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One Initiative Remains For Struggling Non-Profit: A Retirement Community

Aspen Valley Foundation

The non-profit Aspen Valley Foundation is all but obsolete except for one remaining initiative: a retirement facility in Basalt. The Foundation this year, ran out of money for the grants it traditionally awards local non profits. But, members of the Foundation’s board say they’re committed to moving forward a so-called continuing care retirement community. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

The retirement community has been in the works for years and, it’s needed. Twenty percent of Pitkin County’s population is 60 and older and it’s expected to more than double by 2030. That’s why the Basalt Town Council has supported the project from day one. Jacquie Whitsitt is mayor.

"We would love to see the project really happen because it’s exciting for a bit part of our senior community and also, for the town as a whole. So, we wish it would happen, not sure when, but we’d like to see it," she says.

The plans call for a campus near Basalt High School, where seniors can “age in place,” moving from cottages and apartments to assisted living. Town Council already green-lighted final development approvals for the retirement community. Now the local government is in a holding pattern, awaiting final paperwork before granting building permits.

"We’ve had some changes at the non-profit organization and I’ll call it a bump in the road - a pretty good-sized bump," says Tom Griffiths.

He's the treasurer of the Aspen Valley Foundation and he’s on the board. The non-profit is no longer accepting donations and it stopped  giving grants to health and human service organizations. The Aspen Daily News reports a dispute with Aspen Valley Hospital, which AVF used to fundraise for, put the group out of business.

Now, Griffiths says making the retirement community happen is AVF’s one remaining goal.

"I think our board thinks that this is a potentially very valuable project for the citizens of the whole valley. It’s open to the entire valley as prospective residents and there’s nothing like it between Grand Junction and Denver."

The project would house about 150 residents and potentially add 80 jobs to the economy. But, it comes at a cost. The estimate is $105 million. Since the Foundation is no longer fundraising, it’s looking for partners….

"...that might be interested in getting involved in the project, providing some of the funding for the project," says Griffiths.

The non profit has already ponied up for consultants, architecture fees and land use planning. The remainder of the cost, for things like construction, will come from a combination of municipal bonds and bank financing. Griffiths says the board has already met with Ziegler Banking, which specializes in senior living projects. But, to get financing from such a bank, AVF has to sell a certain amount of units before the project’s built.

"We didn’t find any red flags, so to speak, about the proposal but we found a lot of what I would call yellow flags that could either go to green or to red depending on how the project would play out," says Bruce Kimmel, the Town's independent public financial consultant.

He analyzed the retirement community proposal in early 2013 and found the project had merit but, the success of selling entrance fees to help pay for construction was yet to be determined.

"A lot of the proof in the pudding would be in terms of their ability to sign people up to pay those entrance fees."

The senior living project will be delayed from its original construction start time, in 2015. The Town of Basalt recently granted AVF a 6-month extension to file the remainder of their paperwork. For mayor Jacquie Whitsitt, she’s hopeful the development will eventually be built.

"I feel like it’s a wait-and-see sort of deal, and we’ll be thrilled if they can pull the trigger and make this still happen," she says.

Basalt Town staff have been meeting with members of AVF and will continue to do so in the coming months.

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