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December 2012 | Volume 1, Issue 6  


 Boulder Improves Energy Efficiency in Rental Housing
 Grantee Spotlight: Canal Crossing — From Brownfields to Mixed-Use Community
 Innovative Partnership Funds Transit-Oriented Housing in Denver
 Pilot Program Promotes New Sustainable Farming in Montgomery County, Maryland

Innovative Partnership Funds Transit-Oriented Housing in Denver

Evans Station Lofts will soon become the first new affordable housing completed with support from the Denver Transit Oriented Development Fund.
Evans Station Lofts will soon become the first new affordable housing completed with support from the Denver Transit Oriented Development Fund. Image courtesy of Parikh Stevens Architects.
In 2004, residents in the Denver metropolitan area approved the creation of a dedicated funding source for the expansion of the Regional Transportation District’s multimodal transit system. Once complete, the expansion — known as the FasTracks program — will include more than 120 miles of commuter and light rail and 18 miles of bus rapid transit across 6 new lines. This historic transit expansion has been coupled with coordinated and strategic efforts from public- and private-sector partners to ensure that the investment in infrastructure supports not only local and regional economic development but also new opportunities for location-efficient affordable housing. One result of this work is taking shape along the Southwest light rail corridor, where the 50-unit Evans Station Lofts will soon become the first affordable housing project completed with funding from the Denver Transit Oriented Development Fund (TOD Fund).

Innovative Funding Source and Strategic Planning

Recognizing the importance of connecting affordable housing to public transportation, the city of Denver, the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Enterprise Community Partners, and other investors partnered to create the TOD Fund in 2010. This $30 million fund, the first of its kind in the nation, will support the creation and preservation of more than 1,000 affordable housing units within a half-mile of high-value transit stations. As the manager of acquisitions for the fund, ULC purchases and holds properties, which it then sells to developers committed to building affordable housing. The fund allows ULC to bank land for up to 5 years, which gives developers time to secure project financing and reduces the risk and the costs associated with holding land. ULC acquired the 1-acre property for $1.2 million in spring 2011, before selling it to Medici Communities approximately a year later for development as Evans Station Lofts.

Although the TOD Fund made the site’s acquisition possible, says developer Troy Gladwell of Medici Communities, the site’s selection was influenced by the city of Denver’s comprehensive efforts to facilitate growth around existing and future light rail stations. In 2009, the city adopted the Evans Station Area Plan to guide public and private investment within one-half mile of the light rail stop. The plan includes land use and urban design recommendations, along with implementation strategies, to foster the development of a neighborhood where residents have easy access to amenities, services, and a variety of transportation and housing options. Soon after adopting the plan, the city amended the zoning code around the station to provide a regulatory framework consistent with its vision for the neighborhood. The city has also made streetscape and infrastructure improvements throughout the Evans Station area to create a more attractive business and pedestrian environment and to strengthen connections between the light rail station and the neighborhood business district.

Leading With Affordable Housing

Scheduled for completion in 2013, the Evans Station Lofts project represents an important step toward increasing housing options around the light rail station. The five-story structure is located on a formerly underutilized industrial property and includes 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments that will serve households earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income ($16,700 to $42,840). Financing for the $12 million project comes primarily from the sale of low-income housing tax credits by the Colorado Housing Finance Agency (CHFA). In accordance with the requirements of CHFA’s tax credit allocation, Evans Station Lofts will meet Enterprise Green Communities criteria and will use rooftop solar panels to generate electricity for the common areas. In addition to the residential component, the project includes approximately 7,000 square feet of commercial space.

The development of Evans Station Lofts is the result of strong public and private partnerships established across the Denver region, from the creation of the TOD Fund to the city’s strategic plan for transit-oriented development. The innovative work taking place in Denver has been recognized and supported by the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. In 2010, the city and county’s department of community planning and development received a joint HUD Community Challenge Grant and U.S. DOT TIGER II Planning Grant totaling $2.9 million. The funds are being used to build on the successes of the city’s comprehensive transit-oriented development programs.

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