$197 million Mariposa District transforms public housing from “projects” to community

Denver Housing Authority celebrated its completion of Mariposa District redevelopment Friday.

Residences in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Residences in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) lincoln park; residential real estate; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
The Tapiz at Mariposa apartment project, part of Denver Housing Authority’s Mariposa District redevelopment project in the Alma Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

People who are now happy to call the Mariposa District home would have tried to avoid the area in the not so distant past.

“The projects came in here in 1952,” said Bob Cordova, a resident at the Tapiz at Mariposa. “This was the meanest goddamn area of Denver growing up, and it only got worse.”

Cordova said he moved to the 100-unit Tapiz apartment building not long after the eight-story senior housing project was completed in 2011.

“It feels safe in the area now,” Cordova said.

The Tapiz was the first of eight redevelopment phases that Denver Housing Authority undertook to demolish and replace its 250-unit South Lincoln Park Homes. Several residents refer to the former complex as “the projects.”

The South Lincoln Homes complex along Navajo Street before they were demolished for the Mariposa District. (Courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority)
The South Lincoln Homes complex along Navajo Street before they were demolished for the Mariposa District. (Courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority)

Denver Housing Authority celebrated its completion of Mariposa District redevelopment Friday, not long after completing a 45-unit, seven-story building at 1040 Osage St.

Doris Watson said she moved into the new building in late June from another, smaller DHA property in Five Points.

“This one is 100 percent better,” Watson said. “I was born and raised here, but this is the first time I’ve lived on this side of town. I do remember it because it was called ‘the projects’ at the time. … It’s totally different from when I grew up. It’s really nice over here.”

Koelbel and Co. is expected to handle the eighth phase of the Mariposa redevelopment. The Denver developer is planning to add 58 for-sale townhomes to the area — including six income-restricted units. Construction on the townhomes is expected to start in the fall, said Peter Benson, senior vice president at Koelbel.

Altogether, the Mariposa District redevelopment runs between West Ninth and 11th avenues, east of the Osage and 10th light rail station and west of Mariposa Street. The district is expected to cost $197 million, cover 14 acres and add 581 multi-family, mixed-income units to the area.

As a separate endeavor, Denver Housing Authority is planning to move its roughly 300 employees to the Mariposa District in 2019 with the completion of its new office. The 11-story building would add 170,000 square feet of office and commercial space to the area.

A rendering of Denver Housing Authority's proposed office building near Osage Street and West 10th Avenue. (Courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority)
A rendering of Denver Housing Authority’s proposed office building near Osage Street and West 10th Avenue. (Courtesy of the Denver Housing Authority)

DHA managed to keep 48 percent of the residents living in the South Lincoln Park Homes complex in the area, an impressive feat considering the national average retention rate for government-funded housing redevelopment projects is typically in the range of 10-15 percent, said Ismael Guerrero, executive director of DHA.

“It was our commitment to both do one-for-one replacement of the public housing that was here before and that any resident of South Lincoln Homes that wanted to remain in this neighborhood had that opportunity,” Guerrero said. “So we worked very closely for how we phased in the eight phases to not demolish any buildings until we had replacement units available for residents.”

In some ways, the development of the Mariposa District is a dry run for the larger, more comprehensive redevelopment that lies ahead for Sun Valley. Residents of the Mariposa District can see the neighborhood west of the Platte River from the upper floors of the newly built housing projects.

Mariposa transformed a housing complex, while the project in Sun Valley will transform an entire neighborhood, Guerrero said.

In five phases of development, DHA plans to replace the 333 housing units currently arranged as a series of two-story townhouses with courtyards and laundry lines between them with 750 new, mixed-income housing units. Total public and private investment in the area over the next decade is expected to be in the $500 million to $600 million range.

Work on Sun Valley is expected to start next year, Guerrero said.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.