Aurora apartment developer proposal breaks the 3-story mold

1106

AURORA | The three-story, walk-up apartment building is to Aurora what beige housing stock is to Highlands ranch.

Or maybe it better resembles the link between Greeley and a certain stench.

It’s one of those things that, even if it’s not completely fair, it gets tossed around so often it clings to a city’s reputation like a mustard stain on your favorite tie.

When Scott Puffer, vice president of development at Gardner Capital, approached city officials about building a sprawling apartment complex near the Aurora Municipal Center, that distaste among Aurora’s development folks was palpable.

“They wanted a more contemporary, urban look,” he said. “They absolutely did not want a three-story walkup.”

So Puffer pitched city officials on a project that doesn’t look much like those walkup buildings that thousands of Aurora residents call home.

The Alameda View Apartments, located near East Alameda Avenue and South Chambers Road, will be five stories and have 116 units. Puffer said crews should break ground this summer and residents could move into the rental units around fall 2018.

The apartments will be geared toward low-income residents.

The $29 million project is seeking a $17-million grant from the city, money that comes from the state’s Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, according to city documents. City council’s Housing, Neighborhood Services and Redevelopment committee signed off on the idea in February, but the full council still needs to vote.

According to city documents, the CHAFA doles out Private Activity Bonds to local governments who then choose a project to use them on. If the city doesn’t choose the Alameda View project — so far the only applicant for Aurora’s funds — the money would go back to a statewide pool.

Council members at that meeting were intrigued by the idea, which hasn’t been pursued often in Aurora.

“This has never happened in the city since Heather Gardens was built,” said Councilman Bob LeGare.

Puffer said there is a reason most developers opt for three stories instead of a bigger project like Alameda View: cost.

“It’s definitely not cheap,” he said.

The added two stories means the building has to have an elevator, for one, but Puffer said there are other costs, because the rules for using lumber and steel are tougher the bigger the building gets.

Deputy City Manager Jason Bachelor echoed that.

“It is not an incremental cost increase,” he said at the committee meeting. “It is an exponential cost increase.”

The project will sit at 15510 E. Alameda Parkway, which is adjacent to Delaney Farm.

Puffer said that from early in the project his team has been looking for ways to link the building to Delaney.

“The goal is to give Delaney Farms an avenue to interact directly with our residents,” he said.

That could include some classes on healthy eating taught by Delaney staff, as well as gardening spaces in the Alameda View property.

Ryan Jones, one of Puffer’s Gardner colleagues, said the farm “is desperately in need of a real classroom inside” and Gardner plans to provide them that space in the apartment complex.

There are also plans for an outdoor gazebo and kitchen, he said.

Puffer said the company sees the location as an ideal spot for this sort of development.

The area is about a half mile from a bustling R-Line light-rail stop near Alameda and South Sable Boulevard, and Puffer said that proximity to a public transit hub is an important factor.

Plus, he said, being across the street from the Aurora Municipal Center provides the sort of anchor that is crucial to a project like this, as does the prevalence of nearby retail options.