Homes meant to keep north Denver affordable arrived by crane

Duplexes built in a modular factory in Nebraska were trucked to north Denver.
4 min. read
A piece of a modular housing unit arrives to a project on land provided by the Colorado Community Land Trust in Elyria Swansea. Aug. 12, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Vonda Molock had to work, so she sent her mother to take photos of the home she plans to buy in Swansea.

The home arrived by crane.

Molock is in line to buy a duplex that was built in a modular factory in Nebraska, trucked to north Denver and dropped into place by crane Wednesday morning.

The gray structure arrived in four parts complete with appliances, kitchen cabinets and counters and even toilets. It is destined to be among the first homes that are part of a land trust organized by the grassroots Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Coalition to ensure families that have roots in those neighborhoods are able to stay as they change.

Roberta Molock grew up in Globeville and raised Vonda in the neighborhood.

"I didn't want her to move away from me too far," Roberta said.

Developer Adam Berger stands inside a modular housing unit he designed that's being installed on land provided by the Colorado Community Land Trust in Elyria Swansea. Aug. 12, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Nola Miguel, of the GES Coalition, embraces Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca as a modular housing project goes up on land provided by the Colorado Community Land Trust in Elyria-Swansea. Aug. 12, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The land under a trust home is owned communally, so buyers only have to come up with the price of the structure. For the project in north Denver, modular construction allowed more costs to be trimmed. The three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath, 1,765-square-foot duplex that Vonda plans to buy lists at $180,000. Buyers can earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income, currently $54,950 for a single person such as Vonda , who works at a pharmacy.

Vonda is first on the list of pre-approved buyers for the two duplexes set in place Wednesday and two more that will be placed nearby. The sale will be final after she gets a chance to see the home herself.

Her mother wasn't the only person taking photos on Wednesday. The site of a crane setting four modules into place to create two new homes drew a knot of neighbors, among them Joe L. Mares Sr., Vonda's potential next-door neighbor.

Mares bought his home 57 years ago for $10,000.

"I was here when they built that bridge," Mares said, gesturing down the street toward the Interstate 70 viaduct that will soon be demolished as part of a highway renovation. The highway project and major upgrades planned for Elyria-Swansea's National Western Complex already are attracting the kind of investor interest that leads to higher housing costs and displacement of longtime residents.

"I love my area," Mares said. "I've watched the neighborhood advance and deteriorate. And now it's advancing again."

Joe L. Mares Sr. takes photos as part of a modular home is lifted over his house on A ug. 12, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Mares said the home that once sat next door had been neglected after his longtime neighbors died. The home was demolished for the duplexes. Mares, a retired state corrections department employee, said he's put $100,000 into his home, making improvements that included adding a basement and a three-car garage.

Adam Berger, whose development company worked with the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea Coalition team to bring the modular duplexes he designed into the trust, showed Mares around the site Wednesday. Berger said the homes would be ready for their residents after a few weeks of landscaping and interior detailing. The new homes, Berger told Mares, would be "not quite as nice as yours."

"It's still beautiful," Mares assured the developer.

Correction: This article was updated to correct an error by the reporter. This version corrects the neighborhood where the new duplexes are located to Swansea.

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