Colorado Real Estate Journal by John Rebchook
Denver-based Wazee Partners recently broke ground on an 88-unit, $12 million, age-restricted apartment community in Wheat Ridge. The four-story building is scheduled to open this fall near West 44th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard as an anchor in the Wheat Ridge Town Center, an urban redevelopment authority project.
Tyler Downs, principal of Wazee Partners, said the Wheat Ridge Town Center Apartment community is the right project, at the right location, at the right time.
“First, we really like Wheat Ridge,” Downs said. “We like that it is an established community close to Denver, but its own market. It is a suburban infill site in a close-in location. We really like the stability of Wheat Ridge.”
One must be at least 62 years old and meet income requirements to rent in the project. “This is one of the first new affordable apartment communities ever built in Wheat Ridge,” Downs said. “It’s probably been 15 years or more since Wheat Ridge has had an age-restricted apartment community built. This is really well-positioned.”
Wazee paid $885,000 to Renewal Wheat Ridge, the urban renewal authority for the city of Wheat Ridge.
“We have a waiting list already,” Downs said. “Not in excess of the number of units, but we have a lot of people who already have put their name on a list who are interested in living there. And 95 percent of them are from Wheat Ridge. It is a mix. Some are in homes and some are in apartments that are not age-restricted that do not have the kind of amenities we will be offering.”
Amenities on site will include a library, craft room, bistro (which Downs said is really a coffee bar), a large community room, card room and an exercise room.
“It’s also is a very walkable area to nearby restaurants and stores,” he said. “And while we do not provide health-care services, we will have transportation to nearby hospitals and doctor offices.”
Key to the development is that it is in an urban renewal district.
“This deal could not have happened if it were not in an urban renewal district,” Downs said. “It is going to be a great urban infill, mixed-use site and we are providing the multifamily portion of it. Without the city and Renewal Wheat Ridge, this project could not be possible.”
The entire Wheat Ridge Town Center covers eight acres.
“This is really in the heart of our city,” said Rick Adams, chairman of Renewal Wheat Ridge. “It’s a very walkable area, it’s on the RTD bus line, and because of the demographics we believed that developers would be attracted to it because of its location. We thought that the age-restricted housing was a good fit for the first phase and could result in a catalyst for future development. We still have about six acres for sale.”
Weston Solutions Inc., an environmental, redevelopment and construction firm, is the master developer, he said.
Weston has been working closely with both the city of Wheat Ridge and Renewal Wheat Ridge since 2009 to provide surveying, conceptual planning services (including subdivision, streets, infrastructure, landscaping, and utility plans), and economic feasibility studies to tee up the site for redevelopment.
The project’s location is a former brownfield site, and the since last spring Weston has provided remediation, green deconstruction, and demolition services to remove the original older buildings and a parking lot, which were plagued with asbestos and contamination from underground storage tanks. Weston also is installing utilities, new public roads and sidewalks, landscaping and lighting, as well as a detention basin to reduce storm water runoff and improve water quality.
“This public-private partnership is helping to revitalize the city of Wheat Ridge, and we’re excited to be a part of the redevelopment,” John Reinsma, Weston Development manager, said in a statement. “In the current economy, you need to partner with like-minded organizations that are willing to take on complex projects and find innovative ways to make them work for the people in your community. That’s what we’ve found with the city of Wheat Ridge, Renewal Wheat Ridge, and Wazee Partners and that’s what they’ve found in us. You need to be willing to share the risks and the rewards. And when you do, great things happen.”
The property had been blighted for years with dilapidated structures and nonconforming uses. In 2010 the city placed a mixed-use overlay zoning designation on the property and began planning for its development.
“While we knew we were taking a risk purchasing and consolidating the three properties, the consequence of doing nothing would be many more years of vacant land and underdeveloped properties in the heart of our city,” said Adams. “Our strong feeling is this project will kick-start development along Wadsworth Boulevard and 44th Avenue that hopefully continues throughout the corridor. This project precisely fits the Renewal Wheat Ridge mission to make the city a better place to live and work. While the project has faced many challenges for our board, we’ve been extremely pleased with the professionalism and ability of Weston to bring us the project we’re marketing today. We look forward to the day when the entire site is completed with the apartments and other retail and office uses.”