Denver’s elected leaders voted on Monday to sell a 1.4-acre parking lot near Union Station for $13.5 million.
The land will go to the Nichols Partnership, which plans to develop it as part of a larger office and retail complex. The council rejected another company’s proposal to build affordable housing on the site.
Even as they approved the sale in a 10-2 vote, some Denver City Council members called for changes to how the city sells its land.
The land is at 1701 Platte Street, which is across the South Platte River from the Union Station area. It’s at the edge of bustling Platte Street, near the Denver Beer Company.
The city received eight proposals from parties that wanted to buy the land. That included a bid from Zocalo Community Development, which wanted to build a 200-unit residential complex for a mix of incomes, as Westword reported. Zocalo’s president told Westword it would be “tragic” not to put affordable housing on the land; his proposal was rejected.
The city’s selling the property for market value, according to staff. Half the money will go toward bike lanes and homeless services, while half will go toward affordable housing.
Nichols’ project will stand five floors tall and cost $20 million, with restaurant and retail on the first floor, according to Construction Reporter. Nichols Partnership also worked on Denver’s Turntable Studios building and the Galvanize campuses on Platte Street and in Golden Triangle.
The developer will be required to provide 90 public parking spaces as part of the deal. Nichols’ plan was chosen “based on proposed project, price and commitment to include parking available to the public,” according to a presentation by city staff.
The property’s position along Interstate 25 made it a poor fit for affordable housing, due to the high traffic volume, according to Lisa Lumley, assistant director of real estate for Denver.
Should it have gone differently?
“We just need to make sure we understand how we’re using our city-owned properties,” said Councilman Wayne New, who voted against the sale. “It’s really troubling.”
Under current city policy, Denver has to consider selling city land like this for housing purposes — but it’s not required to actually do it.
Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech said that other cities require that city-owned land be offered up for housing before it can go to other uses.
“Many cities do say that … if land can be used for housing at all, then it should be used for housing,” she said. That’s something that could be debated in Denver, she said.
But she noted that she couldn’t be sure whether housing would have worked on this particular site, so she decided to support the sale, especially because it benefits the affordable housing fund.
She noted that, as a result of the debate over this project, the mayor’s office has established a better process for debating parcels like this.
Council members New and Paul Kashmann voted against the sale.