West side partnerships forming
North Denver Tribune
June 1, 2011
WEST DENVER – A new library at Colfax and Irving and a light rail station near 12th and Federal bring the possibility of increased land values and higher housing costs. While this is good news for current homeowners in the area, renters who depend on affordable housing near the urban center might suffer as prices go up. Local and national foundations, as well as city, state and Federal agencies gathered in West Denver during the past week to present ideas and strategies for land banking and other tools to ensure all income brackets benefit from the public investments currently underway.
On Tuesday, May 17 members of the Mile High Transit Opportunity Collaborative met at Irving and Colfax to take a tour of the current low income housing available along the West Corridor line. Members of the emerging Mile High Transit Opportunity Collaborative include: the Anschutz Family Foundation, The Colorado Health Foundation, The Denver Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, FRESC: Good Jobs, Strong Communities, Gates Family Foundation, Housing and Homelessness Funders’ Collaborative, Kaiser Permanente, Linda D. Campbell Fund, Piton Foundation, Reconnecting America, Rose Community Foundation, Urban Land Conservancy and U.S. Bank.
These partners gathered on this day to announce the Ford Foundation’s $500,000 grant to support the goals of this collaboration. The primary goal of the collaborative as it appears on the Urban Land Conservancy website “is to ensure that the creation of FasTracks improves accessibility to affordable housing, good-paying jobs, essential services, educational opportunities, improved health, and other elements of a high quality of life for all of Metro Denver’s residents, especially those with lower-incomes.”
Transportation consumes up 20 to 33 percent of the average resident’s budget. The ability to live near a light rail or frequent bus stop enables low income families to use the remainder of their funds for shelter, food, and other necessities. The transit collaborative seeks to maintain and increase the quantity of low and moderate income housing units through a variety of ways.
The Urban Land Conservancy purchased the parcel of land upon which the library and a new affordable housing complex will be built. Named the Mile High Vista, this two acre parcel will include the new west side library along with an 80 unit affordable housing building developed with Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corporation.
By purchasing land and existing apartment complexes now, before any land speculation drives up prices, the collaborative has the ability to protect and continue to provide low and moderate income housing in the inner core.
The City and County of Denver had its own partnership meeting on May 25 as it announced its Denver Livability Partnership. With like goals of the foundation partnerships, according to its website, “the Denver Livability Partnership will expand permanent affordable housing, improve access to jobs and create better multi-modal connectivity along Denver’s transit corridors.
Denver will leverage partnerships and opportunities along the west light rail corridor to transform Denver’s west side into livable, transit-oriented neighborhoods. Best practices learned from this can then be applied to other corridors in Denver, in the region and nationwide.”
Rick Garcia, the Regional Housing and Urban Development director, flew back to Denver to be at the kick off meeting of this new partnership. The Denver Livability Partnership is supported by $2,953,372 from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Challenge grant and a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) TIGER II planning grant, administered by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Garcia said the partnership between
HUD and DOT was unique and a model for Federal collaboration in the future.
The funds will be used to study the infrastructure throughout the west side as it pertains to RTD, highways, biking, food access, and affordable housing. Paul Lopez, the city councilman for West Denver, embraced the local and Federal attention to his district. One of the partnership plans included the Knox Court bike study. “There are no bike lanes in this entire district,” Lopez said. The Knox Court bike study will connect residents to the Lakewood Gulch bike paths as well as to the Knox Court light rail station.
The West Side Food Lab is also included in the Denver Livability Partnership. Katherine Cornwell, a city council candidate in the recent District 1 election, is leading the effort to remove the label of food desert – an urban area lacking sufficient access to fresh and nutritious food. The West Side Food Lab will create a community destination for urban agriculture, food storage, processing and distribution, nutrition education, business incubation, and health screening among its potential activities.
For more on the Denver Livability Partnership, go to www.denvergov.org/dlp.