- Sugarbush Resort proposes to build this apartment building to provide employee housing.
The apartment building would likely be constructed from modules assembled elsewhere and would go up on a three-acre site now occupied by the closed Rosita's restaurant, said John Bleh, public relations and communications manager for the resort. It would include 16 studio apartments and 176 bedrooms with shared living, dining, bathroom and laundry facilities.
The company also plans to build three single-family homes in a separate area nearby. Both projects would be located on the ski area access road, and employees would be able to walk or take the resort bus to work, said Margo Wade, director of planning for Sugarbush.
The Warren resort has been struggling to secure housing for its temporary employees for years and has long used local inns in the winter, its busiest season. Sugarbush also has an incentive program that provides local landlords and private homeowners with lift tickets in exchange for employee housing.
This ski season, the resort is housing 212 workers in facilities it owns and rents, including the Sugarbush Inn, which is usually reserved for guests.
“As employees receive their offer letters, more and more of them are asking about workforce housing,” Bleh said. “It’s something you know is happening in every resort community.”
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“Alterra has already done a lot of the background work on what employees want in a residence, so this is basically the same building,” Wade said.
In Warren, she added, the apartment building will be surrounded by trees on a three-acre parcel and is similar in size and scale to other recent projects at the resort’s Lincoln Peak area.
“It’s definitely way bigger than the Rosita’s building, but it’s not totally out of scale for the area,” she said, referring to the former tenant of the property.
Wade said resort officials are meeting with the Warren Development Review Board to discuss the project on January 30. The area is zoned for commercial and residential use.
“I am hoping people are going to see the bigger picture, and the benefits of bringing this much workforce housing to the Mad River Valley are going to outweigh the sort of technical aspects,” Wade said.
The Mad River Valley, like other resort areas in Vermont, has struggled with the problem of affordable housing for many years. Even high-priced homes are scarce, said Karl Klein, a broker with Sugarbush Real Estate who served on the board of the three-town Mad River Valley Housing Coalition until it folded last year.
Klein said he knows of only five homes for sale in the five-town area he covers.
“Land is very expensive, and construction costs are topping $400 a square foot,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who is building a custom home for less than $1 million right now.”
Many Vermont ski areas are housing workers in dormitories, former inns and hotels, and homes that the areas rent or own. Vail Resorts, which owns Stowe, Mount Snow and Okemo in Vermont, announced in April that it would build housing for more than 875 employees at four of its resorts in the U.S. and Canada, including Okemo.
At Smugglers' Notch Resort this winter, about 75 workers — mostly foreign workers from Central and South America — are living in dorms at Northern Vermont University in Johnson.
Bleh said construction is due to start on the Sugarbush housing projects next summer.
“There is a need for employee housing year-round,” he said.