East Colfax acquisition highlights new tool in Denver’s affordable housing arsenal

Denver officials are flipping the script, securing land and then looking for developers to do something with the properties.

A closed strip club on East Colfax, 8315 E. Colfax Ave. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; colfax; topless; strip club;
A closed strip club on East Colfax, 8315 E. Colfax Ave. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty; colfax; topless; strip club;
A closed strip club on East Colfax, 8315 E. Colfax Ave. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver’s wielding a new weapon in the fight to bring more affordable housing to the city: land acquisition.

The city has two properties along East Colfax in its arsenal — the site of the former PTs All Nude II strip club and a vacant property about 1,400 feet to the west. Denver’s also working with the Regional Transportation District to bring condos to a site in Five Points.

Affordable housing developers have typically come to the city of Denver with project proposals. But now officials are flipping the script, securing land and then looking for developers.

Denver is considering various options, including buying land, to bring much-needed affordable housing to the city. A tentative plan for how the city will spend its $150 million affordable housing fund is expected to be released next month.

“We’re just working to develop more tools,” said Julianne Stern, housing development officer for the city. “If we say we have a priority and we want this type of (multi-family) affordable housing built and we’re in a more reactive mode, it’s really hard to accomplish that priority.”

In April, the city paid $650,000 for a 30,500-square-foot site at the southeast corner of East Colfax Avenue and Trenton Street. The city is currently leading a rezoning application for the site that could raise the maximum height allowed from three stories to five. It’s unclear at this point how many units the parcel in East Colfax could hold.

Last year, Derrick Walker with Infield Development LLC floated the idea of building 45 affordable units on the site.

“He wasn’t able to change the zoning before planning his project, so he was working within three stories,” Stern said, “and he wasn’t able to put together a project that was both a feasible low-income housing tax credit project and had a ground floor activation.”

Ground floor activation is planner-speak for having a restaurant, store, community center or commercial use on the ground level.

The corner of East Colfax Avenue and Trenton Street, 7900 E. Colfax Ave. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; east colfax; development;
The corner of East Colfax Avenue and Trenton Street, 7900 E. Colfax Ave. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver officials don’t consider Colfax their first foray into securing property for affordable housing; the city is already working with RTD to develop income-restricted condos near the north corner of 29th and Welton streets.

In 1993, RTD spent $148,066 for almost half an acre spread out among two lots — 2907 and 2915 Welton St. — in Five Points, according to city property records. The transportation district and Denver asked developers to bid on the project last month.

Denver officials don’t yet know when they’ll be ready for developers to start bidding on 7900 E. Colfax Ave. And there’s a chance the city could offer the vacant site as well as the property about 1,400 feet to the east, 8315 E. Colfax Ave., together. Denver City Council voted Monday to pay $1.3 million for the site that holds a former strip club.

“We know that affordable housing is badly needed and we don’t want to sit on this property for longer than we have to, but we also want to be thoughtful about getting all right input from stake holders in the community before we define a vision and run forward,” Stern said.

Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.

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

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.