AURORA | The vacant lot at the corner of East 17th Avenue and Paris Street doesn’t look like much these days, but it does boast one quality: potential.
Sitting just across Peoria Street from the booming Anschutz Medical Campus — which includes more than 20,000 jobs between two hospitals and the University of Colorado School of Medicine — it’s a short walk to one of the state’s biggest economic engines.
And soon, light rail will zoom along tracks just a few blocks to the north.
But ensuring that the economic boom that came from turning the old Fitzsimons Army Medical Center into present-day Anschutz extends to the surrounding community has long been a challenge.
“Having the surrounding community benefit from the once in a lifetime economic engine that Fitzsimons is providing is critical,” said Jeff Martinez, CEO of Brothers Redevelopment Inc.
The nonprofit, which provides housing and other services to low-income people in Colorado and Wyoming, is hoping that their plans for that parcel at 17th and Paris can help spread some of the campus’ economic potential to the largely poor communities in northwest Aurora.
Once complete, the Paris Street project will offer affordable housing for about 40 families, with a preference for veterans. Martinez said the apartments will mostly have two or three bedrooms, but a few will have just one.
Already, more than $3 million has been pledged to the project, the bulk of it coming from a handful of city departments.
Last month, the project secured a $212,000 grant from Wells Fargo through the banking giant’s Housing Foundation Priority Markets Program, which provides grants for neighborhood stabilization projects like the Paris Street project. Since 2009, the program has provided grants totaling more than $36 million for nonprofits in 125 U.S. communities, according to a statement from Brothers.
“Wells Fargo and Brothers Redevelopment have collaborated on a number of neighborhood improvement projects over the years and we’re pleased to be a part of this important development that will provide the kind of quality, affordable housing local families need and deserve,” Shelley Marquez, Wells Fargo’s Community Development Manager for Colorado, said in the statement.
Marquez said the project is especially important in the current housing market.
“With local home prices rising dramatically and a limited supply of available affordable housing we know this project will make a big impact in the community,” she said.
The bulk of the money for the project so far has come from the City of Aurora, Arapahoe County and the Aurora Housing Authority, so Martinez said securing the private financing from Wells Fargo was an important step.
The goal, Martinez said, is to raise close to $5 million for the project.
Martinez said the project coming to fruition is still a few years out. If everything goes smoothly, and some other sources of funding come through as hoped, Martinez said the project could break ground in the spring of 2017 at the earliest.
Brothers got its start 45 years ago in southwest Denver and the bulk of their work has been on the west side of town, but Martinez said that is changing.
“We’ve been adding to our portfolio east of Broadway for the last seven or eight years and this is part of that strategy,” he said.
Today, Brothers offers housing services — from basic home repair to low-income families to help with foreclosures — all over Colorado and Wyoming.
“The housing needs I think have surpassed boundaries, there are no boundaries to need now and affordability and some of these other gaps that exist now in housing”
For Martinez, who grew up in north Aurora and worked for the city before going to Brothers, the project is especially important.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to make a difference in my old stomping grounds,” he said.