Neighbors stall homebuilders’ bid to add 700 homes in Elyria-Swansea

They want more inclusion and no displacement.

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

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

staff photos

A coalition of Elyria-Swansea neighbors dug in Monday to stall — not stop — development with 700 homes from moving forward without a set of pledges they said would shield them from displacement and include them in the space’s benefits.

And they got what they asked for after a five-hour City Council meeting: One month to iron out an agreement with the developer under the eyes of an independent mediator.

The 14-acre project at 40th Avenue and Clayton Street requires new building parameters — only industrial stuff is allowed there now — and the Denver City Council was scheduled to vote on the changes at Monday’s legislative meeting. The council opted to move the vote to May 6 after residents and council members questioned whether the developer was proactive enough with alerting neighbors and if the Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood Plan supports that much development in the first place.

“I’m telling you right now that I don’t know how you got this far because this plan does not support 700 units of housing,” City Councilman Rafael Espinoza said to Bruce O’Donnell, who represents homebuilders Tom and Brooke Gordon.

The vision calls for more intensive industrial uses that provide jobs for locals, but it also aims to “encourage investment in new housing to expand the total number of residences and to provide for a diversity of housing types.”

The Gordons’s company, Iselo 40th Avenue LLC, signed an agreement with the city government to guarantee at least 70 homes reserved for people who aren’t rich. A three-person household making about $48,000 or less would qualify. The developer verbally committed to about 3 acres of public parks and “open space” as well, architect Bill Moore said.

The Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Coalition for Health and Housing Justice welcomes the concept of the project, which would be anchored by the Wonderbound dance studio, a new performance space and an estimated 25,000 square feet of retail. But they worry that sudden private investment in the low-income and mostly Latino area will raise property values and price people out.

“We are not against this development, we are all for the development, because we like nice things in our neighborhood,” said  Maria De Luna Jiminez, a coalition member. “We encourage new people. But with all the development, we want the benefit as well.”

The GES Coalition did not get the guarantees from Isleo that they asked for before Monday’s vote, including an “anti-displacement action plan” and a written agreement that laid out benefits to current residents, like offering new units to locals first. But they’ll go after those in the coming month.

“This is much closer than this hearing alluded to,” said City Councilman Albus Brooks, who reps the district. “I believe we’re really close to an agreement.”

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