Happy New Year Urban Land Conservancy Friends and Partners,
As we look back on 2014, ULC’s busiest year to date, we are reminded of the importance of partnership and collaboration more than ever. Thank you to each of our critical partners who provide ULC with the opportunity to make strategic investments that will positively impact the lives of metro Denver residents as well as drive economic development and job creation in neighborhoods needing it most. As difficult as it is to summarize ULC’s accomplishments in 2014, we would like to share a few of our highlights with you:
ULC successfully made 6 new property acquisitions, yes, 6! The additional $9 million in acquisitions will leverage an additional $6 million in construction and development by ULC.
This old abandoned building in Denver’s Westwood neighborhood was a dangerous eyesore for 15 years. After Trust for Public Land instigated the acquisition of the property, ULC was successful in the purchase with support from the Denver Office of Economic Development. After working with Westwood Unidos and stakeholders who identified Thriftway as a symbol of blight and despair, ULC was thrilled to take ownership of the hazardous building in July, demolish it, and begin working with the community on a positive interim use to safely activate the site.
Social Enterprise Foundry
Acquired in summer 2014, the Social Enterprise Foundry is a newly created shared space in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. 4 nonprofits will work out of The Foundry, all focusing on sustainable and environmental services supporting the Denver metro area. ULC is currently completing significant capital improvements to the warehouse in order to provide this new collaborative of nonprofits with a facility in a key neighborhood.
ULC’s first real estate investment in Original Aurora will become the New Legacy Charter High School opening for the 2015-2016 school year. This new school will serve pregnant and parenting teens between the ages of 14-21 and provide both high school and parenting education while providing on-site childcare. Mile High Montessori will run the early learning center, cultivating the importance of learning for parents and their children. ULC’s new partnership with New Legacy Charter High School brings new investment into Original Aurora, new jobs, and opportunities for the unique population the school serves.
Downing Nonprofit Tower
ULC acquired the Downing Nonprofit Tower in August 2014 as a multi-tenant nonprofit center preservation. The property currently houses several nonprofits and is strategically located in central Denver only 1 block off of Colfax Avenue. Future plans for the property are to complete some minor renovations, and operate as a large office building that serves as a community hub for nonprofit and mission based organizations dedicated to working in metro Denver communities.
Land assemblage at Sheridan Station
ULC and RTD successfully finalized a property acquisition/disposition at Sheridan Station on the W Line (ULC sold land to RTD and acquired land from RTD). This complex transaction is an important milestone that provides ULC and our development partner, NEWSED, the opportunity to significantly increase affordable housing and other community benefits at the site.
Land assemblage at Yale Station for increased density
In December 2014, ULC acquired Yale Commons 2 which sits adjacent to ULC’s land at the Yale Station on the Southeast Rail Line. This acquisition was made to assemble additional land for future development with partners Mile High Development and Koelbel & Co. Construction of affordable apartments is expected to begin in 2015, the first phase of a multi-phase development.
ULC has made significant progress on existing properties including new developments including:
Park Hill Village West
The 9.4 acres of vacant land located at the future 40th & Colorado East Line commuter rail station is both ULC’s largest and most rapidly developing Denver TOD Fund acquisition site. Over a 16 month period following the original land purchase in 2013, ULC has completed an extensive community planning process and sold 2.7 acres of the site to private developer DelWest Capital for construction of a new 156 unit affordable rental community. Future plans now include options for the development of an additional 270,000 square feet of retail/commercial space on the remaining 6.7 acres of the site, potentially creating over 600 permanent jobs.
ULC also participated in a 2014 Building Healthy Places Technical Assistance Panel and the 2014 Denver Elyria Swansea Neighborhood Masterplan efforts, both focused on future higher density redevelopment of the 40th & Colorado Station area. All the independently completed 2014 station area redevelopment planning efforts, recommend the formation of an Urban Renewal Area or special taxing districts to fund critical missing infrastructure needs.
Mile High Vista
This transit oriented development celebrated the grand opening of the Avondale Apartments by Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corp this summer. These 80 units of permanently affordable housing plus 10,000 square feet of commercial space are the first completed phase of development at the site. The new Corky Gonzales Denver Public Library is nearing completion, with an expected opening in the first quarter of 2015.
ULC selected our development partner for this multi-phase transit oriented development. Medici Communities will once again be able to show off their incredible work at Blake Station with the development of commercial space, affordable and market rate housing. ULC will be moving our offices to this location upon completion; we look forward to taking the rail to work!
