AURORA | Anyone who has peeked at the metro area’s housing market knows working families and seniors are faced with few affordable options.
“The demand far outstrips the supply,” said Aurora Housing Authority Executive Director Craig Maraschky.
But a new AHA project aims to alleviate some of that pressure.
Construction on the third phase of The Village at Westerly Creek project is set to start early next year. When it’s finished in 2018, it will add 24 one-bedroom homes for seniors and another 50, two-bedroom homes for working families. The project replaces the city’s 1970s era Buckingham Gardens public housing development on Ironton Street just north of East Mississippi Avenue.
In May AHA announced that the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority awarded state and federal tax credits to the project, something AHA said was a “critical component” in the $22 million redevelopment.
The first two phases of the redevelopment were completed in 2012 and 2015 and added 120 rental units for seniors and the disabled.
Those units, Maraschky said, rarely have vacancies.
“It’s 100 percent leased all the time,” he said.
Still, Maraschky said, local leaders know Aurora and the entire region need more projects like Westerly Creek — lots more.
“I think it’s a little more than a drop in the bucket, but we would like to do more,” he said. “We could probably build 10 more of these things in the city.”
But the new buildings are a far cry from the old public housing that once stood there, he said.
The buildings are nicer, he said, and the density is higher so more families can live there.
“The architecture blows anything away that was there prior,” he said. “It’s quality, affordable housing.”
The goal, he said, is that when people drive by the property they don’t immediately say, “Oh, that’s low-income housing,” he said.
And while the buildings are nicer than the ones they replaced, Maraschky said they didn’t price families or seniors out.
“We didn’t lose any affordability,” he said.
Gayle Jetchick, executive director of the Havana Business Improvement District, said the project is a welcome one for area business owners.
The old buildings weren’t in great shape and the new ones have dramatically changed the area’s look, she said.
“It just brings the whole area up,” she said.
The area around the old Buckingham Square Mall at Mississippi and South Havana Street has undergone substantial redevelopment in the last decade. The old mall is gone, replaced by the sprawling Gardens on Havana shopping district. And the old City Hall to the south has been redeveloped into senior apartments.
Still, the residential piece of the area’s redevelopment moved slower than local officials had hoped.
The economic crash in 2008 meant the Gardens scrapped the residential-over-retail project that had been planned and the apartments east of the development weren’t complete until a few years after initially planned.
But, Jetchick said, the Westerly Creek project along with the Veridian Apartments are signs that the once-slow pace of residential development has changed.
“It’s all coming together now,” she said.