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First Western Backs The Fox Hollow Hospital Housing Project – A ‘Huge Win’ For Vail Valley

March 29, 2023

In the fall of 2022, First Western’s Vail Valley office began solidifying financing for the Fox Hollow Project. This affordable housing endeavor promised to bring much-needed workforce housing to Vail Valley. This April, BGV Edwards Property LLC will break ground on the $55 million project, an effort made possible by outstanding associates from First Western Trust’s Vail Valley office. By working directly with community members and developing tailored financing solutions, the Vail Valley office delivered a $32 million loan that enabled the community to bring this much-needed housing solution to fruition.

The Need for Affordable Housing in Vail Valley

Known for its expansive ski terrain and its luxury real-estate properties, Vail Valley is one of the wealthiest areas in Colorado. The Valley’s median home price is $1.1 million, which is well outside the average household buying power of $436,170. Moreover, more than 44% of the 31,912 homes in the county are vacant or owned by part-time residents. Many home renters in the area face an uphill battle because rental costs are incredibly high, and vacancy rates are low. This dilemma leaves residents with limited affordable housing choices, making it difficult for many local workers — including hospital staff — to find affordable housing close to work.

How the Fox Hollow Project Will Help Hospital Workers Find Housing

The Fox Hollow Project was developed as a solution to Vail Valley’s housing dilemma, providing a much-welcome reprieve for hospital workers living in and serving one of the wealthiest counties in Colorado. When completed, the project will provide 87 apartment units with 215 bedrooms for the workforce of Vail Health Hospital, a 56-bed, Level III trauma center that is vital to Eagle County and its vast ski terrain.

The units are classified as workforce housing and will be leased through a master lease from Vail Health. Once completed, the four-acre project will almost double Vail Health’s housing inventory from 93 units to 180. The units will also be partially deed restricted, enabling them to qualify as affordable housing under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

“Eagle County is mostly upper income, but even there, people who work in the community still have to drive outwards to be able to afford it,” said Senior CRA & Fair Lending Analyst Emily Gardner. “CRA focuses on a lot of moderate-income populations, and that’s a population that really needs it most. Gentrification is pushing people out of neighborhoods and out of school districts. We’re really working to combat these issues in a lot of different ways. Helping to create affordable-housing opportunities is one of them.”

A Collaborative Partnership With a Larger Purpose

Vail Valley Market President Mike Glass said it took a team effort from his associates to get the deal pushed through negotiations between the loan committee and the client. Deep ties to the community are ultimately what allowed First Western to succeed where other financial institutions could not.

“The response to this project has been very positive,” said Zane Gearhart, Vail Valley Vice President. “This is a resort market. It is a volatile and unwelcoming housing market with a scarcity of housing units. This project is obviously a huge win.”

The Fox Hollow project is just one of the many ways that First Western Trust is investing in the communities it serves. Empowering local residents through economic development is a core philanthropic pillar and a guiding tenet for each First Western branch.

“It is important to me to do meaningful work,” said Gearhart. “Being able to facilitate a request like this from inception through to the end, though not there quite yet, feels beneficial to the community at large and valuable for the essential workers that will get to live there. Getting to be a part of providing a sorely needed asset of affordable housing to the Vail Valley and the healthcare workers is an extraordinary feeling.” First Western Trust is eager to continue investing in its communities, and it is excited to see this project reach completion in the Spring of 2024.

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