Who wants a Union Station condo under $300,000? Here they come.

The rarest kind of residence is about to hit the market in Denver: affordable condos in a dense downtown area.

A rendering of The Coloradan building under construction near Union Station. (Courtesy East West Partners)
A rendering of The Coloradan building under construction near Union Station. (Courtesy East West Partners)
A rendering of The Coloradan building under construction near Union Station. (Courtesy East West Partners)

The rarest kind of residence is about to hit the market in Denver: less-expensive condos around the newly redeveloped Union Station area.

And you only have to win a lottery to buy one.

The condos in question are on prime real estate as part of a new building, The Coloradan, overlooking the city’s main transit hub. There are 33 of them in total, and they’re set aside for people making certain incomes.

“Short and simple, I would say, it’s the right thing to do. When we set out to build The Coloradan, we viewed it as an inclusive community,” said Brad Arnold, the building’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Demand is likely to be very high, so the building’s owner and management will hold “unbiased, random” lotteries on June 19 to determine who gets the first chance to buy the units.

These kinds of lotteries can attract hundreds of even thousands of buyers. In San Francisco, an apartment building recently got 6,580 applications for just 95 apartments. The building owner already has about 360 people who have said they’re interested.

“I think we’ll literally draw it out of a hat,” Arnold said. (He didn’t know what kind of hat they’d use, he said.)

In order to buy one of the condos, buyers will have to prove that they make between 50 and 95 percent of the city’s area median income — a maximum of about $60,000 for a single person or $76,950 for a family of three.

If you’re hoping to apply, you’ll need to submit a letter from a lender by June 15. So, you probably want to get moving. Find more information here.

Here’s what’s for sale:
  • The one-bedrooms are about 730 square feet. They’ll go for $230,751. They’ve got flexible closet space, and an “integrated kitchen and living space to be transformed into your private urban oasis.”
  • The two-bedrooms cap out at 878 square feet. They’ll go for $285,936.
A rendering of an affordable unit in The Coloradan building under construction near Union Station. (Courtesy East West Partners)
A rendering of an affordable unit in The Coloradan building under construction near Union Station. (Courtesy East West Partners)
What’s the catch?

The affordable buyers will have to pay full-price homeowners’ dues, which will work out to at least $400 monthly. Optional parking spots start at $195 monthly.

“We had a lot of talks about that internally,” Arnold said. “Is it truly affordable with those (HOA) costs? We felt like it was.”

Charging lower HOA costs, he said, could have resulted in accusations of imbalance at homeowners meetings. Instead, the HOA fees are charged per square foot.

The affordable units are significantly smaller and cheaper than comparable homes in the rest of the building. The full-price two-bedrooms start at 1,200 square feet and $725,000, running up to $1.2 million. The affordable units have different interior finishes, too, which the developer says are just “as thoughtfully designed”

Owners will not be allowed to resell the buildings at full market prices. Instead, the homes’ sale value can only grow 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. There are some additional restrictions for 10 years after that.

After 25 years, the units can be resold for full price.

Union Station is nearly done.

When the building opens later this year, they will be the only affordable condos in the Union Station area, according to developer East West Partners. This is also one of the last few projects scheduled for the redevelopment area.

“We really are the last major piece of the puzzle,” Arnold said.

The affordable units make up about 10 percent of the 334-unit building, and The Coloradan is unusual for having them at all. The developer built them under the city’s old inclusionary housing rules — the same kind of program that created all those houses in northeast Denver that have given the city so much trouble.

Many developers simply chose to pay a fee rather than build affordable units — which is why the law only resulted in a few dozen affordable units in the downtown area before this.

Most recently, the Solis Townhomes property opened in March 2018 with 11 affordable units in the Cole neighborhood, according to the city’s Office of Economic Development.

The city has since created a new model for affordable housing. Instead, developers pay into the city’s central housing fund.

However, the city is trying out new models to encourage affordable units in dense areas like 38th and Blake.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.