SPECIAL REPORT: Mile-High TODs Pick Up Speed

By Teresa O’Dea Hein, Managing EditorDenver–A busload of Multi-Housing World attendees enjoyed a comprehensive tour of multifamily developments in the Mile High City this morning as they got to see firsthand how Denver has transformed its housing stock and neighborhoods in the last 10 years, with the help of an extensive light rail system. Downtown Denver and the surrounding submarkets have become very popular places to live, with 63,000 people now residing within 1.5 miles of downtown. The building of Coors Field spurred redevelopment of many formerly derelict downtown blocks, explained Jeffrey Hawks of the Denver office of Apartment Realty Advisors (ARA). Hawks pointed out a wide variety of other Denver multifamily developments during the tour.Denver now operates 35 miles of light rail on six different lines, and has ambitious plans to build much more, if it can find a way around the spiraling construction costs and declining sales tax revenues. Ridership in the first quarter of 2008 was up 13 percent, reported Bill Sirois, manager of transit-oriented development for the Regional Transportation District. The Center for Transit Oriented Development predicts 155,000 housing units will be built within a half mile of metro Denver transit stations by 2030, Sirois noted. Furthermore, Jamie Qualk from SSRCX Sustainable Solutions Group pointed out that transit-oriented developments can also utilize rubber-tired vehicles like buses.Bob Koch, AIA, of Fugleberg Koch Architects, pointed out that housing that is a quarter of a mile from public transportation can command a premium. “Lifestyle and time concerns are two of the most important factors to consider when marketing TODs,” Koch said. (Koch and Desiree Pedersen, the firm’s director of marketing who also served on the MHW educational planning committee, organized the bus tour.)After an informative update at the Colorado Convention Center on the basics of transit-oriented development, attendees boarded the bus, which took them to One Riverfront and Park Place Lofts in the revitalized Riverfront Park neighborhood, a short walk from Union Station and several transportation options. Andy Hines, director of sales for East West Partners, Denver, explained that East West has redeveloped acres of former railyards to create these new communities.Then, the group boarded the Mall shuttle bus to 1600 Glenarm Place, a former office building, vacant for 12 years, that was converted into luxury apartments about two years ago. Amenities include gas fireplaces, gas barbecue grills on balconies, a cyber café, resident lounge, fitness center and outdoor amenity space, complete with gas fireplace.Jeremy Goins, a leasing specialist for Glenarm Place, reported that rents there average $1.86 per sq. ft., plus monthly parking charges.