Housing Stock, Part 2

Even the Friends of Brush Creek, a group of Brush Creek neighbors wishing to derail the
affordable housing proposal at Brush Creek, acknowledge that housing is a problem needing
solving. The Friends’ website, though, is completely short on solutions for housing and long on
objections to the current proposal.

One issue not raised by the Friends is that of architecture and I will raise it here. In my
experience, Texas builders and Texas people favor Texas architects and those architects have
little feel for designing in the mountains. Some of the worst design in the valley is from flatland
architects. The freeze, the thaw, the insulation, and the placement of doors and windows and
eaves often leave homeowners vexed as to what the architect was thinking and considerations
missed.

And then there is the issue of beauty. I reject the notion that density is by definition an eyesore.
Elk Avenue is a visual treasure of density. Is there any street in town as pleasing to the eye as
old Sopris? In Mt Crested Butte, is any neighborhood prettier than Pitchfork? The Wooden
Nickel, which I think of as a big place when I walk in, sits on a 25’ wide lot.
The choice of architects is of paramount importance and I would not put my money on
Houston. Or Tulsa or Dallas, for that matter.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking we’d be better off visually and possibly in most ways if
Crested Butte had grown contiguously and densely, short-stopping the need for the Upper
Valley sprouting suburbs down Hwy 135.

Anyway, back to the problem. Phil Chamberland sent along an interesting fact. In 1997, roughly
80% of downtown Crested Butte homes were either owner-occupied or long term rented.
Today, it’s roughly 50% occupied by owners and long term renters. Crested Butte itself is
becoming a hotel of short term rental properties.

The problem is not just in the north. At a meeting at Western last Friday, we learned that the
University cannot return to student numbers of past years, and it must return to those student
numbers to be sustainable. The problem, again, is housing. Students this fall have de-
matriculated, if that’s a word, because no housing can be found.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on Ian Schraeger last week, he of Studio 54
fame for those readers old enough to remember the 1980’s. He opened the Public Hotel on the
lower east side of Manhattan and with much creativity found a way to sell rooms for $150-
$250/night in a neighborhood where Marriott and others begin at $500 and rise. Bill Ronai was
in NYC and obligingly went by to check it out. He pronounced it very nice and cool. The rooms
on the website look beautiful for my mid-century modern/Bauhaus taste– everything one needs
and not a stitch extra.

That’s the type of creativity we need here to begin solving our housing problem. Affordability
doesn’t mean ugly and density can be beautiful.

I’m certain those working on the housing problem would welcome the Friends of Brush Creek
to the table to hear how they themselves would solve our problem.

You can always reach me at john@nortonglobal.com

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