Some Elyria-Swansea residents aren’t quite ready for 700 homes and a performance space near 40th and York

3 min. read
2535 E. 40th Ave. Feb. 26, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Some people want a developer to delay plans for a mini-district that would bring about 700 homes, a revamped arts space and stores to a 14-acre site in Elyria-Swansea.

Iselo 40th Avenue LLC, the property owner, has asked the Denver City Council to allow townhouses, apartments, retail and a performing arts area at 40th Avenue and Clayton Street, a corner long occupied by industrial buildings. A public hearing and a vote on allowable construction is scheduled for April 8, but some say that's too soon.

The developer and the city notified local neighborhood groups and nearby residents as early as last fall, Nola Miguel, head of the Globeville Elyria-Swansea Coalition, said.

Copies of the emails shared with Denverite contained technical zoning-speak and did not specify the likely number of homes or the degree of change that residents might see. They did, however, contain contact information for a point person at the city, as well as specifics about public meetings where the change would be discussed.

Alma Urbano, who lives nearby and works for the advocacy group Project VOYCE, said the notices slipped through the cracks in a neighborhood facing a lot of development. She's not asking the city to halt the project, but wants the developer to sign an agreement outlining affordable housing quotas and other concessions before proceeding.

"It feels rushed, but it also seems like they don't want a community agreement," Urbano said. "That's how it feels for the community members."

There very well could be an agreement that guarantees homes on the property for people who aren't rich, said City Councilman Albus Brooks, who represents the area. Denver's planning and economic development offices are developing a proposal that would make 100 homes affordable to households making 60 percent of the area median income -- about $42,000 a year for a two-person home. The agreement would ensure more open space than legally necessary, he added.

Brooks' role is quasi-judicial, so he's not allowed to support or oppose the rezoning before April's vote. But he said a delay "is a possibility."

"It's coming down to the eleventh hour," Brooks said. "My hope is that we get that (housing and open space agreement) in for the public hearing."

After reading about the project in Denverite, five neighborhood groups and 24 people signed a letter to the Council asking for a delay on the vote.

The development "will have a huge impact to neighbors, and should be discussed at length in the community for what it is," the letter states, "a transformative project that will have a widespread impact on Swansea and the people who live here."

Residents have not received a response, Urbano said. The developer's representative, Bruce O'Donnell, met with residents last week, according to Urbano, but wants to move forward with the April 8 vote.

O'Donnell, did not return multiple phone calls.

City planners say the general idea aligns with the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood's 2015 plan for growth. Concentrating homes, businesses and other destinations near transit -- the property is a 20-minute walk and six-minute bike ride to the 40th and Colorado RTD station -- is another city goal supported by the rezoning.

The property is home to the dance company Wonderbound, which would remain through the changes.

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