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New Union Station Project: 1975 18th Street

A new 108-unit affordable housing project is planned for Downtown Denver’s Union Station district.

The project located at 1975 18th Street will occupy the southeast side of Chestnut Place between 18th and 19th streets just a block from the Union Station multimodel transit center that will open in a few months. The development will share the block with Xcel Energy’s steam plant and a triangular parcel slated for development as possibly an office building or a hotel. Here’s the site outlined in yellow on a Google Earth aerial:

The project is being developed by Atlanta-based Integral Group, with financial assistance from the City and County of Denver and the Colorado Housing Finance Authority. Of the 108 rental units, 68 units will be reserved by covenant for a period of 60 years for residents making less than 60 percent of the area median income, with the remaining 40 units at market rates. Here’s a rendering of the project, courtesy of the Integral Group:

1975 18th Street is planned to begin construction in June 2014 with completion in September 2015.

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19 Comments

  1. Julio says:

    Finally some central Denver apartments that are actually affordable. These are desperately needed as are a half-dozen (at least) projects just like this. The rent increases in Denver is making the city unaffordable to anyone who doesn’t make at least median income. I’m seeing rents nowadays for studio and 1-bedroom apartments for the same as two and three-bedroom apartments just a few years ago.

    Vibrant Denver neighborhoods need a variety of people living in them, not just the wealthiest. Hopefully this project represents many more that will give working-class people the ability and opportunity to live in Central Denver.

  2. Mal says:

    Definitely a crappy project, but given the fact that this one is at least affordable housing, I would say Alta City House is still worse.

  3. JerryG says:

    Yes, affordable housing in this area is most definitely needed, but given that the financial assistance the city is providing is quite substantial, why only 68 units? Surely, this area needs/support at least twice that many if not much more. And why not build something of higher quality/design similar to the Evans Station workforce housing project? It seems to me that this is just a cheap, token gesture and that should not be acceptable for this area.

  4. BALLPARK says:

    If you’re going to spring for affordable housing in this area, why not get your money’s worth and make it a 12 story tower and get 5 times the amount of units? Or.. if price is an issue with cement – at least get the stick foundation up to 5 floors and maximize the space. I just don’t get it..

  5. Corey says:

    Truly hideous!

  6. Julio says:

    I don’t think the architecture is horrible. I think the overhang roof is cool (if a bit overdone in Denver). But I do agree it should’ve been much denser..5-6 stories at least. That way more working-class people could live here.

  7. Nathanael says:

    It looks OK to me, but I also question the size.

    This is going to be absolutely *surrounded* by high-rises. A four-story building would look fine in most of Denver, but here it will look out of place the moment it’s built. Why not take it up at least another story or two?

  8. Jim Nash says:

    This is what New Yorkers and Angelinos call a “rent control” project. Great that it mixes affordable housing with much more costly apartments and condos (maybe) at Union Station — but the scale for this location is really timid. This indicates what project scale to expect in the remaining 4 lots along 17th Street. Disappointing.

    • Jim Nash says:

      With so much public money involved in the Union Station project, we Denver taxpayers need a lot more transparency on the planning and approval process — which produces this kind of a project, so far below the expectations city “leaders” raised when Union Station was first being promoted. In a booming apartment market, this little project in this location is inexcusable. Taxpayers are being had.

      • Jim Nash says:

        This is essentially a public housing project as a stand-alone building, not integrated into a much larger building of market-rate tenants.

        City planners all know that rent-controlled apartments work best in a structure that’s at least a 5-to-1 ratio of market-rate to rent-controlled units. Which is the incentive for the developer to add lots of amenities, to the benefit for all tenants. This project is majority rent-controlled.

        And this building actually isolates the residents, and excludes them from all the usual extras that renters are enjoying in buildings all around them. Rent-control units generate virtually No tax revenue to the city.

        Meanwhile, there’s almost NO RETURN here on the taxpayers’ investment in this super-prime lot. Which should have at least a 20-story building on it, hundreds of units, paying the city millions in property taxes, over time.

        This project is a giveaway. Taxpayers sold out.

        Why did the planning director and the mayor approve it?

        • Earl T says:

          Taxpayers not sold out. More like ripped off. Politicians sold out. Or bought off. Or, more likely and typically, both.

  9. Earl T says:

    This is a terrible project, working class residents or not. What a waste of a perfectly good inner-city parcel. This needs to be at least 7-8 stories, if not significantly taller. It looks like a loaf of cheap white bread with a brown crust on top sitting on a counter with balconies sticking off of it. At least stand it on end.

