Va­cant tower is a door to af­ford­able hous­ing

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Em­i­lie Rusch

ALake­wood of­fice tower that has sat nearly empty since it was built 35 years ago will be filled with much-needed af­ford­able hous­ing.

Metro West Hous­ing So­lu­tions, Lake­wood’s hous­ing author­ity, will de­velop 152 in­come-re­stricted apart­ments at 5800 W. Alameda Ave. — 54 of them in the ex­ist­ing eight-story of­fice tower and 98 in a new four-story build­ing planned for the large park­ing lot just west.

De­mo­li­tion work is set to be­gin in March, with con­struc­tion wrap­ping up in fall 2018. Metro West re­ceived fed­eral and state low-in­come hous­ing tax cred­its to help fi­nance the $37 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment, called Fifty Eight Hun­dred.

“So many peo­ple have driven past it a mil­lion times and re­ally have no idea what it is or what it ever was,” Metro West CEO Tami Fis­cher said. “It’s ex­cit­ing to re-en­er­gize and re­vi­tal­ize that prop­erty, that cor­ner, into some­thing ex­cit­ing and beau­ti­ful for the com­mu­nity.”

Over the years, only two of the tower’s eight floors have ever been oc­cu­pied, the rest sit­ting va­cant since the day they were com­pleted in 1981, said Bren­dalee Con­nors, Metro West’s di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment.

The rea­sons aren’t en­tirely clear. It was built by the late de­vel­oper Al Mar­tis­chang, who also de­vel­oped a sim­i­lar of­fice build­ing near In­ter­state 70 and Sheri­dan Boule­vard in Den­ver.

Metro West isn’t cer­tain when the last ten­ants moved out — a Dis­abled Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans of­fice and a ra­dio sta­tion once called the build­ing home — but the last el­e­va­tor in­spec­tion on file oc­curred in 2012, Con­nors said. The tower was empty when Metro West bought the prop­erty in 2015 for $3.2 mil­lion.

An ad­ja­cent low-slung re­tail build­ing is home to The New Amer­ica School, a Jef­fco Pub­lic Schools char­ter school that will re­main its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, she said.

“In Lake­wood, with the cur­rent zon­ing and af­ford­abil­ity pro­grams, we’d never be able to build any­thing like this to­day,” Con­nors said.

Perched on a high point of West Alameda, the build­ing has un­ob­structed 360-de­gree views of the moun­tains, down­town and beyond.

“It blew us away when we walked in,” said Ryan Lunsford, prin­ci­pal of WJL Af­ford­able Hous­ing Con­sult­ing, who is work­ing on the project.

Noth­ing but the build­ing’s con­crete bones will be saved in the ren­o­va­tion, said Matt McHugh, prin­ci­pal at Sprocket De­sign-Build, the ar­chi­tect on

the project.

That in­cludes the out­dated ex­posed ag­gre­gate pan­els that cover the ex­te­rior, to be re­placed with more mod­ern metal pan­els. The un­ap­proved eighth floor will be re­moved, cre­at­ing the po­ten­tial for high ceil­ings for top-floor ten­ants.

“The re-imag­in­ing process was a lot of fun but there were def­i­nitely chal­lenges with a build­ing that wasn’t well thought-out or aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing,” McHugh said.

Fifty Eight Hun­dred’s 152 apart­ments will be a mix of stu­dio, 1-, 2- and 3-bed­room units. Planned ameni­ties in­clude a rooftop deck, com­mu­nity kitchen, fit­ness cen­ter, ed­u­ca­tion spa­ces and com­mu­nity gar­dens.

Most of the apart­ments will be avail­able to house­holds earn­ing up to 60 per­cent of area me­dian in­come. A hand­ful will be lim­ited to 30, 40 and 50 per­cent AMI.

A for­mal wait­ing list for units will likely launch some­time in 2018, Fis­cher said. When Metro West opened its wait list for hous­ing vouch­ers ear­lier this year, the agency re­ceived 4,000 ap­pli­ca­tions in a mat­ter of days.

“The prop­erty it­self when we’re done with it is just go­ing to be a spec­tac­u­lar place to live,” Fis­cher said. “The views and all the ameni­ties that we’re go­ing to in­clude, that’s re­ally ex­cit­ing to of­fer to fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als who are strug­gling to find hous­ing in the mar­ket.”

Bren­dalee Con­nors, chief real es­tate of­fi­cer with Metro West Hous­ing So­lu­tions, looks over the in­te­rior of an aban­doned of­fice build­ing at 5800 W. Alameda Ave. in Lake­wood on Thurs­day. He­len H. Richard­son, The Den­ver Post

Metro West Hous­ing So­lu­tions will trans­form a va­cant of­fice tower in Lake­wood into af­ford­able rental hous­ing. Ren­der­ing cour­tesy of Sprocket De­sign-Build

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