Smart Growth Illustrated
Benedict Commons - Aspen, Colorado
Benedict Commons creates an affordable housing option in high-cost Aspen, Colorado. The community is designed for residents earning approximately $17,000 to $38,000 per year. In Aspen, a resort community, the average home price is over $1.75 million. Most workers cannot afford to live in the city, so many commute long distances to work. Economist Robert Frank has labeled the traffic jams and associated air pollution caused by this imbalance between jobs and affordable housing "the Aspen Effect."
Benedict Commons is the product of efforts by the city of Aspen and developers Jim Curtis and Jonathan Rose of Curtis/Affordable Housing Development Corporation to provide housing within Aspen for local workers. The studio and one-bedroom units originally sold for $57,000 to $130,000. The units are deed restricted and must be sold to people making less than a specified income. In addition, the resale price of the units can only rise at the rate of the Consumer Price Index. This keeps the housing affordable over time while allowing owners a return on their investment.
To make Benedict Commons fit within the context of the existing neighborhood, the multi-family building was designed to look like a collection of individual dwellings that reflect Aspen's history and style. Each unit has a private, outside entrance and a roof deck, garden space, or small entry deck. The apartments are built above an underground parking garage and around a central, sunlit courtyard with mountain views. The project's downtown location, near work places, encourages walking, and bicycle racks on the site encourage residents to bike rather than drive. The well-executed, compact design allowed a density of 78.4 units per acre on a small infill site.
The complex, completed in March 1996, has been welcomed in the neighborhood and received numerous awards, including the Ahwahnee Community Livability Certificate of Merit in 1997, a design award from the Colorado Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1997, and the Aspen Historical Preservation Commission Preservation Honor Award in 1996.