Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins believes the finish line may be nearing for a decade-long effort to build much-needed housing near F.E. Warren Air Force Base.
Collins said he expects the Cheyenne City Council to pass a resolution supporting applying for a $10 million capital construction loan with the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) for water, sewer and road infrastructure to support the project. The development is intended to provide more housing options for those stationed in Cheyenne at the base.
“It will bring jobs and development to Wyoming,” Collins said. “It’s definitely a public purpose.”
The housing and commercial development will be located southwest of Interstate 25 and Happy Jack Road. The only current use for the 40-acre property is a dirt parking lot that sits vacant most of the year, save for when it’s used as a shuttle pickup for Cheyenne Frontier Days.
On Monday, the city council’s Finance Committee voted to recommend supporting the application for the $10 million loan over a 25-year term.
Collins said the project has been in the works since 2014 and has cycled through multiple potential partners and iterations.
The previous potential developer on the project, Balfour Beatty, received numerous complaints for private housing they contracted outside Fort Carson in Colorado in 2019.
Now, Coldwell Banker will be responsible for paying back the loan as the lessee, which it will receive through a builder and developer it chooses as the subleaser for the project, and rental income generated from the housing.
City Council President Richard Johnson said he supports the project and plans to vote for it Thursday, but that he also has some important questions about it.
“If it fails, I’d rather get questions answered on the front end instead of the back end,” he said.
First, Johnson said it’s unclear what will serve as collateral for the loan considering that the land itself is owned by the federal government, which will be leased to Coldwell Banker.
According to the resolution, the council will secure the loan through security and collateral, which includes the physical assets and rental income generated through an enhanced use lease (EUL) agreement.
Rob Graham, an associate with Coldwell Banker, said hard details like these will be squared away later on in the application process and that getting the council’s approval “is the very first step.”
If SLIB approves the application, the project will return to the city, which must then approve a development plan from Coldwell Banker.
Collins mentioned the successful development of the Cheyenne Logistics Hub, formerly known as the Swan Ranch Industrial Park, which was significantly assisted by a roughly $5 million loan granted through the city. He said this project, which opened in 2012, is now being paid back early.
“It shows how the city can leverage funds from the state to allow development,” Collins said.
F.E. Warren is the largest employer in Cheyenne, but many people stationed there often struggle to find housing in the surrounding community. In turn, that puts more pressure on the availability of houses off the base.
“We want to step up and help them,” Collins said. “They can’t get housing, and that’s a problem.”
Collins said the multifamily apartments will begin with around 300 units, but could expand.
Housing shortages have been a well-documented problem in Cheyenne and Wyoming as a whole in recent years.
Johnson also has concerns that when built, the housing will be market-based in pricing. Although it will be open to all applicants, Johnson said only around 70% of the residents are expected to be military. Members of the armed forces receive stipends for housing, but it hasn’t been confirmed what the cost of the units will be and whether those stationed at F.E. Warren will even be able to afford to live there.
“Does it really solve the purpose of what it was intended to do?” Johnson questioned. “Do the ends justify the means?”
Graham said there are a number of incentive-based programs they will pursue to help lower costs for the builder, which in return he believes will make the housing more affordable.
He also said the addition of the housing will improve the overall housing market.
“When you add supply, it helps on the affordability side of the equation,” Graham said. “By adding units, it certainly helps the city to be more affordable than if we were not adding units.”
An application for a capital construction loan cannot be submitted to SLIB until a contract is agreed upon.
Despite his concerns, Johnson said he still supports the project and recognizes that it is very early on in the approval process. He also said it's important for the council to deliver a strong solidarity of support to SLIB for the application.
“We want a complete favorable vote before it goes to SLIB,” Johnson said. “SLIB will notice that.”
Nuts And Bolts
Graham said construction on the project could start as soon as spring 2025.
The city has already acquired a $3 million grant and $1.4 million loan on the project from the Wyoming Business Council. Collins said it has not been determined how that loan, taken out under a different administration, will be repaid, but he doesn’t intend for it to be done by the public.
“There’s a question of who’s going to pay that back,” he said, “but I don’t anticipate having the taxpayers pay that.”
Cheyenne City Council member Pete Laybourn said the fact that all of the grants and loans are being offered through federal and state programs shows that they are already being paid for with public money.
The EUL Infrastructure Project will install 12,000 linear feet of water main and 11,400 feet of sewer main to provide the necessary infrastructure to connect existing city utilities and public roadway improvements for the property.
Also included in the project will be commercial development, which Collins said will also serve an important need for Cheyenne.
“It will capture some of that off-interstate traffic going north and south,” he said.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.