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West End 38 Breaks Ground in Wheat Ridge

Colorado Real Estate Journal by John Rebchook

West End 38 recently broke ground on a key corner in Wheat Ridge. West End 38 also is a groundbreaking development in Wheat Ridge.

“This is the first new market-rate, mixed-use project of any size in Wheat Ridge since the early 1990s,” said Tyler Downs, a principal of Denver-based Wazee Partners, the developer of the $40 million project West End 38.

The four-story, $40 million development is being built on 2.8 acres at the northwest corner of West 38thAvenue and Upham Street.

West End 38 will include 7,269 square feet of ground-floor retail and 165 market-rate apartments. It is being designed by Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects and built by Shaw Construction.

The $40 million West End 38 is being developed by Wazee Partners and was designed by Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects.

“We chose Shears Adkins Rockmore because they have done a great job on many urban, infill apartment buildings in the area and we really like their work,” Downs said.

Andy Rockmore, a principal of his namesake architectural firm, said on Tuesday he is “very proud” that his firm is designing such a crucial development for Wheat Ridge.

“I believe this is the first mixed-use, multifamily building in Wheat Ridge and is very similar to the Roosevelt Park Apartments that we designed in Longmont,” Rockmore said.

“West End 38 also is the first project in Wheat Ridge with structured parking, so there are a lot of firsts with it,” Rockmore said. “I really hope it is going to catalyze a lot of great future developments along 38th, which desperately needs the activity.”

West End 38 will sit “a little bit off 38th Avenue to give it some breathing room,” Rockmore said. The use of masonry and steel detailing on the exterior “fits in well with the industrial nature of both Denver and Wheat Ridge,” Rockmore said. “This is a building that fits in, rather than stands out.” And while some elements of the building will reference historic buildings in the area, “Clearly, this is a contemporary building that reflects the time in which it is being built. It all is a balancing act with no one focus having more emphasis than another.”

Wheat Ridge needs a development like West End 38, according to Downs.

“Between Sheridan and Wadsworth (boulevards), the last new retail built was a 7-Eleven, and that was a build-to-suit,” said Downs, who owns Wazee Partners with his father, Chris Downs.

Prior to 2010, it was difficult to make a true urban infill development pencil out in Wheat Ridge, Tyler explained. In 2010, specific parcels were rezoned following a public referendum, he said.

“There was a height and density limit in Wheat Ridge’s charter,” Downs said. That limited developments to a maximum of three stories and 21 units per acre.

“That made it very difficult to do a project of any scale,” Downs said. “If you wanted to do 60 units, you needed about 3 acres.”

Chris and Tyler Downs are not strangers to the area.

Wazee Partners took advantage of the new rezoning a few years ago when it developed a senior living center six blocks to the north on West 44thAvenue and Upham Street.

The timing of West End 38 couldn’t be better, according to Tyler.

West End 38 is being built at West 38th Avenue and Upham Street, an urban renewal area in Wheat Ridge.

“We see the path of growth really moving out of the West Highland and Berkeley neighborhoods, heading west on 38thAvenue,” Downs said.

He expects the apartments to lease for just under $2 per sf. Apartment units at West End 38 will range in size from 565 to 1,416 square feet.

That’s far less than a renter would pay for new units along West 38th in West Highland or along Tennyson Street in Berkeley.

“Our whole point is that if you drive three more minutes to the west in your car, we will save you $300 a month in rent” when the West End 38 units open in fall 2019, Downs said.

The project will have the first structured parking facility in Wheat Ridge. There will be a total of 255 on-site parking spaces, including 25 surface spaces and 230 garage spaces. Each of the 165 apartments will have one parking space included in the rent.

Downs is a big fan of Wheat Ridge, especially West 38th, which is becoming the de facto Main Street of the city.

“We really like the proximity of Wheat Ridge to both downtown (Denver) neighborhoods like West Highland and Berkeley, major employment centers and the mountains,” Downs said.

“It’s sort of the midpoint between your career and recreation.”

He said the city and Renewal Wheat Ridge, the urban renewal authority for the city, have been wonderful partners and a pleasure to work with.

“We are getting about $4 million tax increment financing for West End 38,” Downs said. “Without the TIF, we couldn’t do this project. The city and Renewal Wheat Ridge see West End 38 as a real catalyst that will jump-start other urban, infill developments in the area.”

Wheat Ridge is the “midpoint between your career and recreation,” said Downs.

The one thing Downs doesn’t know is what kind of lease rates the retail space will command.

“There really are no comparablesbecause nothing like this has been built for 30 years in Wheat Ridge,” he said.

However, he knows what kind of tenants he would like to see land in the space.

“We’ve designed the space so it can accommodate two restaurants,” although it can also be subdivided into three spaces, he said.

“If I could get a fun, hip restaurant run by some up-and-coming chef and a local coffee/ice-cream shop in the other space, I will have done everything I have wanted with the space.”

He just hired Courtney Dahlberg Keys of SullivanHayes Brokerage to lease the space.

“Courtney is just starting to market the space, so we will see what kind of response she gets,” Downs said.

West End 38 is being built to the National Green Building Standard sustainable and energy-efficiency standards. For example, it will be wired for solar and may include solar panels. If they can’t afford solar panels when it first opens, they can be added later.

Denver-based Hunt Mortgage Group recently provided a  $36.55 million FHA mortgage to finance the construction of West End 38.

“This mixed-use project is expected to be a catalyst for further redevelopment along the 38th Avenue corridor and will serve as the anchor project for Main Street in Wheat Ridge,” said Stephen Wessler, director-FHA Originations in the Affordable Housing Group at Hunt Mortgage Group.

Hunt Mortgage also is comfortable making the loan given the experience of Wazee Partners, which has developed properties in the Western mountain region, as well as acquiring and renovating existing properties.

“They have extensive knowledge and experience and have developed or acquired over 800 units across 11 projects during the past eight years,” Wessler said

“We were pleased to partner with them on this deal to help revitalize the local area and provide quality housing to local residents,” he added.

Amenities at West End 38 will include secured access entries, a community room, business center, a swimming pool, spa/jacuzzi, cyber café, fitness center, yoga room, barbecue/outdoor kitchen area, bicycle storage and repair area, dog wash and additional storage lockers.

West End 38 Apartments will consist of 22 studio, one-bathroom units; 100 one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments; and 43 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units.

Wessler shares Downs’ take and enthusiasm on the groundbreaking nature of West End 38.

“West End 38 Apartments will be the first truly integrated mixed-use project in the city of Wheat Ridge that will provide market-rate housing for the working professional and families, along with commercial retail space,” Wessler said.