Urban Land Conservancy acquires, preserves, and develops real estate to under-served areas for long-term community benefit. Through the acquisition, development and preservation of real estate in urban areas, we are supporting neighborhoods with community assets such as schools, affordable housing, community centers and nonprofit facility space.
ULC also recognizes that creating affordable space alone is not enough. This is why we focus on the development of permanent affordable space through the community land trust (CLT) model. ULC’s unique CLT means we own the land under a 99 year ground lease to ensure the space is used for community benefit regardless of circumstance. To date, ULC has 8 properties in our CLT, ranging from early childhood education centers to multifamily affordable housing developments.
Since 2010, ULC has deployed $45 million in impact investments using three loan facilities to foster equitable growth throughout the Greater Denver Region. Our investments in the $15 million Denver Transit-Oriented Fund, the $10 million Calvert Facility Fund and the $50 million Metro Denver Impact Facility have resulted in 18 acquisitions to date. To learn more, you can read the full report here.
As stewards of real estate investments that profoundly impact the quality of life of many underserved and low-income Metro area residents, ULC is informed by a broad network of community partners. Our work in the neighborhoods in which we served is guided by underlying principles that fall under our community engagement philosophy. You can read more about our community approach here.
Successful Stewardship: ULC Community Land Trust
ULC has been incorporating the Community Land Trust (CLT) model into our real estate investments for the more than 10 years, and we are now researching how to use a CLT to mitigate and further prevent 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 is currently incubating ECLT as a separate entity, providing the technical assistance necessary to steward its successful establishment. Over the next 12 to 18 months, ULC and an interim community advisory committee will support Elevation CLT in establishing 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.
About the Metro Denver Impact Facility
In partnership with FirstBank, Colorado Health Foundation, The Denver Foundation, the Colorado Trust and Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Urban Land Conservancy launched the Metro Denver Impact Facility (MDIF) in response to the current real estate affordability crisis in the Denver region. The revolving source of loan capital will grow to become a $50 million resource to support ULC’s real estate acquisitions to create and preserve the affordability of housing, nonprofit facilities, schools and community serving space across Metro Denver. To read the Denver Post’s coverage of the Metro Denver Impact Facility’s first acquisition, click here.
Denver Transit-Oriented Development Fund
The Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Enterprise Community Partners, the City and County of Denver, and several other investors partnered to establish the first affordable housing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) acquisition fund in the country. The purpose of the Denver TOD Fund is to support the creation and preservation of over 1,000 affordable housing units through strategic property acquisition in current and future transit corridors. The Fund answers a basic real estate conundrum: when the economy is bad, property values are low and ripe for purchase, but access to capital is poor and affordable housing developers are scarce. Now is the opportune time to invest in real estate around proposed transit stations in order to capitalize on current values and preserve affordable housing before RTD’s FasTracks light rail is fully operational.
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 adjancet 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. With plans to breakground on the development of 66 units of affordable housing in early 2019, Walnut Street Lofts officially joined ULC’s community land trust in 2018. This 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 ot 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 home ownership 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