Plans to develop the old Calkins building are moving forward, as the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved a conditional-use permit to allow for a possible multifamily development on the site.
The Housing Authority of Montezuma County is looking to turn the space into affordable rental units. The permit is just the preliminary step in the application process, and a way to secure potential grant funds for what the housing authority says is needed development.
“Our market study bears out that Montezuma County is approximately 150 units shy to meet the rental demand,” said Terri Wheeler, executive director of the housing authority, at the commission’s May 7 meeting. “The housing authority currently has 384 applicants on our waiting list, and two-thirds of that number are one- and two-bedrooms.”
The permit application will now go to the Cortez City Council for approval.
The Calkins building, located on 121 E. First St., was built in 1909 as a high school, and was used by the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 for a variety of purposes until 2008.
The site was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, the same year that the housing authority released its development plans for the parcel.
The housing authority plans to create a total of 42 residential units on the site, and divide the 6.65-acre parcel into three lots, according to city staff members.
The historic Calkins building itself, situated on the 1-acre northeastern lot, would be renovated in order to house 12 residential units and 2,500 square feet of office space.
“The building footprint will remain the same,” associate planner Neva Connolly wrote in a staff report.
On Lot 2, a 2.7-acre parcel on the northwestern side of the plot, the housing authority proposes to construct two 15-unit buildings: each one will be 18,120 square feet, have seven one-bedroom units, seven two-bedroom units, and one handicapped accessible unit.
The southernmost Lot 3 is 3.28 acres, with no plans for development. The approved conditional-use permit applies only to Lots 1 and 2, according to Connolly.
Based on the current land-use code, Lot 1 would require 33 parking spaces and Lot 2 would need 60 spots.
And while the Calkins building will undergo some renovations – in particular, reconstructed staircases and handicapped accessible ramps – the site will need to retain its key historic elements.
“The proposed changes will comply with ADA requirements, and will comply with the standards to maintain national historic designation,” Connolly wrote in the staff report. “The changes should be compatible in terms of appearance and architectural scale.”
The two buildings on Lot 2 will be complementary in appearance, she said.
The permit application didn’t elicit much discussion at the Tuesday night meeting, although Commissioner Rachel Medina did ask how the changing land-use code would affect the development.
“This is a huge project, and we’re about to pass a land-use code with more stringent landscaping requirements,” she said.
Connolly replied that the housing authority’s proposal was still in somewhat of a preliminary phase, and that a full site plan with drainage and landscaping details would still need to come back before the commission and City Council before construction could begin.
“Even if you all recommend approval and it goes to City Council, the project can’t be constructed with just this conditional-use permit,” Connolly said.
Wheeler added that the permit was one piece of an application to receive Colorado Housing and Financing Authority funds, to prove that the prospective development is appropriate for the land. The Housing Authority of Montezuma County will be submitting the application on June 1, and won’t find out if it will receive the money until September, she said.
“It’s a statewide process, we compete against the entire state of Colorado,” she said. “We have been successful in the past with three developments here in Montezuma County, and we’re very hopeful that this will be awarded as well.”
They won’t complete the city processes until they find out if they receive state funding. Previously, the housing authority was denied a $190,000 grant application to the State Historic Fund because of confusion concerning the site’s ownership.