Published in the January 17, 2017, edition of the Redstone Review.
COMMENTARY: AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN LYONS
Thistle affordable housing could come to Lyons as part of eastern corridor proposal
By Amy Reinholds
Affordable Housing Columnist
LYONS – Thistle, a non-profit that has been building and managing affordable housing in communities in the Boulder County area for more than 30 years, is one of three partners in a proposal on the eastern corridor of Lyons. Before a Jan. 16 meeting where the Lyons Board of Trustees was scheduled to hear more about the request for proposals (RFP) application to purchase town-own land, I talked with Thistle CEO Mary Duvall about the organization and its approach.
With 871 homes at the end of 2017, Thistle affordable housing includes a diverse mix of rental units, home ownership, and community land trusts in both mobile home parks and condominium buildings. Thistle is part of NeighborWorks America, a non-profit chartered by congress to bring local and independent housing solutions to communities.
“We’re a community-based non-profit,” Duvall said. “We’re able to look at the market, see what makes sense, and determine what our response can be.”
Examples of Thistle rentals include 1200 Kimbark in Longmont, the Cannery Apartments at 15 3rd Ave. in Longmont, and Parkside Village Townhomes at 5007-5095 Valmont Rd. in Boulder. All are listed on the website at www.thistle.us.
The application for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP that the Board of Trustees is reviewing proposes buying town-owned land east of Colo. Hwy. 66 and U.S. 36 and building 45 affordable housing units for rent (built and managed by Thistle), an aquaponics farm and grocery, and a commercial kitchen. Other than Thistle, the partnership that submitted the proposal includes a developer who has worked in the Denver Highland neighborhood and Donna Merten of Boulder-based real estate development firm Merten Development, who is interested in aquaponics farming.
Duvall said that Merten contacted Thistle about her vision for a gateway to Lyons that incorporates agriculture and housing.
“We had been looking at other agriculture communities,” Duvall said, adding that it’s particularly important to recognize the history of the area while planning new development and new industry.
Merten also partnered with Paul Tamburello of the GENERATOR real estate and development firm, who is on the board of directors of GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm, marketplace and educational center in Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. Tamburello developed and consulted on several well-known projects around the Highland neighborhood of Denver including Root Down and Linger restaurants and LoHi Market Place, and he owns Little Man Ice Cream.
The selection committee for the Lyons Village East Redevelopment RFP decided to move forward on a recommendation for this proposal in December and planned to make an official report to the trustees on Jan. 16. The selection committee includes Town Planner and Director of Community Development Paul Glasgow, Director of Community Relations and Programs Kim Mitchell, Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, and chairs of the Planning and Community Development Commission (PCDC) and the Economic Development Commission (Gregg Oetting and Lora Gilson).
In April 2017, the Town of Lyons purchased the former Longmont water treatment plant land east of U.S. 36 from the City of Longmont to use a portion of it as a permanent home for the town’s flood-destroyed public works building and to sell remaining available parcels to buyers who want to pursue uses described in the recent Lyons Primary Planning Area Master Plan. The land has been annexed into town, and the part that is for sale is currently zoned as agricultural land.
The Merten-Tamburello-Thistle proposal is for purchasing all the land that Lyons is selling, on both the north and south sides of the highway (4.3 acres at 4651 Ute Hwy and 3.28 acres at 4652 Ute Hwy). The application mentions a possible hotel or micro-apartments for rent on the south side of Hwy. 66.
At press time, we did not know what the trustees decided on Jan. 16, if they were interested in selling town-owned land to the partnership, and whether they directed staff to accept this RFP application. Watch for future columns about next steps. As part of town process, after the town sells land, the new owners or their developers must go through the regular Town of Lyons zoning process. The zoning process includes several steps with the both the PCDC and the trustees.
“To me, Lyons is a unique jewel in Boulder County, with a distinct character, because of the people who live there,” Duvall said.
“There’s a lot of community involvement,” she said, also mentioning a perseverance. “People are working together after the flood, despite what can be seen as setbacks to getting housing. It seems to be a great group of people to work with.”
Habitat for Humanity reminders: application orientation Jan. 27
Volunteers for construction of the three Habitat for Humanity duplexes on Park Street, west of 2nd Ave will be needed starting Jan. 24, on four construction days per week: Wednesdays through Saturdays. You can sign up at www.stvrainhabitat.org/construction.
And the third round of homeowner applications for those homes begins this month with an orientation on Jan. 27. All who are interested in applying in the third round of applications need to attend an orientation session either in person at Rogers Hall on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 10 a.m., or complete an online orientation at www.stvrainhabitat.org between Jan. 15-30. For information about orientation or the selection process contact Erin Minaya at 303-682-2485, ext. 104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is a monthly commentary (opinion column) in the Redstone Review about affordable housing after the 2013 flood disaster in Lyons. If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about this column, contact me directly at email@example.com. For history of post-flood efforts for affordable housing in Lyons – including a proposal for subsidized, affordable Boulder County Housing Authority rentals and some Habitat for Humanity for-sale affordable homes that was voted down 614 to 498 by Town of Lyons voters in 2015, and the land at 2nd and Park that Habitat for Humanity bought to build three duplexes – read previous columns at lyonscoloradonews.wordpress.com.
Amy Reinholds served on the Lyons Housing Recovery Task Force from December 2013 through its end in February 2015. She is currently a member of the Lyons Human Services and Aging Commission and served as a liaison to the Special Housing Committee during its existence from April 2015-April 2016. She has lived in Lyons since 2003 and in the surrounding Lyons area since 1995.