Case Study

2700 Wewatta Way

7 min read

Putting a Dent in Youth Homelessness in Denver  

 A project under construction now in Denver will provide 56 affordable apartments for formerly homeless young adults aged 18 to 24, as well as those “aging out” of foster care. The 2700 Wewatta Way project aims to put a small dent into the youth homelessness problem in the Mile High City. 

The Metro Denver Homeless Initiative counted 1,787 young people accessing homeless services in its 2023 Point-In-Time census.

“On any given night, 388 youth-only households are homeless, with many going unsheltered on the streets,” according to Shannon Cox Baker, regional vice president for Pennrose LLC. The census was taken on a midwinter night, January 30, in a cold mile-high city.

“People aged 18 to 24 are most vulnerable and most at risk of entering homelessness, particularly when they’re exiting traumatic living situations or the foster care system,” says Cox Baker.

 A huge percentage of these, up to 40 percent, are LGBTQ+ youths, according to Cox Baker.

2700 Wewatta, in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, is a Low Income Housing Tax Credit project co-developed by Pennrose and Rivet Development Partners, Cox Baker’s company. Heading up the supportive services at the development is TGTHR, a nonprofit committed to ending youth homelessness.

 It’s the first housing tax credit deal of its kind in the city or county of Denver, according to Kathryn Grosscup, housing tax credit manager for the Colorado Housing and Finance Agency (CHFA).

 “There’s strong demand and need for projects such as this,” she says. “I certainly see the need for more projects like this that address homelessness and CHFA would certainly welcome other similar applications.”

Grosscup says, “It really meets a lot of the key aspects outlined in the Qualified Allocation Plan,” including site suitability, financial feasibility and a priority in the plan.

An Outsized Role
Besides awarding the project federal four percent and Colorado State Housing tax credits, CHFA has an “outsized” role in the financing of 2700 Wewatta Way, extending a $5.5 million permanent loan and $700,000 from its Capital Magnet Fund, says Cox Baker.

There are many other partners in the capital stack, she says.

They include Redstone Equity Partners as the tax credit syndicator; American Express, the investor in the federal tax credits; and Bank of the West (now owned by BMO Harris), the investor in the state tax credits. Bank of the West is also the construction lender.

 A total of $11.8 million will be realized in net equity, out of a $27.3 million total development cost.

Public support includes a $3 million soft loan from the Denver Department of Housing Stability (HOST) and $3 million from the Colorado Division of Housing. Supportive services funding includes $2 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as funding from the City of Denver and the State Division of Housing.

Construction began in January, with an anticipated completion date of April 2024.

Cox Baker says the project’s inception came through her experience with TGTHR, whose leadership team she has known for six or seven years now.

“We originally started talking about how we can do something that’s more prevention-related for homelessness.

“I had already done work with housing homeless adults. And TGTHR works with young people. This was a great opportunity to do something more preventative. We asked ourselves, ‘How do we stop homelessness before it becomes a chronic condition?’” says Cox Baker.

“TGTHR creates community. That’s their secret. They empower young people to reach their goals and aspirations. Pennrose and Rivet develop and operate safe, affordable housing so it’s a great partnership where we each get to do what we do best.”

Stiff Housing Challenges
That 18 to 24 age group faces stiff challenges in getting housing, Cox Baker says.

“There’s a cliff for young people at 18 when they become independent and don’t have resources to live self-sufficiently. They fall off a cliff. It is hard to access entitlement programs. They are in the shadows.”

The 2700 Wewatta Way project has been carefully designed with the vulnerabilities of young people in mind. With so many attacks against LGBTQ+ and trans youth, security has been carefully thought out. And with so many of these young people being trauma survivors, the design is also trauma-informed.

There will be a front desk that is staffed 24/7. A laundry room is available near the front desk, not tucked away in the back or basement somewhere. A hotel lobby feeling prevails, with common area spaces located near the entrance to encourage socializing. There are no apartments on the bottom floor, only service provider spaces and commercial space. The walls are painted in a palette of bright vibrant friendly colors.

And there are cameras everywhere, which Cox Baker points out does not seem to bother young people of the Instagram and TikTok generation. They scan interior and exterior spaces with clear sight lines.

Most of the units are one-bedroom, with an average size of 500 square feet. A handful are two bedrooms, averaging about 650 square feet. Often, these are young siblings living together, Cox Baker says.

The apartments at 2700 Wewatta Way will be income-restricted for a minimum of 60 years with half available to households earning 50 percent or less of the area median income, meaning up to $41,000 for a single-occupant household in Denver, and half available to households earning 30 percent or less of the area median income. All units will be supported by project-based vouchers to provide rental assistance.

Vibrant, bright colors will be featured both inside and outside at 2700 Wewatta Way. On the outside of the building, a five-story mural is planned, to be painted by local artist Thomas Evans (aka Detour). Cox Baker says Evans, who lives and works just down the block from the development, has designed a mural that “will be painted on a five-floor stair core and around the base of the building, resulting in a feeling of transformation. It is sure to be inspiring.”

The apartments will be permanent supportive housing for residents. “It’s non-time limited. It’s not transitional housing in that sense.” Residents will have a regular 12-month lease, and access to the services provided by TGTHR, although participation in services is voluntary.

“The majority of residents take advantage of services available to them” in this kind of housing, Cox Baker says. “The majority tends to move on between years two and three. So, in that sense, it is somewhat transitional in nature but it’s also age-appropriate to want to live on one’s own terms and independently.”

According to Pennrose, “Residents will have access to a host of community amenities, including on-site property management, bicycle storage, resident lounges, private work nooks, a community food pantry and outdoor recreational amenities. The ground floor includes 1,000 square feet of commercial space for a future social enterprise tenant, such as a coffee shop or artist space.”

Also, “the new community is located near multiple public transportation lines. Residents will also benefit from being part of Denver’s RiNo Arts District and the Denargo Market redevelopment area, which is experiencing significant economic investment and rapid growth.”

The view will be good, as well. Cox Baker describes the apartments as being on “a perch over the gateway to Denver with an unobstructed view of Coors Field.”

She also notes that market-rate buildings will surround the new project. And for the first time in her affordable housing career, Cox Baker says she has not heard a single complaint from neighbors, making 2700 Wewatta Way a rare No NIMBY Zone.

“I think this is a very good addition to the neighborhood,” she says.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.