Editor’s Note: This sponsored content was brought to you by Gateway Village Development Company.
The tourism economy can be a blessing and a curse — it offers a robust job market, a beautiful landscape and limitless outdoor recreation, but tourism also puts a squeeze on local workers by driving up housing prices and overcrowding local towns.
In an effort to contribute solutions to this dilemma, a local development team is taking a regional-based approach by planning a new lifestyle-based community for workers who prefer to live on the shoulders — not in the heart — of bustling mountain resort towns.
Just 20 minutes from Copper Mountain and less than an hour from Vail lies nearly 90 acres of land that could provide a viable solution to the affordable housing crisis. The landowner of this proposed master-planned community is Gateway Village Development Company.
The proposed development, Gateway Village, would add apartments and townhomes — studios, one-, two-, three- and four-bedrooms — to a 45-acre site just north of Leadville (see factbox for pricing). An adjacent 43 acres would serve as open space.
Gateway Village principal owner Steve Smith, a homeowner and part-time resident of Frisco, said more than 70 percent of the workers who live in Lake County commute into Summit and Eagle counties for work — and their housing options have mostly consisted of inventory built from 1870s to the 1960s.
“With the demise of the mining industry and no big mountain on the edge of town for ski lifts, Leadville has graciously aged,” Smith said, “while its neighboring towns to the north have morphed into whatever the tourists need for their vacations.”
For working people
The target market for residents of Gateway Village is the workforce that serves the economies in Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. It has long been a challenge for workers to find affordable, quality housing in the region.
Smith said planning for Gateway Village has successfully completed the first of three phases of local government approval. To navigate the remaining phases, the Gateway Village team wants to hear from local workers on what their needs are for housing. It has started accepting applications for the planned apartments and townhomes.
The Gateway Village team will compile the applications and use this data to determine the mix of housing needed by local workers and to help establish the queue in case there is more demand than supply for this housing. Priority will also be given to public safety and community services workers such as teachers and hospital workers.
“Those folks would go to the top of the line,” Smith said, “our community needs those people here.”
A mountain lifestyle
Gateway Village will deliver high-quality housing at below-market rates, but it’ll also highlight the natural beauty and recreational opportunities in Lake County.
“Gateway Village intends to provide a mountain lifestyle community that will allow and encourage the people who are servicing the tourism industry to be able to get away from the large number of tourists in Eagle and Summit counties,” Smith said.
Smith said a director of outdoor adventures would organize activities for residents and a community center would serve as the base of operations for those adventures.
“We intend to have an active, mountain club-type atmosphere,” Smith said.
An affordable building solution
One of the major challenges of construction in the high country is a short building season and the lack of labor force that is skilled in some of the necessary building specialties. Because of this, construction costs are often much higher than even Denver.
The Gateway Village team believes that modular construction built off-site and transported to Leadville is the answer to keep costs down and construction quality high. Smith said by working with a modular home company, Gateway Village’s construction costs would be significantly below traditional building costs in the region, which equates to below-market rents and sale prices.
Modules are built as if they’re going to be stand-alone structures, meaning the walls are thick and sturdy — and more than able to withstand high country weather conditions. Once transported in, the modules are placed side-by-side and a so-called marriage wall is constructed, which Smith said equates to twice the snow load support than you’d normally get with site-built construction.