Park Hill Station, an Urban Land Conservancy-supported project with 156 units of affordable housing, opened in Denver in 2016.
A former six-story government building that once provided a helping hand to those most in need — now empty for more than a year — may soon fill again as a “community hub.”
In that role, it could provide people an affordable place to live along with an array of support services to make life easier to navigate.
The Urban Land Conservancy this week closed on the $3.8 million purchase of Adams County’s 80,000-square-foot former human services building, 7190 Colorado Blvd., using a new low-interest lending program — the Metro Denver Impact Facility — that has been used only once before.
That was last month, when the organization used the program — which started with a $25 million injection from FirstBank — to finance the $3.7 million purchase of the corporate headquarters for Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains in Lakewood.
“(The program) is a way for the Urban Land Conservancy to create some low-cost capital,” said Christi Smith, vice president of strategy and communications for the nonprofit. “Having lower cost debt allows us to make rents that much lower.”
ULC’s plan for the 4.5-acre property in Commerce City is to build a structure that houses up to 70 units for families making 80 percent or less of area median income, which for a family of four would equal $71,920. The site is a stone’s throw from the planned N-Line commuter rail stop at 72nd Avenue, giving future residents at the site a convenient way to get to and from work without having to rely on a private vehicle.
Meanwhile, the organization will retrofit the former county building to accommodate a collection of nonprofit groups, along with municipal agencies and a possible food bank. Adams County consolidated its human services operations into a new 315,000-square-foot facility in Westminster last fall, leaving the building on Colorado Boulevard empty.
Smith said the first nonprofits are expected to move in Feb. 1, and four of the building’s six floors should be occupied over the next six to 12 months.
“We want to be very intentional about making the building home for nonprofits and mission-minded organizations that directly benefit the community,” Smith said.
Cathy Alderman, who is with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, called the Urban Land Conservancy’s purchase of the property “a great public service to Adams County.”
“Having mixed services on site and access to transit is essential for people who need assistance,” she said Wednesday.
Roughly half of Colorado’s 730,999 renter households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, Alderman said.
According to the 2017 National Low-income Housing Coalition, a breadwinner would have to make $25.10 per hour to afford rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the metro area without exceeding that 30 percent income threshold. For those making the minimum wage of $9.30 an hour, they’d have to work 95 hours a week to afford that same apartment.
“Colorado is not only facing a cost crisis, but also a severe shortage of units,” Alderman said.
In all, she said, there is a deficit of 127,866 affordable units in the state.
Even with the recent softening in the state’s housing market — a forecast last month from Realtor.com predicts a 6.7 percent decline in home sales in the metro area — that same report still anticipates the prices of homes in metro Denver will rise 6.8 percent.
Jodi Hardee, a spokeswoman for Commerce City, said Urban Land Conservancy’s project will “help us continue to fill gaps in the housing market.”
“As one of the fastest growing cities in Colorado, there is a real need for affordable housing both in Commerce City and throughout the entire region,” she said. “The location of this development with immediate access to the commuter rail line will help strengthen connectivity to the region. We look forward to the transformation in this area to further benefit our community.”