By Katie Rapone
The continuously developing South Broadway/Baker neighborhood in Denver is thriving but like in other parts of the city, a lack of affordable housing is forcing much of the areas workforce to commute far distances. Zocalo Community Development, a Denver-based, next-generation real estate company that joins social purpose with profitability, has a unique solution to the problem. The developer has unveiled plans to redevelop the designated historic building located at 101 Broadway, into 105 affordable studio and one bedroom apartments.
Located at the intersection of 1st and Broadway, this project will be an historic renovation of the neoclassically inspired four-story building, built by the Flemming Brothers in 1906. Originally the First Avenue Hotel, this beautiful property was recently established as an historical landmark and was once known as Denver’s tallest building, south of downtown.
“We are truly stewards of history with this building. To go from a single occupancy hotel more than 100 years ago, to affordable workforce housing using the 4 percent tax credit, is beautiful affordable housing poetry,” says David Zucker, LEED AP, principal and CEO for Zocalo. “We estimate that in a half-mile radius there are currently 5000 employees that qualify to rent in this building, and so the goal is to create opportunities for those with lower incomes who serve this community, but don’t earn enough to live in the community.”
JG Architects, Inc., a Denver-based architectural firm, specializing in multi-family homes is the architect for the project.
According to Zucker, studio apartments will rent for $880 and one bedrooms will rent for $940, and promise to be among some of the most unique affordable housing units in the city. “Given all of the historic characteristics and the contributing fiber of the building, these will be among the coolest affordable units since John Hickenlooper and Joyce Meskis did the affordable units over the Tattered Cover book store,“ exclaims Zucker.
Below the affordable units there will also be three to four commercial spaces on the first floor. With the exception of The Grove in Stapleton, all of Zocalo’s buildings have held a retail component that bring a community gathering space to the neighborhood. Zocalo’s mission is to create communities both vertically and horizontally, engaging the neighborhood to create a community for all. The retail and restaurant spaces will be available for lease starting early 2019.
“We don’t know who the tenant will be but Zocalo is particularly interested in finding a restaurant that fits the fabric of the neighborhood — we have to be careful about noise because our residents will truly be 12 inches away from the restaurant space and so it will be a business that’s tame and respectful.”
Zocalo is working with commercial broker Marc Feder, owner of Feder Commercial Realty Advisors – a known specialist in the urban mixed use retail/restaurant concept.
“We are looking to activate the area with a mix of restaurants that can service the building as well as the neighborhood, bringing both communities together. With the character and history of the building we are excited to turn this landmark into a social center for the Baker neighborhood,” says Feder.
As evidence of Zocalo’s commitment to affordable housing, the firm has rejected some less than favorable feedback from restaurant owners, concerned about being a tenant in an affordable building. “If you can’t see the need then I don’t want that attitude in our building, it’s important to me principally as well as professionally and we are going to manage it just as carefully and as thoughtfully as any of our other properties,” says Zucker.
In fact, David Zucker served as chair on the Colorado State Housing Board for eight years and interestingly he found that the delinquency rate of an affordable resident is about a third of that of a market rate resident. “They are great tenants, we don’t have problems because residents understand that affordable units are a precious resource and how truly scarce they are.”
Zocalo is also the first to develop a LEED®-certified project in the Denver metropolitan market with Riverclay Condominiums in 2008. Today, they are nationally recognized as a leader in sustainable development, known for creating spaces where people connect and flourish. But LEED comes at a cost and according to Zucker it is becoming increasingly difficult to attain, and for this particular project, it was something the company struggled with. The decision meant choosing the greater of two virtues; to deliver affordable units or to deliver on LEED.
“Zocalo is always focused on carbon reduction and so we are not going to skip any steps on creating greater energy efficiency and high levels of sustainability but in this case the additional costs of certification just didn’t make sense.”
101 Broadway is Zocalo’s first project in the SoBo/Baker neighborhood and is also the developer’s first historic rebuild. All of Zocalo’s previous developments have been new construction, all very different in the case of location and demographic.
Zocalo has developed two buildings in Ballpark — both market rate LEED Gold Certified, as well as Cadence — the first multifamily building to be developed in the Union Station neighborhood. When Cadence sold, it broke the current record for multifamily building sales and is LEED Gold Certified. Zocalo is also responsible for The Grove at Stapleton, a 55+ Senior Living community and Coda in Cherry Creek, which are both LEED Gold Certified. Zocalo is currently under construction on Vita Littleton, a 55+ Senior living community, opening Spring 2018.
Renderings courtesy of JG Architects, Inc.