Full demolition, redesign and public outreach in the cards
By Kendra Walker
During their September 19 meeting, the Mt. Crested Butte town council selected Bywater Development/SHM Architects to complete the unfinished community housing development in the Homestead Subdivision and plans to move forward with demolition of the current incomplete buildings. The council agreed that outreach to previous and potential Homestead contract owners is a crucial step and should take place as soon as possible while the contract details are finalized between Bywater Development and the town.
Homestead underwent an unsuccessful construction attempt starting in 2020 by Lance Windel of Homestead Housing LLC. According to a staff memo to the council, “Due to construction practices, the Homestead development process resulted in a settlement agreement, in which the Town took ownership of the Homestead property on June 30, 2023.”
The memo shared that “construction ceased with three buildings being constructed with slab foundations, three buildings framed and two buildings not yet started. Bringing the Homestead project to successful completion is a high priority for the Town.”
Based on engineering and geotechnical assessments and evaluations conducted earlier this year, town staff recommends that all existing structures and foundations be demolished.
“In the settlement agreement we acknowledge that we might have to take everything out,” town manager Carlos Velado told the council. “Going in, it was pretty well demonstrated that the framing had to go. We had both a structural engineer and geotechnical engineer do assessments and they found that three of the foundations were salvageable. But the amount of work to be put into them to get them up to snuff might be a wash in the costs.”
The town sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) in July for qualified builders/developers to complete the project. The RFP evaluation team, comprised of town staff, councilmember Steve Morris, Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority executive director Andy Kadlec and housing consultant Willa Williford, recommended the council consider Bywater/SMH for the completion of the Homestead project.
In the application, the Bywater team said they preferred to start construction from scratch, requested financial contributions from the town to complete demolitions and site preparation, recognized the need for public outreach and involvement on the front end of the project, and proposed a redesign for more efficient, durable and affordable buildings. Town staff said they support those recommendations.
Velado noted that Bywater has a very strong local track record with community housing projects, having previously worked on the Paradise Park project in Crested Butte. “Building here is unlike building in other places, there are challenges with our terrain, weather, and environment,” said Velado. “Joel (Wisian, of Bywater) has some roots in the community and has demonstrated the ability to do projects on time and on budget.”
Regarding a full demolition and redesign, Wisian added, “I think we end up with a better project, a better home for Mt. Crested Butte folks to live in. We get a better product there at the end of the day.”
“I’m very comfortable with the idea of scratching it and starting all over again,” said councilmember Janet Farmer.
Town staff also noted that Bywater Development is based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, the same location as former Homestead developer Windel. When asked to elaborate on any past business relationship with Windel, Wisian responded that while Windel has bought lots from him, he has never been a building partner with Windel and they have never worked together. Velado confirmed that everyone on the RFP evaluation team felt comfortable and confident with Wisian’s answer.
Town staff recommended that the demolition of the current building infrastructure, site preparation and utility work occur all at the same time. “The benefit of doing it together is we save time and costs not just by taking the buildings out but also doing site prep for new buildings,” said Velado. “My preference is to get that done before the winter, so the clock is ticking.”
As the town and Bywater develop a contract in the coming weeks, they plan to begin the demolition process, move forward with public outreach and meet with previous contract holders to gather input that will help inform the redesign.
“Our very first step is having a design meeting with everyone that was previously contracted,” said Wisian. “We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s a window of opportunity where some vetting can occur, and we can find ways to achieve everybody’s concerns and goals. At the end of the day, we all understand that demolition is the path forward, but let’s do a design collaboratively, help us design your house.”
Councilmember Roman Kolodziej also suggested that before the redesign occurs, they also talk with homeowners in Paradise Park for input on anything that could have been done differently. “Once you’re in a place for a while you understand it better,” he said. “What should we have done differently, what should we have asked differently to make better decisions,” he said, referencing the town’s relationship with the previous developer.
“I think outreach to potential homeowners is a really crucial part of this,” said mayor Nicholas Kempin.
“Bywater has to be a partner,” concluded Wisian. “We’ve got to right the errors of the past. We’re excited to make lemonade out of lemons.”
Aside from the goal to demo the buildings on site before this coming winter, no additional timelines were discussed.