Archway Communities to Create Affordable Housing at Former Johnson and Wales Campus in Denver

Four dormitories on the former Johnson and Wales campus will be transformed into a thriving affordable housing community.

In partnership with Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), UCC-related Archway Communities — a leader in offering quality affordable housing in the Denver area — will purchase four dormitory buildings at the former Johnson and Wales Campus. The buildings will be transformed into approximately 150 affordable housing units, including a mix of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units.

“We’ll be changing the configuration of the interior dorm room spaces in the four historic dorm buildings to become full apartments with kitchens,” says Sheri Replane, Archway’s director of communications. “This will involve moving walls and making upgrades to the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.”

The renovated buildings will create opportunities for families along the income spectrum, who will benefit from a campus designed to provide an accessible site for multicultural, multigenerational uses, including high quality P-12 education, permanently affordable housing, culinary arts training, community spaces, and services that will enhance the surrounding communities.

“The buildings include beautiful historic commons spaces that are in great condition, so we are hoping to keep those spaces essentially as is, and be able to use them for services and community gathering spaces,” Replane adds.

Archway anticipates total project costs of approximately $50M and is working to begin construction in 2022, with the units open for occupancy in 2024. Currently, Archway is applying for tax credits, and also is exploring options for a sequence of building updates. “Different buildings need different levels of interior demolition and upgrades,” Replane says, “so we are looking at different ideas to optimize scheduling and get these units online as soon as possible.”

The new units will be set aside for households earning between 30 and 60 percent of the median income, or between $20,000 and $60,000, depending on household size.

“We’re hoping to attract families with children to this community to take advantage of the other great amenities that will be developed on the campus, including a K-12 school and a commissary kitchen that will provide entrepreneurship and workforce development programming,” Replane adds.

The Archway redevelopment plans coincide with plans for the former campus that are being developed by a number of Denver agencies. “This project offers Archway a fantastic opportunity to contribute to the exciting work that Urban Land Conservancy (Denver) (ULC), the Denver Housing Authority, and Denver Public Schools — among others — are envisioning for the former Johnson and Wales Campus,” says Sebastian Corradino, Archway’s CEO. “Our plan is to provide housing for families along with services that will further enrich the campus as well as benefit from the many other good things anticipated for the community.”

Johnson and Wales University ceased operations in Denver after this recent school year. It selected ULC as the lead buyer of the property. ULC submitted a proposal in partnership with Denver Public School and Denver Housing Authority. Of three finalists that bid on the campus, ULC was the only nonprofit and the only organization with goals to preserve the campus for community purposes.

The campus sits at the intersection of two very different communities: South Park Hill, with an average income of $141,851 and 6.06 percent families in poverty; and East Colfax, with an average household income of $57,413 and 23.6 percent families in poverty. Acquisition of the property furthers the goals of ULC, which intervenes in the metro-area real estate market on behalf of low-income, disadvantaged communities currently put at risk for displacement from gentrification by commercial redevelopment.

In addition to Archway Communities, ULC is partnering with St. Elizabeth’s School, an intentionally inclusive school with a dedication to equity, belonging, and educational opportunity for all students; and BuCu West/The Kitchen Network, which incubates specialty food businesses and will provide culinary arts training and certifications.

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