Denver City Council on Monday unanimously approved issuing $10 million in bonds to pay for renovations to one of its next door neighbor: The Forum Apartments complex, which provides housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The 100-unit tower on the intersection of 14th Avenue and Cherokee Street is directly across the City and County Building, where the Denver City Council meets. The units are essentially studio apartments meant for one person.
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless President and CEO John Parvensky calls Forum Apartments the first permanent supportive housing complex in the city for people experiencing homelessness.
The Coalition has owned the building since 1995, after it struck a deal with then-Mayor Wellington Webb to buy the property for $10, with the understanding it would be used to house the city’s most vulnerable residents. The building used to house the University of Denver’s law school.
It opened in 1996 after some renovation work.
“It’s been a tremendous resource for getting people off the streets for 25 years,” Parvensky said, adding, “(Residents) love the ability to be there downtown at the edge of Civic Center Park.”
The time has now come for more upgrades, which is what the money approved on Monday will pay for. Parvensky said the building needs to replace its heating and cooling system, replace furnishings in the units and improving community spaces in the building. Parvensky said the upgrades will change how the building looks.
He said when renovations begin, people living there will be moved temporarily to motels. He said plans call for renovating one floor at a time to minimize impact on its residents.
Denver City Council on Monday also approved extending the affordability for the complex by 60 years. It means the units will continue to be available only for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, so $44,016 or less a year for one person. Parvensky said the average person living there now makes closer to 13 percent of the area median income. Many residents rely primarily on state or federal aid, and many live with disabilities.
The council’s decision allows the city to issue $10 million in what are called private activity bonds to pay for the renovations. So the $10 million isn’t coming directly from the city’s own coffers; instead, it’s a type of borrowed money that is tax-exempt and must be used for a public project, according to Department of Finance spokesperson Julie Smith.
The developer renovating the building is responsible for paying the costs associated with the loan, not the city. But since this kind of bond issuance means the city enters in an agreement to provide the funding, it has to be approved by City Council.