$30M grant will help revitalize Sun Valley
A longtime struggling Denver neighborhood near the Broncos’ stadium gets some game-changing aid
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.”
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.