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20th of November 2018

Real Estate

Tiny home village for homeless in Denver’s RiNo district moving to new campus in December

A tiny home village that since last July has provided housing in Denver’s River North Arts District for people who were experiencing chronic homelessness has a new home of its own.

The support team for Beloved Community Village on Friday signed a one-year lease with Zeppelin Development. The pact paves the way for the village’s 11 modular housing units and bathhouse to move from their current location at 38th and Blake streets across the South Platte River to Zeppelin’s mixed-use Taxi campus in December.

The tiny homes will occupy land that was previously home to a Ready Mixed Concrete facility on the north end of the 28-acre campus, adjacent to the parking lot for the Flight office building.

“This isn’t going to solve homelessness, but we’re trying to do our part,” Chris Woldum, Zeppelin’s vice president of finance and development, said. “We’ve got no immediate plans for development so trying to put the property to a good community use in the meantime was a no-brainer for us.”

Time was running out for Beloved on the parcel it currently occupies. The city permit allowing for temporary structures there expires at the end of the year. The property owner, the nonprofit Urban Land Conservancy, continues to support the village and its housing-first mission, according to leaders, but has plans to develop the land in 2019.

The move should benefit the 13 people living in the village now and others experiencing chronic homelessness.

“This site at Taxi is considerably larger than anything we’ve been on before so we have the opportunity to expand the village at that site,” said Cole Chandler, a member of the Colorado Village Collaborative, the charitable organization the supports the village. “If fundraising goes well, we’ll be looking to add homes in the spring.”

Courtesy Colorado Village Collaborative

Cole Chandler, of Colorado Village Collaborative, and Kyle Zeppelin, co-owner of Zeppelin Development, pose for a photo on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, after signing a one-year lease that will see the Beloved Community Village moved to Zeppelin’s Taxi property. Chandler said he has been impressed by Zeppelin’s stances on issues impacting the RiNo neighborhood, including his opposition to the Interstate 70 widening project.

One home could be added sooner than others. The modular building that now serves as the village bathhouse will be moving to Taxi, but Colorado Village Collaborative has plans to add a new common building there with a full kitchen and three bathrooms with running water and sewer connections. That will allow the existing bathhouse to be converted into another home with space enough for a couple or small family, Chandler said.

The future common building is being designed by Denver-based Shopworks Architecture, which is donating its services, Chandler said. Whiting-Turner, the contracting firm that built the village last year, will construct the new community space and move the village later this year, also free of charge.

Zeppelin and Colorado Village Collaborative first began talking about the move in April. Where plans for the village received blowback from some residents and business owners in RiNo in 2017, Zeppelin didn’t encounter the same resistance when talking to Taxi tenants, Woldum said.

Boa Technologies has its corporate headquarters and 150 employees in the Flight building. The maker of purpose-built closure and adjustment systems used in shoes, athletic gear and other applications is fully behind Zeppelin’s decision to provide land to Beloved, CEO Shawn Neville said.

“We don’t want to be a passive neighbor, we want to be an engaged partner,” Neville said. “We haven’t designated an amount but we are going to donate funds and manpower. We’re looking at creating some business opportunities for some of the residents.” 

It will take $100,000 to relocate the village and add the new common building, Chandler said. The first $25,000 of that has already been donated by another company with a presence in RiNo, Collegiate Peaks Bank. Fundraising is ongoing. People seeking to contribute can visit the and click on the donate tab at the top of the page.

Beloved opened in July 2017. A recent study for the University of Denver found that its housing-first approach to addressing chronic homelessness was helping residents improve their lives and having no measurable negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Two people were asked to leave the community by their neighbors during its first year because of what was deemed detrimental behavior, but three other villagers moved into stable permanent housing of their own during that time. A fourth person has transitioned into permanent housing since that report was published, Chandler said.

Colorado Village Collaborative has plans to build a second, eight-unit village for women at a yet-to-be-announced Denver-area location. A site plan is in the works and Chandler said he plans to meet with the property owner later this month. The plans for the Taxi site have been filed with the city and are under review, Denver planning officials said.

“The Urban Land Conservancy has been a great host for the first 18 months of Beloved Community Village, but partnering with Zeppelin Development allows us to take the next step in demonstrating that Tiny Home Villages can become part and parcel of the fabric of a growing city,” Chandler said in an email Friday.

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