Another setback for Denver’s tiny home villages — the plot they want has been deemed unsafe

Denver’s public works department cited flood concerns in ruling out a plot at Taxi in Globeville.

The "tiny homes" of the Beloved Community Village beneath towering construction cranes in River North. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

The "tiny homes" of the Beloved Community Village beneath towering construction cranes in River North. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver’s public works department is citing flood concerns in determining a plot at Taxi in Globeville isn’t suitable as the new host of a community of tiny houses that had lifted people out of homelessness.

Colorado Village Collaborative and other organizers and supporters of Beloved Community Village sent a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock and the City Council Thursday saying village residents could be homeless again with winter approaching and asking that city land be found for the project.  The collection of 11 tiny homes needs to move soon from its current plot near the 38th and Blake light-rail station because that is slated for the development of affordable housing.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to facilitate … when clearly this is something that the community desires,” said Cole Chandler, a Colorado Village Collaborative organizer.

In April, Colorado Village Collaborative first discussed with the city Zeppelin Development’s offer of space at its Taxi mixed-use campus. A lease with Zeppelin was signed in September,

Chandler said the tiny home team had first heard about flooding concerns at the Taxi site on Oct. 12 and had responded with a proposal involving floor heights, structural solutions and an evacuation plan. Village planners thought they were working toward a solution and were surprised when they were told last week that there was “no path to permitting with that site,” Chandler said. He added they were a week away from starting construction on a community house for the village.

Public Works spokeswoman Nancy Kuhn confirmed the concerns about flooding risks.

“The velocity of water, depth of water, and debris that could potentially flow through this site make it an unsuitable location for the tiny homes village and present significant property damage and life/safety concerns,” she wrote in an email, adding the mayor had directed the city to help Beloved Community find a new site and to explore whether the village could stay at 38th and Blake longer.

“The mayor is a strong supporter of the Beloved Community and is hopeful we can find a solution quickly,” Kuhn said. “Denver is looking with urgency at city-owned and privately-owned property for an alternative site.”

The mayor’s office issued a similar statement.

It’s the second setback for Beloved Community since July, when  the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission derailed plans to build a different tiny home village intended for women experiencing homelessness in the parking lot of the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church campus. The congregation had supported the proposal to host eight temporary homes and two support buildings.  But because the church is in a historic district — Clements, near downtown — the proposal required approval from Landmark, which found no historical precedent for it.

Thursday’s letter to the mayor and the council from Colorado Village Collaborative, Zeppelin Development and several major foundations and advocates for people in homelessness called for “a smooth permitting process for Beloved Community Village and the proposed Women’s Village to ensure both are open this winter.”

The Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver had studied the village at 38th and Blake and praised the impact it had on the employment prospects and health of its residents.  In Thursday’s letters, the village’s proponents said those successes should be scaled.

“From service providers to the newly released shelter plan from Denver’s Road Home, there is widespread agreement that both the current shelter infrastructure is inadequate and that there is insufficient affordable and attainable housing stock. We believe that stalling the expansion of tiny home villages runs counter to this administration’s equity platform and expressed support for innovative solutions to homelessness,” the letter said. Beloved Community Village “has proven that tiny home communities are a safe, timely, cost-effective solution that improve the lives of individuals experiencing homelessness and positively impact their surrounding neighborhood contexts.”

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, this story originally misidentified Taxi’s neighborhood. It’s in the Globeville neighborhood. The story has been updated.