Affordable Apartments Preserved in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District

Thanks to Denver's unique Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Fund, 16 affordable housing units have been preserved in the heart of the Mile High City's Santa Fe Arts District, a six-block long enclave on Denver's near west side.

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Denver—Thanks to Denver’s unique Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Fund, 16 affordable housing units have been preserved in the heart of the Mile High City’s Santa Fe Arts District, a six-block long enclave on Denver’s near west side.

Denver-based Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), a non-profit organization that uses real estate as a tool to benefit urban communities, teamed with Enterprise Community Partners, the city and county of Denver, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and other partners to establish the fund.

The fund is used to acquire, preserve and develop workforce housing close to high-frequency bus routes and the city’s expanding light rail system. Since its establishment in April 2010, the TOD Fund has been used to create or preserve 274 units of affordable housing across the city of Denver.

To qualify as a transit-oriented development, the property to be preserved or developed must be situated within a quarter mile of a high-frequency bus line, or within a half mile of a light rail station. The 16-unit Villa TOD Apartments, a 1920s-era mixed-use property that also includes four commercial office spaces and an automobile body shop and occupies a third of an acre site, stands within five blocks of the Osage light rail station at 10th Ave. and Osage St.

“What’s important about this property is the fact that it sits in the Santa Fe District,” UDL president and CEO Aaron Miripol tells MHN. “It’s a strategic location and one we felt will be critical to the long-term sustainability of that neighborhood. The cost of housing in that neighborhood is only going to go up.”

It is the intent of ULC to partner on a long-term basis with non-profit community development corporation NEWSED and human services organization Denver Inner City Parish to manage and use the Villa TOD Apartments property.

“There is some basic renovation work that needs to happen, including replacement of the roof,” Miripol says. “Down the line, at the time of takeout, additional renovations will be undertaken to really improve the property.”

ULC’s August acquisition of Villa TOD Apartments is its fifth acquisition using the fund in little more than a year. It follows ULC’s March acquisition of a parcel on which ULC as master developer will take on the infrastructure work and partner with Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corporation on up to 70 units of workforce housing. In addition, a commercial building and a structure to house the West Denver branch of the Denver Public Library will be built on the site.

In June, ULC bought land across the street from an existing light rail station, on which 50 affordable housing units will be built in partnership with Denver-based developer Medici Communities LLC, for completion in 2013.

The other two properties are the Dahlia Apartments, a six-building 36-unit affordable housing development in northeast Park Hill, and a 1.2-acre site next to the existing Yale light rail station, where ULC plans to develop up to 100 workforce rental homes and up to 30,000 square feet of commercial space.

“The TOD fund is not the panacea for addressing the bigger public policy needs around affordable housing and other economic development issues,” Miripol says. “But we see it as a leveraging tool, one that can build interest from other folks. Our hope and expectation is that the fund can become a regional fund, and will bring other investors and municipalities to the table.”

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