Successful Stewardship: ULC Community Land Trust
ULC has incorporated the Community Land Trust (CLT) model into our real estate investments for more than 10 years, as we work towards mitigating and further preventing involuntary displacement of Denver’s vulnerable communities. Burlington Associates, a national consulting cooperative founded in 1993 to support CLTs, completed a feasibility study and business plan for Urban Land Conservancy in August 2017. You can find the link to the “Feasibility Study and Business Plan for a Proposed Community Land Trust Program Serving Denver’s Globeville, Elyria and Swansea Neighborhoods here (English) and here (Spanish).
ULC is also partnering with a collaborative of philanthropic funders who announced in December 2017 their plans to catalyze nearly $25 million in private investment to launch Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT). ULC incubated ECLT as a separate entity, providing the technical assistance necessary to steward its successful establishment. ULC successfully helped ECLT receive its own 501(c)3 community land trust organization with independent leadership, staff, and a governing board that includes homeowners, community members, public interest representatives, and members of the funder collaborative. Visit Elevation CLT’s website here to learn more.
“I developed my understanding of the value of land conservation early on in the open lands conservation movement, and broadened my focus from open lands to urban lands. That sensibility converged with my work to strengthen our urban communities where our most underserved children and families live.”
– Sam Gary, Founding ULC Board Member
Jody Apartments | Villa Park Neighborhood
ULC’s first CLT investment was the purchase of land under the Jody Apartments. ULC purchased the 2 acres of land and NEWSED bought the improvements consisting of 62 apartments in four rental buildings. This transaction was the first ground lease executed by ULC, and Colorado’s first multi-family CLT. The terms include NEWSED leasing the land from ULC for 99 years to assure long term public benefit.
Holly Square | Northeast Park Hill, Boys and Girls Club & Roots Elementary
Holly Square houses the Nancy P. Anschutz Center; home of the Jack A. Vickers Boys & Girls Club as well as Roots Elementary, a new school using a radical new approach to time, talent and technology to create custom learning experiences. Both buildings, constructed in 2013 and 2016 respectively, have 99-year land leases in place with ULC. These assets, which represent the vision of the community, will be preserved for 99 years in a neighborhood facing increasing challenges regarding affordability.
Curtis Park Community Center & Family Star Montessori School Five Points Neighborhood
In 2017, Family Star Montessori purchased the school building from ULC and the land lease commenced upon the successful closing. ULC will own the ground for 99 years, and continues to own the adjacent Curtis Park Nonprofit Center building which houses the school’s administrative operations.
Walnut Street Lofts | Cole Neighborhood
Urban Land Conservancy purchased the land beneath Walnut Street Lofts in November 2011 through Denver’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Fund. The property sits adjacent to the 38th and Blake Station along RTD’s A-Line Commuter Rail. ULC announced our partnership with Medici Consulting Group (MCG), who was awarded LIHTC in 2017. Walnut Street Lofts opened in June of 2020 with 66 units of affordable housing. Walnut Street Lofts is a part of ULC’s community land trust, which will ensure the units remain permanently affordable under a 99-year renewable ground lease.
Inca Commons | Santa Fe Arts District
Urban Land Conservancy acquired Inca Commons in December 2018 for $1.8 million in partnership with Shanahan Development LLC and Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT). The 18,000 square foot site is located in the heart of the Santa Fe Arts District and will support a mixed-use development with residential and commercial space. Future development will include at least 86 units of permanently affordable for-sale housing for households earning up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI). Inca Commons is expected to break ground in the third quarter of 2019, with units expected to be available for purchase in late 2020.
Holly Park | Westminster
In December 2018, ULC acquired the six-acre site in Westminster for the future development of affordable and attainable for-sale townhouses. Westminster Economic Development Authority, the prior owner, chose to partner with ULC and Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT) to bring permanently affordable homeownership opportunities to this future mixed-income community. Through Elevation’s community land trust model, at least 32 townhouses will be available for households earning up to 80% AMI.
Addressing Displacement in Denver Through Community Land Trust Solutions
ULC hosted the historic premier of Arc of Justice, a documentary focused on the origin of the Community Land Trust movement on May 20, 2016. Guests gathered to watch the 20-minute documentary with hopes of spurring new movement as the Denver region is continuously working on ways to address the severe lack of permanently affordable housing.
Arc of Justice, part of the Streets of Dreams series, traces the rise, fall and rebirth of the first modern community land trust that was established in 1970 in Southwest Georgia.
Created out of the drive for economic self-sufficiency that developed within the Civil Rights Movement, New Communities, Inc. (NCI) was the largest black-owned land holding in the US at that time – nearly 6000 acres – and came under fierce attack by the white, Jim Crow establishment.
Arc of Justice includes interviews with Charles and Shirley Sherrod who were the founders of New Communities, and with Congressman John Lewis who was a key figure in helping to launch the land trust. All three are iconic civil rights leaders who speak eloquently and movingly about the importance of land ownership for African American families and the enormous obstacles they had to overcome to keep their dream alive.
In 1985, New Communities lost its land to foreclosure due to years of devastating drought and the discriminatory lending practices of the Farmers Home Administration. Twelve years after NCI’s tragic loss of its land, 400 black farmers filed a class action lawsuit against the US Dept. of Agriculture. In 2010, these farmers won the largest civil rights settlement in history and, with its portion of the payout, New Communities was reborn with the purchase of a 1,600 acre plantation about 30 miles from the original farm. This plantation had been established by one of the largest slaveholders in Georgia and will be dedicated to promoting racial healing and economic opportunity. Renamed Resora, it celebrated its grand opening in June 2014 which marked the beginning of an exciting new chapter. Arc of Justice captures this remarkable story and sheds light on an important yet little known part of land trust, racial justice and civil rights history.
“Community Land Trusts are an innovative model for community-led development that rearranges relations of property and power in the place of residence. The foundation for a CLT as well as for other nonprofit developers that operate in a similar fashion, is common ground: community owned land that is never re-sold, but put to productive use through long-term ground leasing.There are difficulties involved in doing affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization this way, which dissuade many from trying it, but common ground has operational, ethical, economic, and political ad-vantages all its own. It may be harder to do, but the extra effort is worth it”
– John Emmeus Davis, Common Ground Community Led Development on Community Owned Land