American National Bank Building

Climax Molybdenum Company is the new owner of the American National Bank Building at 460 Harrison Ave .

Climax Molybdenum Company bought Leadville’s historic American National Bank Building at 460 Harrison Ave. last week for $4.5 million to create temporary housing for its newly-hired entry-level workers.

The company will turn 15 apartment units in the building into temporary housing residences. There are 21 total units in the building, including four commercial properties and one “unassigned space.”

The company anticipates that the first of the temporary housing units will be available by the fall. Out of the 15 units being acquired, 11 are one-bedroom, two could become two-bedroom apartments and two are studios. Climax will provide furnishings for each of these units once they are empty. Sprung Construction will continue to serve as the building as property manager.

The residential units will be available to entry-level employees who currently live more than 50 miles from the mine’s location on CO 91. Climax states that the company plans to expand its workforce and anticipates hiring employees who will have to relocate.

“While it’s always our preference to hire locally, this action enables us to cast a wider net and possibly bring in employees who may have been interested but could not otherwise afford to start working and living in Leadville,” a statement from Climax says.

Current tenants at the apartment complex will need to vacate the building once their leases expire over the next year, some within the next 60 days. Climax is offering compensation packages for current tenants to find new housing. The packages are based on local averages for monthly rent, first and last months’ rents and security deposits, according to Climax.

There are currently two Climax employees residing at the bank building, according to a statement from the company. The employees will not be impacted by the recent purchase.

A few current tenants at the bank building who now face eviction spoke with the Herald about their concerns with the situation and asked that their names be omitted for fear of negative consequences. The tenants expressed a feeling of stress and worry over the daunting housing search ahead.

Residents were notified of the purchase during the last week of June through emails from Climax.

One resident said he’s frustrated about having to leave after living in the bank building for seven years. He’s trying to find possible housing, but it’s been difficult due to a lack of options.

“Displacement of current residents will create a community challenge,” said Mayor Greg Labbe, who added that the purchase is not surprising because Climax deals with the same employee shortage that so many businesses in the region face.

Climax states that the company did not initiate the sale of the building. Instead, Climax says the company was encouraged to purchase the building after it went up for sale.

Other elected officials echoed Labbe in questioning Climax’s decision. “Climax’s acquisition of the bank building apartments does nothing to address housing issues in Lake County,” said Commissioner Jeff Fiedler. “They are just literally making it someone else’s problem by evicting the current renters.”

The county and city are trying to ease the burden current tenants face in their search for new housing. For example, the city offered a unit at the Spruce Street home for one county employee who will lose her housing due to the Climax purchase, said Labbe.

The Spruce Street home is currently zoned as a single-family property, meaning one individual or family can reside there. The home cannot support multiple individuals or families — like the city intends — until the city changes the property’s zone characteristics.

Residential tenants at the bank building are not the only renters concerned: Commercial business owners beneath the apartments are also unsure of their future.

Destinee Yudnich, owner of Blue Vessel Florista, said she hasn’t received clear answers on what might happen to her business. She first found out about the purchase on June 28 and has been trying to track down more answers.

While Yudnich understands that Climax is trying to prioritize their employees by providing this temporary housing, she doesn’t feel the needs of her business are being heard. “The situation feels like a corporation is deciding what’s best for a small business owner,” said Yudnich. According to Climax, the company has no immediate plans for the commercial units.

She also expressed concern for the renters being displaced, especially since they already had attainable housing at the bank building apartments. Climax states that the purchase will help employees find alternative housing in the local community, but affordable housing stock remains scarce.

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