75 new affordable apartments in one of Denver’s “nicest new areas” — Union Station

staff photo
A ribbon cutting with Denver officials at Ashley Union Station. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)

A ribbon cutting with Denver officials at Ashley Union Station. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)

What’s so special about the 75 new income-restricted units at Ashley Union Station?

Location, location, location.

Typically, the city is able to build affordable housing in emerging neighborhoods, Denver Housing Authority Executive Director Ismael Guerrero said Thursday.

By contrast, the 75 new units by Union Station are already in “one of the nicest new areas,” Guerrero said. One that also gets new high-end apartment developments.

Naturally, that means that getting the development started was an uphill battle. Denver City Council President Albus Brooks credited Councilwoman Robin Kniech with getting the process started.

“For me, this story began with a group of construction workers, Section 8 housing residents, environmental activists and community folks who thought that this neighborhood around this important transit center should be integrated and should represent all walks of life,” Kneich said.

Kneich said she and others in the process tried to get land in the officially designated Union Station redevelopment before ultimately landing at 1850 Chestnut Place, roughly three blocks away from the transit center

Demand is high for units like these, and Denver officials said Thursday that all 75 income-restricted units have already been pre-leased.

“In some ways, [Ashley Union Station] will end with the people that started this — regular working people who thought that this neighborhood should include everyone,” Kniech said.

Thirty-four of the apartments went to households earning 60 percent or less of area median income, according to the city. Another 34 apartments went to people earning 50 percent or less of the area median income and seven apartments were reserved for people earning 30 percent of the area median income.

The four-story building also has another 32 market-rate units that are expected to be leased out this month, according to Integral, the building’s developer. Integral’s Vicki Lundy Wilbon, president of community development, further said the whole building will be completely occupied within two months.

With this development, Hancock said the city has completed 2,892 units of its “3×5 challenge” to build 3,000 new units within five years. He also said that with these units, he expects the city meet that goal one year early.

But even Hancock acknowledged that won’t be possible to “build our way out” of the affordable housing challenge facing the city.

“We’re going to work hard to preserve what we currently have, work hard to continue to build new affordable housing like here at Ashley so that families have safe decent affordable units in which to call home,” he said. “We want to connect people with jobs, with education, with good health options for the city of Denver. This is our new strategy, more comprehensive to address the whole individual and the whole family as we try to improve quality of life for all of us.”