Vacant tower is a door to affordable housing
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
That includes the outdated exposed aggregate panels that cover the exterior, to be replaced with more modern metal panels.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