With financing commitments of $18.5 million in hand, Homeward Pikes Peak will hold a community ground-breaking celebration Wednesday on its first construction project to bring more housing to homeless and low-income residents of Colorado Springs.
The Commons will mark the city’s first permanent supportive housing complex for families, said Beth Roalstad, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, an organization that provides supportive housing and recovery services for homeless people.
“We know we have a logjam of homeless families in the community, but we can’t keep up with the demand,” she said. “We can’t build stable housing fast enough.”
Wednesday’s ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. at the site, 3770 E. Uintah St., and will feature Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, City Councilwoman Nancy Henjum, El Paso County Commissioner Holly Williams and representatives from involved organizations and businesses.
The event is open to the public.
Homeward Pikes Peak of Colorado Springs and Rocky Mountain Communities, originally known as Greater Denver Mutual Housing Association, co-own the project. Dominium, a national for-profit developer of affordable housing, is providing pro bono development services.
A 50-unit complex targeted for homeless individuals, veterans and families earning less than 30% of the area median income will rise on vacant land near The Citadel shopping center, where in 2014 one of the city’s most devastating apartment fires killed two men and left hundreds of residents homeless.
The inner-city neighborhood has been receptive to having the lot return to housing, Roalstad said, based on meetings with nearby neighbors, including the adjacent Springs of Life Church, with operates a day care center and after-school program for 150 to 200 children.
"They were happy we might be serving similar families," Roalstad said.
According to the plans, half of the initial 50 units will be two and three bedrooms for homeless families, and half will be for homeless singles, including veterans.
Four to six employees will provide case management, family advocacy and life navigation services for tenants, Roalstad said.
Rent prices will be needs-based and restricted by income, she said, which be analyzed annually.
Tenants who improve their economic situations will receive help to graduate from the program and obtain other housing, Roalstad said.
“As we’re all aware, this pandemic has dragged on and is of concern that people with vulnerable health conditions remain highly at-risk,” she said. “We’ve now learned the coronavirus will be here for years, and we need to do everything we can do.”
Construction will start next month and last 12-14 months, according to Roalstad.
The timing “could not be more ideal,” said Dontae Latson, CEO of Rocky Mountain Communities.
“Our goal with The Commons, as with our eight other properties, is to support residents so they can live fuller, more successful lives,” Latson said in a statement.
The building will feature an elevator, large multipurpose room, health and fitness area, library and computer lab for residents.
The design by E+A Architects is based on” trauma-informed care” with safety and security measures, Latson said.
Leasing will be completed in November 2022, Roalstad said, with staggered move-in.
Potential tenants will be identified through referrals from the Pikes Peak Continuum of Care and the citywide “coordinated entry process,” Roalstad said.
Local organizations that provide services to the homeless use the system and rank homeless people on a vulnerability scale, which determines who needs housing the quickest.
Referred tenants also will go through an applications and admissions process.
“It takes a long time to create a community project,” Roalstad said, adding that many entities have contributed to help The Commons get off the ground.
Among the financing agencies for the first phase are: Enterprise Communities, Morgan Stanley, the state of Colorado’s Division of Local Affairs, the city of Colorado Springs, Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka and local contributions of $50,000 from the H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Charitable Trust, $50,000 from the El Pomar Foundation and $43,000 from Colorado Springs Utilities’ Community Focus Fund.
Future construction of an additional 70 units of affordable housing on the property is several years out, Roalstad said, likely 2025. Funding also will be needed for that part of the project.