the emphasis on using local contractors and workers. He estimated that over 70 percent of Paintbrush workers were local.
Gates said more than 350 people have expressed interest in preliminary rental applications for one of the units. Bogaard added that some of them could be from the same family, but that’s far more than expected for a 77-unit project. Any organization, such as Gunnison Valley Health, Vail Resorts, or Gunnison County, is allowed to claim up to 10 units each under what are called master leases for their employees.
Gates explained that there are 77 units in the development, 69 of which are under an act restriction requiring, among other things, employment in the county. There are eight free market units, but Gates and Bogaard said even free market rents would be similar to others given current market conditions.
âTo comply with the regulations, we are in what is considered a pre-application phase,â Bogaard explained. âIt started in January and people have been coming to this list since January. People will come by and ask to get one of the units. We will move on to formal applications soon and then proceed to selections. Most units are deed restricted so people have to meet certain working hours and income requirements. Everything from savings to single family homes is a rental with a minimum three month lease.
Wide range of income
Given the income parameters, Bogaard said most renters would earn between 80 and 200% of the area’s median income (AMI). The units will be pets and the monthly rent includes all utilities except internet and cable. The smaller unit is an efficiency of 375 square feet while the larger one is a 1,745 square foot single family home which includes the garage.
âConsidering the number of people in the prequalification phase, we don’t think it is difficult to fill,â admitted Bogaard. âWe just have to make sure that all the appropriate act restrictions are observed. “
As he walked around the property, Bogaard pointed to a large irrigation hose that was installed and buried and he promised that nearby neighbors would continue to have access through the property. He also wanted the neighbors to feel that their properties wouldn’t feel cramped due to the new development. Landscaping will likely be in place next summer.
âWe learned some things with Paintbrush,â Gates concluded. âWe can probably cut costs a bit more and build faster. But I am happy. I believe we got this one out of the park and exceeded all expectations. I understand that the county took a certain risk by accompanying me on the project. I wanted to exceed their expectations.
As for the future …
âI want to do more. But I won’t waste any money on these projects, âGates vowed as he envisions a future with a potential Western University of Colorado housing project adjacent to Paintbrush, a small development near the County Fairgrounds. and the county’s 14-acre Whetstone plot opportunity which is in the early stages of planning across the highway from Corner to Brush Creek. âWe can make a real difference in the housing problem.