$30M grant will help re­vi­tal­ize Sun Val­ley

A long­time strug­gling Den­ver neigh­bor­hood near the Bron­cos’ sta­dium gets some game-chang­ing aid

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Vac­carelli

A $30 mil­lion grant from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will help Sun Val­ley, Den­ver’s poor­est neigh­bor­hood, be­come the city’s next great place to live and spur mas­sive in­vest­ment in hous­ing, re­tail and jobs, city of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

“To­day be­gins the jour­ney to cel­e­brate the next great neigh­bor­hood of Den­ver,” Mayor Michael Han­cock said as the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment of­fi­cially an­nounced the largest grant the Den­ver Hous­ing Author­ity has ever re­ceived. It was one of five Choice Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive Grants handed out na­tion­wide Mon­day.

The money will be used to build 750 units of city-owned af­ford­able mixed-in­come hous­ing, an ed­u­ca­tion hub, new parks, new com­mer­cial space for small busi­nesses and an in­ter­na­tional, healthy-food mar­ket to meet the tastes of the neigh­bor­hood’s eth­ni­cally di­verse pop­u­la­tion.

“It’s only go­ing to get bet­ter from here, and we’re not go­ing to be looked down on any­more and tucked away by the river. Peo­ple are go­ing to want to come here,” said Lisa Saenz, who has lived in the neigh­bor­hood since 2010 and is the Sun Val­ley Lo­cal Res­i­dent Coun­cil pres­i­dent. “It’s a big space, and it’s go­ing to be looked at in a pos­i­tive way. It’s go­ing to start over, but in a good way.”

Den­ver Hous­ing Author­ity ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Is­mael Guer­rero said the agency ex­pects the grant to spur more than $500 mil­lion in de­vel­op­ment as the den­sity of Sun Val­ley triples in the next decade and the 80-acre neigh­bor­hood is re­con­nected to the rest of the city by re­con­fig­ured streets and with des­ti­na­tions that make it an ap­peal­ing place to live and visit.

Sun Val­ley is served by the De­catur/Fed­eral rail sta­tion on RTD’s West Line. But the neigh­bor­hood is cut off from most of Den­ver by bar­ri­ers in­clud­ing the West Col­fax Av­enue fly­over, the South Platte River and the sea of park­ing lots at Sports Author­ity Field at Mile High.

There are few, if any, re­tail­ers in the neigh­bor-


About 83 per­cent of Sun Val­ley’s res­i­dents live be­low the poverty line, and 85 per­cent of chil­dren live with a sin­gle par­ent. The neigh­bor­hood also is rich with im­mi­grant fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als from places such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Viet­nam and through­out Latin Amer­ica.

The hous­ing author­ity cre­ated a Sun Val­ley EcoDistrict, a non­profit sub­sidiary to act as master de­vel­oper. Ini­tial plans call for the con­struc­tion of an­other 1,150 units of hous­ing and South Platte River im­prove­ments to bet­ter in­te­grate the neigh­bor­hood and stream­front. So­lar and geo­ther­mal en­ergy will be used to power the neigh­bor­hood.

Much of the work will fo­cus on im­prov­ing life for the chil­dren in the com­mu­nity, in which 55 per­cent of the res­i­dents are un­der age 18. The cre­ation of a 31,000square-foot Youth Hub next to Fairview Ele­men­tary School is a key el­e­ment, pro­vid­ing kids a place to go af­ter school and of­fer­ing “cra­dle to ca­reer” ser­vices.

“This is a com­mu­nity that has fought for gen­er­a­tions to cre­ate the best op­por­tu­nity for their kids. Now I think they are go­ing to have that op­por­tu­nity,” U.S. Sen. Michael Ben­nett said Mon­day. He and Sen. Cory Gard­ner helped shep­herd the grant, as did U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette.

The 333 units of hous­ing in the Sun Val­ley Homes project will be re­built but in­te­grated with the mar­ket-rate and work­force hous­ing. This is sim­i­lar to the way the La Alma/Lin­coln Park neigh­bor­hood, near the 10th and Osage rail sta­tion, was re­de­vel­oped.

Con­struc­tion could be­gin in mid- to late 2017. The hous­ing author­ity will al­low cur­rent Sun Val­ley Homes res­i­dents to move into new pub­lic hous­ing be­fore de­mol­ish­ing any ex­ist­ing units, or pro­vide a voucher to move to a dif­fer­ent neigh­bor­hood.

The most re­cent round of in­vest­ment in the neigh­bor­hood dates to 2013, when the city did the De­catur Fed­eral Sta­tion Area Plan to co­in­cide with the com­ing rail stop.

The plan mapped out re­de­vel­op­ment op­tions for the neigh­bor­hood, in­clud­ing an en­ter­tain­ment district at the south side of the Den­ver Bron­cos’ sta­dium.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Foot­ball Sta­dium District di­rec­tor Matt Sugar said both the Bron­cos and the district have sup­ported the drive for fed­eral re­de­vel­op­ment fund­ing. Both hope an en­ter­tain­ment district is in the neigh­bor­hood’s fu­ture, but there is no plan in place, he said.

The hous­ing author­ity’s other part­ners in­clude city agen­cies and the Po­lice Depart­ment, the Green­way Foun­da­tion, Na­tional Re­new­able En­ergy Lab­o­ra­tory, Colorado Divi­sion of Hous­ing, Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Univer­sity of Den­ver, Univer­sity of Colorado at Den­ver, Univer­sity of Den­ver and En­ter­prise Com­mu­nity Part­ners.

“It re­ally does take a vil­lage to be­lieve in and re­build the Sun Val­ley neigh­bor­hood,” Guer­rero said. “This will be Den­ver’s next ‘best’ neigh­bor­hood, I can prom­ise you that.”

He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Zainab Jalal, 14, an Iraqi im­mi­grant, watches a news con­fer­ence Mon­day to an­nounce that the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment awarded the Den­ver Hous­ing Author­ity a $30 mil­lion Choice Neigh­bor­hood Im­ple­men­ta­tion Grant for the Sun Val­ley neigh­bor­hood.

Source: City and County of Den­ver The Den­ver Post

The Sun Val­ley master plan vi­sion, from the south­east river­front.

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