Denver, CO

Denver’s 4 new homeless hotels are just the beginning

David Heitz

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La Quinta Inn.Google Street View

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Denver is juggling four new homeless hotel projects and others are in the works, according to city officials.

During last week’s Safety, Education, Housing and Homelessness Committee meeting, members agreed to give a developer $983,456 to help acquire the Sand and Sage and Westerner hotels, 8405 and 8415 E. Colfax Ave. The full City Council still must approve the grant.

The money would be used partially to renovate at least 34 units for use as a non-congregant homeless shelter. A 60-year covenant on the property would require that use, but the agreement acknowledges the developer’s intention to raze the property by 2028 and built permanent affordable housing.

Representatives from the developer, Fax East Colfax Partnership LLC, noted it is difficult to acquire hotels along Colfax. Many are quickly gobbled up by investors, razed and turned into market-rate housing.

City participation carries influence

Monica Martinez from Fax East Colfax Partnership said the city’s participation in the development gave investors the assurance they needed. She noted they now know the city has a vision for acquiring hotels to house the homeless and have a philosophy of “if they’re in, we’re in.”

The Fax East Colfax Partnership eventually plans to raze the Sand and Sage and Westerner. Currently a billboard on the property prevents any redevelopment until 2028.

The redeveloped property would include 75 affordable housing units, according to the developer. But it will take time to obtain financing, representatives of the developer stated at the meeting.

“This is such a leap forward for East Colfax community,” Councilmember Amanda Sawyer said during the committee meeting. “If it were appropriate, I literally would get up and do a little dance right now.” Council President Jamie Torres also lauded the developers for a job “well done in making it a reality.”

More than 30 hotels on East Colfax

More than 30 hotels line the East Colfax Corridor. Committee members said police have been working hard to rid the area of crime. But a shooting last week killed one and injured five.

Still, Sawyer said, crime has dropped 34 percent along the corridor over the past two years. “Part of the reason is that these motel owners are being held accountable.”

Councilmember Candi CdeBaca said the city should consider using eminent domain to acquire problematic motels.

LaQuinta, 3500 Park Ave.

Committee Chair Robin Kniech noted other homeless hotels making their way through City Hall include an inn at 3500 Park Ave. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless purchased the former La Quinta Inn in part with $5 million from the city. It will be used as a non-congregant homeless shelter for up to five years. At the end of that time, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless hopes to scrape the site and build 200 units of affordable housing.

The $5 million came with certain requirements by the city. According to backup material provided with the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee agenda, the city would require intensive case management, including:

· Access to a multidisciplinary treatment team, including nursing, case management, peer support, individual and group therapy and psychiatry and medication support.

· Housing stabilization. “(The Coalition) must provide assistance in healing from trauma, addiction, mental health issues and homelessness,” according to materials provided by city staff. This would be accomplished “through assessment, treatment planning, benefit acquisition, care coordination, and crisis response. These interventions will support long-term housing stability.”

· Linkage to community support. “(The Coalition) must work to develop community support through engagement, socialization, life skills, peer activities, and vocational programming,” according to the backup documents.

The Coalition already owns the former Quality Inn and Suites at 3737 Quebec. It has been renamed Fusion Studios.

Stay Inn, 12033 E. 38th Ave.

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Stay Inn.Google Street View

The city is also in the process of purchasing the Stay Inn at 12033 E. 38th Ave. “Unlike new construction on a vacant site, this project will require minimal renovation to immediately deliver homes to at least 96 individuals currently experiencing homelessness,” according to a memo from city staff to the city council. “The additional vacant property on this site will provide options for additional housing or services in the future, amplifying this impact of this acquisition.”

A non-profit partner such as Salvation Army or Colorado Coalition for the Homeless will operate the hotel. It will immediately be used for permanent supportive housing, which includes wraparound services such as case management and mental health treatment.

The city has more than $10 million to spend on the acquisition of hotels for the homeless, Kniech said. She said the city must be aggressive about purchasing land, even if it can’t be redeveloped immediately. “There’s the old saying they’re not making land anymore.”

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO
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