Tramway Nonprofit Center
Thanks to the support of Denver’s Office of Economic Development, ULC was able to successfully complete the next phase of redevelopment at Tramway. This project included a new HUB, better connecting the 16 nonprofits currently working there. There are also new conference rooms, a large kitchen, remodeled bathrooms and a new water tap! ULC also received support and investments from Energy Outreach Colorado and iCast for energy conservation, as we continually work to make Tramway more efficient. There are more big plans for Tramway in 2015 so stay tuned!
The site continues developing based on community input, this year we completed Phase 5 with the building of the walkway to increase connectivity on our site and between neighboring sites including the Hope Center. ULC also secured funding to construct an Overlook on the property that will provide and additional amenity for the neighborhood. Both of these projects are being construction by Colorado Construction Institute, a unique nonprofit that works with young adults in job training and education programming in the construction industry. In addition, ULC worked closely with the Holly Area Redevelopment Project (HARP), the community and led conversations on security concerns, pedestrian access and traffic slowing measures that would make the entire Holly Square area more accessible.
The neighborhood lost an amazing community leader in 2014, Marge Gilbert was a great ULC partner. Her work back in 2009, when she was only 91 years young, helped to prevent a liquor store from moving in across the street from the Holly Shopping Center, this was critical to ULC purchasing Holly Square. A liquor store would have made it far more challenging to bring positive community investment that currently exists on the site including the Peace Courts, playground and the new Boys & Girls Club.
In December, ULC released a Request for Statements of Interest (RFSI) for Phase 6, the redevelopment of the basketball and futsal courts. 2015 will be another year of Holly Square development!
With all of the growth ULC went through in 2014, it was important that new resources were identified to support additional acquisitions, new construction and capital improvements. These new critical resources will allow ULC to strategically continue growing our portfolio, maximizing impact on the communities we serve.
The new $10 million Facility Fund is the anchor investment of the Ours To Own campaign in Denver, enabling residents of metro Denver to own a part of Denver’s future. ULC, through the Facility Fund, will be able to reach a more diverse audience through a targeted on and off-line campaign, allowing Calvert to better communicate about the benefits that ULC provide to their local community. The Facility Fund gives ULC the ability to be flexible and adaptive to the real estate market to ensure that the whole community benefits from Denver’s robust growth. While commercial developers look for real estate as a source of increased revenue from higher income populations, ULC looks to ensure that a more diverse set of the community has access to the services and space it needs to thrive. This is another layer of local empowerment that we are excited to be a part of.
Guidance Lines of Credit
In 2014 ULC established a new Guidance Lines of Credit with Citywide Banks, Steele Street Bank and Trust and Colorado Business Bank. ULC was successful is accessing these new sources of capital to purchase new properties including the Social Enterprise Foundry, Dayton Legacy, Downing Nonprofit Tower, Yale Commons 2 at Yale Station. These resources also were applied to the refinance of Dahlia Apartments, allowing us to pay back the TOD Fund loan, freeing up that capital to invest in other projects.
We truly value our banking partners and we are grateful for their support in helping ULC invest in real estate that positively impacts communities.
ULC continues to participate in several collaborative efforts regionally, seeing many successes coming from the focus of each of these groups:
Mile High Connects
- Transit Oriented Development Fund
As a member of Mile High Connects, ULC joined our partners in the celebration of the expanded Regional Transit Oriented Development Fund. Managed by Enterprise Community Partners and Enterprise Community Loan Fund, the $24 million acquisition TOD Fund will provide financing throughout the Denver metro area to align with region’s growing investment in transit. By 2024, the Denver Regional TOD Fund aims to have supported the creation or preservation of 2000 affordable homes within a half mile of light and commuter rail and a quarter mile of high frequency bus routes.
ULC proved out the $15 million Denver TOD Fund, which was launched in 2010 as the nation’s first affordable housing TOD acquisition fund, providing $13.5 million in capital for the strategic purchase of real estate adjacent to current and future transit stations. Since 2010 through ULC as sole borrower, the Denver TOD Fund has supported the creation or preservation of 600 affordable homes, as well as the development of affordable nonprofit working space, Denver’s new Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library, a child care center, and other high-impact community spaces.