    • Jim Nash says:

      Earl T, this project is an example of the 1960s-style urban politics still very much in play in Denver. The mayor wants to cut the ribbon, and claim victory, so he can point to Low Income Housing as his contribution to the Union Station project.

      But rather than weaving hundreds of rent-controlled units into much larger market-rate rental buildings, he inserts a separate low-grade building, segregating the occupants from the rest of the community, and stigmatizing the building for what it is, Public Housing. Rather than let a private developer manage these units, he puts them under the control of a city housing bureaucracy — job security for lots of city workers — and he perpetuates all the negatives that go with Public Housing, which cities like Chicago are tearing down, because they’re such failures.

      It’s not only a rip-off of the taxpayers — this pet project is a gold mine for the developer, who will run a virtually tax-free, subsidized operation, with an endless waiting list of applicants for the reduced-rate units. And because this project doesn’t have to be market-competitive, it’ll have minimum amenities for residents. A truly cheap. low-grade job. A sure thing, in a can’t-lose location, all courtesy of the taxpayers.

      There’s a huge irony about Union Station: It’s a masterful revival of urban rail, bringing Denver into a whole new era of big-city living. Some of the details, especially for pedestrians — with the lack of escalators on the Millenium Bridge and 18th Street track overpass — are not on the same level as DIA, and need to be upgraded. But overall, Union Station is both a rebirth and a huge step forward for our city.

      But the irony is that the LAND USE around Union Station has turned into a politician’s Christmas Tree. The city planning office is being used to steer — and approve — projects like Alta City House, a really cheap job — which will generate big, quick profits for East-West Partnership, which can charge super-high rents in this location, across the street from a brand new King Soopers. Low investment, high profits. Remember, they “proposed” a 23-story apartment house. Now that they’ve been given control of the project, we get so much less.

      Meanwhile, the investment potential for taxpayers is being squandered by ridiculously-low height and density limits and View Planes, flattening-out the whole Downtown-adjacent area, to make the NIMBYS happy.

      Politicians and planners can say they’re giving people what they’ve asked for, and in a way, they are. Many people around Denver still want to keep it small, for themselves. They don’t understand that growth and density are what make the city prosperous for us all. Integrating transportation, urban density and commercial development is the mission of city planning. Too bad that planners are the captives of politicians, who lack a big-city vision for Denver. This issue here is leadership.

      NIMBYS and “leaders,” celebrate! You’re making Union Station so much less than it could be.

      • Paul says:

        Jim,

        What are you talking about? This isn’t a DHA project, nor is DHA going to be managing it. This project will be managed by a private developer using a covenant agreement to insure the affordability of the units. Assuming that the loan agreements are similar to other subsidized, affordable development in the city than the city’s contribution is 10% of the project cost. I don’t think the city is at all willing to put up $30 million for 600 hundred subsidized units, nor is a developer going to do a $300 million affordable project in the area, which assumes that financing could be secured for such a project.

  10. Mike says:

    While it’s good we’ve established the problems with this project, there is a lot more that can be done than just complaining about it. We need to stage an effective protest. Talk to news outlets. Write letters to those political leaders involved, including the mayor. Even head down to the Capitol building and make your voice be heard. I think it’s great that they are trying to put affordable housing downtown, but this is NOT the way to do it for all the reasons listed. It needs to be much larger and not look like shit. We can’t have this eye sore in our otherwise immensely successful Union Station redevelopment.
    Your voice is not going to be heard unless you make it so. Posting on a blog will not get political leaders to listen….it time the public has a say in it’s city’s urban planning.
    If you really care about this city and it’s future, prove it. Actually be proactive and DO something!

    • Mike says:

      Stop complaining, do something!
      Anything, large or small, has the potential to impact the outcome of this project. Don’t think we have no say; know that you, in fact, do have a say! Let’s not be lackadasical when it comes to the well-being of our city. Time to make some moves people.

  11. Dean Ledesma says:

    I will not be impressed untill I see a crane that is at least twelve hunderd feet
    high in the sky. Replubic plaza has benn the tallest for way way too long!
    It is a shsme that smaller metro areas like Mobile Alabama, Oklahoma city, and Calgary Alberta
    have a taller skyscrsper than Denver. Denver city counsel needs to expand the hight restriction
    ordinance away fron it current small boundries and let developers reach for the sky with there designs!!!!!