More than 200 affordable housing units in seven buildings could be coming to an empty lot in the Athmar Park neighborhood.
While the project at 728 S. Lipan St. is still in the design phase, the construction of multiple three-story apartment buildings would be a big departure from the rest of the neighborhood, which is overwhelmingly made up of single-family homes.
There’s fun stuff in the proposed design. According to a spokesperson from the city’s planning department, the building is influenced by the “barn from a historic on‐site celery farm” that’s still on the property today.
Parking spaces in the development will be provided at the street level and in tuck-under garages, although there could be fewer spots than units. This is intentional; the city is working with the state to reduce the parking requirements for these affordable housing units. Other parking requirements have almost cost Denver some badly-needed affordable housing in the past.
The most recent design concepts were submitted by KTGY, an architectural firm currently designing the Central Park Station area in Stapleton. They are working with St. Charles Town Co., the Denver developer behind projects like revitalizing the Lowenstein Theater and building the Del Corazon affordable housing apartments in Westwood.
The South Lipan property was originally bought in 2014 by a property management firm for more than $2 million, but interested developers didn’t start submitting design concepts until last year.
However, the development design can’t address all of the community’s problems.
According to Ken Knoblock, president of the Athmar Park Neighborhood Association (APNA), the fact that no streets cross from Lipan over the train tracks to the Platte River has been an issue bothering residents for more than a decade. As it stands now, the train tracks create an almost 10-block stretch without a connection to riverside businesses across from Lipan.
While the new development plans would create a new street to bisect the property, it would still be cut off by the rail lines. Building a road to cross them would take a collaborative effort between the city, the railroads and possibly the developer, too.
Knoblock of APNA said the developer’s outreach process was lacking in the beginning. APNA had recently created a neighborhood development committee to communicate things like zoning changes to residents, but said coordination between the committee and developer wasn’t great.
“We kind of ran into having last-minute, scheduled meetings, which didn’t give us time to invite people,” Knoblock said. “There were quite a few people that were upset that showed up to our first meeting and expressed concerns… It was a little tricky, because we didn’t have translation at that meeting, and a lot of the people were Spanish-speakers.”
The latest St. Charles Town Co. community meeting was in January 2021 and included translation services. The plans are still concepts, and once the final site development plan is submitted, the city will have the final say in reviewing and approval.