- ULC Denver TOD Fund Neighborhood Diversity Report
In January 2014, ULC staff completed a demographic analysis of the 8 neighborhoods in which sites were acquired using the Denver TOD Fund. Our analysis determined that ULC has achieved equitable investment results at 8 TOD sites across a variety of neighborhood demographic profiles (based on 2011 American Community Survey data estimates):
- 3 At-Risk Population Areas – Mile High Vista, Blake, Dahlia
- 3 Transitioning Population Areas – Dahlia, Villa TOD, West 11th
- 2 Stable Population Areas – Yale, Evans Station
Rather than concentrating affordable housing and investments in only underserved predominately low income minority household communities, ULC has created opportunities for vulnerable families to live in a wide variety of vibrant existing neighborhoods. In only 3 years, ULC has achieved broader social inclusion for nearly 650 low income families who might otherwise be excluded from transit accessible housing, job centers and basic services.
Denver Shared Spaces
DSS celebrated many accomplishments this year including the creation to 2 new shared space centers!
1. Volunteers of America-Colorado Branch, a Veteran’s One-Stop Service Center on Santa Fe Drive. This 21,000sf project will be home to a range of veteran’s serving organizations that will have direct, convenient access to support and resources.
2. The Conflict Center, Project PAVE, and Colorado AntiViolence Project is exploring and formalizing opportunities for collaboration as well as identify affordable options to make their physical space more conducive for creating community and building relationships. This “Center for Peacemaking” is home to three long-standing organizations addressing conflict, mediation, healthy relationships, and the prevention of violence for youth and adults across the metro.
DSS continues to provide shared space and co-working expertise to nonprofits across Denver through learning community gatherings, technical assistance, research and reporting as well as working groups to provide an avenue for nonprofits to understand best practices. ULC has greatly benefitted from the work of DSS in 2014, specifically at the Social Enterprise Foundry and Dayton Legacy. We look forward to new collaborative successes in 2015.
Economic Impact of Housing and Community Development
A new 2014 economic impact study was released by Housing Colorado demonstrating Colorado and metro Denver’s need for a diverse housing stock. This study, the third economic impact study following the 2010 and 2012 reports led by ULC, defines the need for more housing in diverse price ranges as it relates to the overall economic success of Colorado. Data examined shows that home building generated $5.15 billion in revenue and provided 81,000 jobs. This equates to 1.7% of the entire gross product of the state and 2.9% of the entire labor force. A healthy housing market must include a mix of housing types and prices that meet the needs of the entire community.
Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NDC)
NDC was heavily involved in the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO) revision process, and celebrated the successful passing of the new policy. The new IHO will provide greater incentives and additional resources for the construction of future affordable housing by nonprofits and developers.
Denver also adopted a new housing plan in 2014 which recognizes the contributions of nonprofit affordable housing developers. NDC was included in all aspects of the housing plan conceptions, the first phase of which will roll out in 2015. NDC also advanced the conversation around having a dedicated source of funding, the first of its kind at the city level.
ULC grew our staff by 5 this year, and promoted 3 employees to create these new positions. We also had 2 wonderful interns, thank you to Laura Williams and Jonathan Smith for such great work in 2014! ULC’s newest team members include:
- Kellie Myers, Property Manager
- Amanda Roy-Bangoy, Office Manager
- Sarah Harman, Senior Development Associate
- Rebecca Landau, Property Manager
- Trisha Wolfe (ok she actually started in 2015…), Accounting Manager
Achieving Excellence Program
ULC’s Debra Bustos was accepted into the prestigious Neighborworks America Achieving Excellence Program, in Collaboration with Harvard University. The 18 month program will result in expanding ULC’s organizational performance, and we look forward to Debra leading us in this exciting and challenging time of growth!
The Transit Alliance
ULC was awarded Outstanding Leadership by an Organization in the advancement of transit, transportation and mobility in Colorado at the annual Transit Event hosted by Transit Alliance. We were incredibly honored to be recognized for our work which could not happen without our strategic partners who support our TOD work.
Our TOD work was also highlighted in CityLab. With the massive growth of Denver’s rail infrastructure, ULC is so appreciative of the national acknowledgement of our work to strategically identify properties that can best address community needs.
With so many successes in 2014, ULC looks to focus on developing, redeveloping and finalizing plans for our current properties in 2015. We hope you will join us in many celebrations in 2015 including groundbreakings, grand openings, new acquisitions and new partnerships! ULC founding Board member Peter Bowes contributed to much of ULC’s success. He sadly passed away in December. Peter’s 50+ years working in metro Denver real estate and his gentle approach when working with us on complicated deals was a wonderful art. We will greatly miss Peter’s commitment to our work and this community.
ULC would like to sincerely thank all of our colleagues and partners who support our work in improving metro Denver’s communities through place-based real estate. We wish you all happiness, peace and success in the New Year.
Rus Heise, ULC Board Chairman
Aaron Miripol, ULC President & CEO