Rio Grande Village looks out on Shooks Run park close to downtown Colorado Springs.
Rio Grande Village looks out on Shooks Run park close to downtown Colorado Springs.

A team of Colorado Springs businesses is building on its successes in Colorado Springs and Boulder to develop affordable housing in Salida.

The group of architectural and urban design companies used local talent developed in the Springs to design and build affordable housing in other areas in the state — with successful results, said Tim Seibert, owner of N.E.S. Inc., a land-planning firm in Colorado Springs.

N.E.S. partnered with HB&A, an area leader in architectural services, and Dick Sullivan, former executive director of the Colorado Springs Housing Authority, to build a series of affordable housing units near downtown Colorado Springs, at the corner of Rio Grande and Corona streets.

While still at the housing authority, Sullivan selected the team to develop Rio Grande Village, a blend of affordable-housing building types that includes 90 apartments and 10 cottage-style homes.

The development has homes set aside for people with low or moderate incomes, with housing subsidies available for three-person families earning between $18,900 and $37,800.

The development, owned and operated by the city’s Housing Authority, has been successful since its opening across from Shooks Run Park in the mid-2000s.

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“Rio Grande has withstood the test of time,” said Andrea Barker, a principal and owner of HB&A. “It’s not just warehousing … people. It’s a great neighborhood.”

Affordable housing is in short supply throughout the state of Colorado, so when the team saw the need advertised elsewhere, it decided to export its success from the Rio Grande project to other parts of the state.

Boulder

“After Rio Grande, we saw an advertisement from the Boulder County Housing Authority to tackle a rather large development in Lafayette,” which is east of Boulder, Barker said.

Under Sullivan’s leadership, the group formed a team that included financial expertise from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, or CHFA, and Laura Clark of SB Clark Companies of Denver.

“When Boulder County folks toured [Rio Grande], they were impressed,” Seibert said.

Boulder County then hired the Colorado Springs-based team to complete the Josephine Commons Senior Apartments and the Aspinwall Townhomes on a 14-acre parcel of land in Lafayette.

Altogether, the multi-year project built or renovated 146 affordable-housing apartments, duplexes or townhouses for low-income residents. The development also set aside seven single-family lots.

During the project, the team creates a needs assessment that stipulates the number of units required, compiles financial resources and completes both the planning and zoning work with local governments.

They also conduct neighborhood meetings and community discussions, “as we work through the zoning process that feeds into the next step in the process,” Seibert said.

And the best part is to be able to provide those services throughout Colorado.

“To be able to move that around the state is what’s fun for us as well,” Seibert said.

Rio Grande Village looks out on Shooks Run park close to downtown Colorado Springs.
Rio Grande Village looks out on Shooks Run park close to downtown Colorado Springs.

Good recognition

Rio Grande in Colorado Springs and the developments in Boulder County have earned several affordable housing and environmental sustainability accolades from state and national organizations.

For instance, Enterprise Green Communities designated Aspinwall at Josephine Commons a Green Communities-certified development, Barker said.

The designation “demonstrates your organization’s commitment to providing high performance, healthy homes for low-income families,” said Green Communities Senior Program Director Krista Egger.

And that’s not too surprising, given the federal government’s priority for sustainable housing and HB&A’s portfolio of successful work for the federal government.

“It’s very ingrained in how we design buildings, how we site them on the ground to get good solar,” Barker said.

“If we do our part right, the mechanical engineers can put the right systems in.”

Different venue in Salida

The work continues, this time in Salida, 100 miles to the west.

Last year, Salida advertised its need for a team to develop workforce and market-rate affordable housing in the city.

“We assembled our same team again” for the Vandaveer Ranch project in Chaffee County, Barker said.

The Springs team was selected, and is now in the final stages of the contract process.

When finished, Vandaveer Ranch will cover 191.6 acres of land in southern Salida, with 10 to 20 acres for development, according to the city’s request for proposals.

The new development will target Salida residents with incomes of between 40 percent and 120 percent of the area median income.