The idea was simple: a Colorado homeless advocacy group wanted to transform a vacant 59-acre site into a complex with up to 600 units for people who are homeless.
As proposed by the Denver-based Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, the project would go up in Lakewood, 7 miles to the southwest of Denver, and would see the $120 million construction of five U-shaped buildings, all four stories in height.
Perhaps the easiest part of the project, or so it was thought, was acquiring the land needed for its construction: a 59-acre site inside the large Federal Center, a more than 600-acre section of Lakewood called home by more than two dozen federal agencies and managed by the General Services Administration.
The 59 acres, said the CCH, could be acquired through the 1987 McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, requiring that unused federal property must first be considered for homeless housing before being sold on the open market.
Last year, the CCH officially proposed a two-phase project for the site, with the first phase seeing the putting up of around 250 temporary structures, and the second phase calling for the actual construction of the facility.
Because of the proposed size of the CCH project, which could eventually provide housing for up to 1,000 people, area residents, expressing concerns about possible violence and drug issues, launched a campaign to stop it, some saying the idea resembled the worst of 1960s public housing.
But the project’s biggest challenge has come with a decision by U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge William Martinez allowing for the land, over the CCH’s objection, to be put up for auction by the federal government.
That auction is currently ongoing. It has been suggested that the successful bidder could turn the site into a mixed retail and residential project.
CCH, meanwhile, may still continue its efforts to build in the Federal Center by appealing Martinez’s ruling.
In May, the group, which was launched in Denver in 1984, unveiled its Renaissance Downtown Lofts, a project seeing the construction of just over 100 units on a half-acre site in Denver.
By Garry Boulard
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