By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– The City of Denver is helping to finance a new affordable housing project that’s located in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city.

“There would be many people as we started this process that said bringing affordable housing down into the Union Station area could not be done, but we are here to prove them wrong,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said at the project’s groundbreaking.

Ashley Union Station Apartments, located at Chestnut and 18th Street in LoDo, will have 107 apartments, with 75 them for low and moderate income households.

Ashley Union Station Apartments (credit: CBS)

Ashley Union Station Apartments (credit: CBS)

“This project is huge because we’re in the heart of downtown, in a place where most people don’t think they can afford to live, and in a very few short months, there are going to be almost 80 units available for people on very limited incomes,” said Hancock.

He’s made affordable housing a top priority, as Denver has become one of the fastest growing cities in the country. The city has added 100,000 new residents over the last decade and is expected to add another 100,000 over the next decade.

Demand has caused rent to rise at three times the national average. A one-bedroom apartment now runs about $1,500 a month.

“That clerk at Safeway and (King) Soopers will be able to afford housing here. The server over at the kitchen next door will be able to afford to live in this building. The person who drives the bus on that 16th Street Mall shuttle, that’s what this housing is about,” says Denver City Councilwoman Robin Kneich, who has been pushing for affordable housing downtown for more than a decade.

She says it’s a watershed moment for a city that values mixed income communities, “There aren’t some neighborhoods where affordable housing belongs. Affordable housing needs to be a part of all our neighborhoods.”

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at the groundbreaking of the Ashley Union Station Apartments (credit: CBS)

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at the groundbreaking of the Ashley Union Station Apartments (credit: CBS)

Councilman Albus Brooks represents the neighborhood and also played a key role in the project.

“We are getting an affordable housing project in one of the most expensive places in our city and if can do it here, we can do it all over the city.. we are bullish on affordable housing throughout this city,” says Brooks.

The four-story building is being developed by The Integral Group, which has been involved in affordable housing projects around the country. It will include one and two bedroom apartments as well as partially covered parking and ground level retail space.

The city says 34 apartments will be available to households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income (up to $43,200 for a family of three). Another 34 apartments will be offered to households earning 50 percent or less of the area median income and seven apartments will be for households at up to 30 percent of the area median income.

The apartment complex is expected to be finished in just over a year.

The City and County of Denver provided $2.3 million in financing from the General Fund, as well as a $950,000 loan from the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance special revenue fund, for the development.

Denver Housing Authority provided $2.75 million to support land acquisition and is also providing a 70-year ground lease to The Integral Group. Other financing came from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, the Colorado Division of Housing, and Enterprise Community Partners.

Ashley Union Station is one of 12 affordable housing projects in the city either under construction or in the planning phase that will add 1,240 affordable rental units in the city.
Hancock says, “A new community is literally rising in the Central Platte Valley, and we’re proud to say that hard-working families can access urban living within steps of our major transit hub, benefiting from connections to the entire metro area.”

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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