Converting Adams County office is a unique housing opportunity

Cross Currents: A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 4/17/19

Re-purposing existing buildings seems to be happening more often these days. Most reuse examples are either changing retail to office, office to multi-family residential or multi-family residential …

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Converting Adams County office is a unique housing opportunity


Re-purposing existing buildings seems to be happening more often these days. Most reuse examples are either changing retail to office, office to multi-family residential or multi-family residential to office.

But I want to put the spotlight on a recent re-purposing project that has unique aspects to it: The governmental office building located at 7401 Broadway, owned by the Adams County government, is converting to become affordable apartment units.

Unison Housing Partners (formerly known as the Adams County Housing Authority), will reuse the building to create 116 affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families in need.

But there is even more good news in this synergistic endeavor.

County building contribution is a trendsetter

The 46,000 square foot office building previously housed the Child and Family Services Center under the auspices of the Board of Adams County Commissioners.

One of the unique aspects of the agreement to re-purpose the building to affordable housing units is that this is the first-ever donation of land and building by the county for affordable housing. That is a wonderful trend-setting action by the county and hopefully other counties and cities will see the benefits of such a decision and follow in Adams County’s footsteps.

As Unison Housing Partners Executive Director Peter LiFari told me, “this decision gives honor to what happened here before.” Foster children who visited the building for their appointments and classes before will now have the opportunity to reside at an apartment complex with a strong support system to help them become self-reliant.

Opportunities for aging-out foster youth

The most inspirational element of the agreement and plans for the apartment units is that up to 12 of the 116 apartments units will be designated for young adults who are aging-out of foster care. These housing opportunities will provide a safe and quality environment for youth who are 18 years old or older.

Too often, youth who have been in foster care and age-out, struggle with lack of supervision, finding a job, securing housing and staying on the right side of the law.

As LiFari pointed out, “It’s tragic the number of youth who end up incarcerated who have aged-out.”

I saw the same trend when I served on the CASA of Adams and Broomfield Counties Board of Directors. After the youth turned 18-years-old, they were on their own both from the stand point of no longer being under foster care supervision by adults as well as no longer having the benefits and support of their Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). It’s a vulnerable point in the youth’s life.

By having a safe housing environment, it definitely is a leg up for these young people. Hopefully, other non-profit and public housing authorities will follow this beneficial approach.

Adding to work force housing opportunities

The focus on the affordable units will target households who earn between 30 percent and 70 percent of average median income in the area. Basically, people who are in the work force population will be the beneficiaries of residing at this new residential complex.

Unison will be applying for four percent federal and state tax credits through the Colorado Housing Finance Authority as part of their financing package. The construction and furnishings are estimated to cost $25.2 million.

LiFari indicated that the construction will take approximately 15 months and will be ready for occupancy in late 2020-early 2021.

So, I’m offering high fives all the way around to the Board of Adams County Commissioners and the Unison Housing Partners Board of Directors and Staff for having the vision and commitment to produce additional affordable housing via this unique partnership. You are trendsetters and we thank you for doing this.

Detailed drought plan unveiled

Westminster City Council took initial action at its April 8 meeting to update the existing Drought Management Plan, should drought conditions occur. The plan — which was initially put in place in conjunction with the 2002 drought — calls for a more detailed phased plan should dry conditions extend and water usage becomes more critical.

Given the uncertainty of Colorado weather and how much snowpack is realized each year in the high country, the city’s plan is good preparation if and when a drought event takes place. Good planning is hard to beat.

Final action on the adopting ordinance and adoption of the updated detailed plan is scheduled for April 22nd.

Developer moving ahead on Pillar Of Fire land

I previously mentioned that a developer was working with Westminster staff on his vision for development of the Pillar of Fire property — without the castle parcel.

Generally, the lot in question is the undeveloped land between Lowell and Federal Boulevards and from 84th to 88th Avenues.

Well, things seem to be moving along in the development process. Oread Capital is the interested party which has the property under contract to purchase.

As I write this column, an open house had been scheduled for April 10 at Shaw Heights Middle School - but was postponed because of the storm.

According to a flyer circulated by the developer, they will be unveiling the overview of the site, discuss the community vision, detail neighborhood outreach and describe our inclusive planning process.

Proposed residential densities will be a key factor

The Pillar of Fire property is one of two of the largest remaining undeveloped properties in the City of Westminster. Its strategic location and outstanding view planes offer an exciting development opportunity to the development community.

A previous ill-fated attempt by a different developer numerous years ago brought the neighborhood out in force to oppose the development.

The previous price for the land was $40 million which caused the developer to seek approval for higher residential densities than what the neighborhood and city council thought were compatible. It will be interesting to see how this new development plan might fit with the neighbors’ opinions and the city’s long-range plans.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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