First Phase Underway for Denver’s Dahlia Square Affordable Seniors Apartments

Denver--McDermott Properties already has a waiting list for its Dahlia Square Senior Apartments, and they're only in Phase One of construction.

By Barbra Murray, Contributing Editor

Denver–It appears McDermott Properties L.L.C. cannot erect Dahlia Square Senior Apartments soon enough for the low-income senior population in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. The developer recently commenced construction of Phase One of the 128-unit, $12.9 million affordable housing community, and already there is a waiting list that is overflowing with eager prospective renters.

Despite the great demand for affordable seniors housing in the historic Park Hill district, few could fathom that a multifamily project like Dahlia Square would ever actually materialize on the storied, 2.5-acre parcel at the intersection of 35th Ave. and Elm St. “The site has gone through a lot of different processes over the years,” Paula Greer, administrative director with McDermott properties, tells MHN.

The land was once home to a quarry from which clay was culled to make bricks for home construction in northeast Denver. The clay supply, of course, could not last forever, and once the quarry outlived its usefulness for brick-making, it took on its next incarnation–a dump. In the 1950s, the site was paved over to make way for a shopping center. Years later, environmental issues rose to the surface, literally. Methane gas broke through, and underground storage tanks from gas stations began to leak. And then, the shopping center went up in flames.

In 2002, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority stepped in, spearheading remediation efforts. “It wasn’t until DURA came in and cleaned it up that anything was able to move forward,” Greer says. In 2008, Oakwood Homes acquired the property with plans to build attached housing, but those plans came to a halt amid the economic downturn. Oakwood then sold the land to McDermott for its affordable housing project. “Park Hill is a very old area of Denver, and a lot of people age in place there. With our market study, we knew going in that Dahlia Square would be well received.” The gated seniors residential community will sit just across from a community clinic and will be designated for residents 62 years of age and older with household incomes between 30 and 50 percent of the area median income.

With 65 one-bedroom apartments and 23 two-bedroom apartments, the initial phase of the multifamily development will yield an aggregate 88 units. The property will feature such senior-friendly amenities as a great room, a community kitchen, a TV room, an arts and crafts room, a computer room and a library. There will also be a fitness center, a billiards room and walking paths to promote physical activity. Additionally, Dahlia Square will offer residents such coveted extras as private patios and balconies and a limited number of garages to supplement the surface parking.

The architectural firm of Lewis Himes Associates is behind the design of the four-story building, which will be a green development adhering to Enterprise Green Community standards recently implemented by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA).

Local residents were not the only ones who were keen to see Dahlia Square get underway. CHFA selected the project from a group of 23 applicants to receive 9 percent tax credits, which RBC Capital Markets purchased. Bank of America stepped up to the plate to provide construction and permanent financing.

Shaw Construction is aboard as general contractor and is on schedule to complete construction activity by August 2011. Even months in advance of the property’s debut, people are virtually lining up at its doors to stake a claim to one of the apartments. “Dahlia Square has had 208 inquiries and letters of interests from those expressing a desire to become residents, and 60 people are currently in the pre-qualification process,” says Greer. “We knew people would be receptive, but we had no idea it would be like this. The community excitement and interest in the project has been overwhelming to say the least.”

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