gazette logo rev 500

By J. Patrick O’Leary

Amid a fanfare of fireworks, a marching band and speeches by city councilman Albus Brooks and developers, ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt were tossed for Lakehouse, a 12-story, 206-unit condominium and rowhome development that will overlook Sloans Lake.  It’s in the LEED-certified ‘Sloans’ district, on the former St. Anthony Hospital site.

The Lakehouse project represents a change in emphasis from “green” to “wellness” in residential projects – although it will be LEED certified when complete, it will also be the first in Denver to meet the WELL Building Standard.

In another change, the developer will not just fund, but volunteer and help build, affordable housing required by the city, through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.

The May 24 groundbreaking, pushed back from early April for myriad reasons, comes more than three years after NAVA Real Estate Development contracted to buy the property from master developer EFG South Sloans Lake I, LLC. Coincidentally, the event marks (within 13 days) the end of a lawsuit by neighbors attempting to undo Denver City Council’s February 2015 rezoning decision, which allowed the tower to be built.

The build site, at 4202 W. 17th Ave., is across the street from Sloans Lake Park. The lakeshore location and views are a selling point, as well as the amenity neighbors fought for by suing Denver City Council to overturn the rezoning in 2015; EFG Sloans Lake, not originally named as a defendant, entered the fray to protect its interests. A Denver District Court ruled against the neighbors last spring; the neighbors appealed, and the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision on May 11. 

The outcome of that appeal, according to NAVA’s Brian Levitt, was not the cause of the delay in groundbreaking, originally scheduled for the first week of April.

“We had a lot of ducks to line up,” which included permits, drawings and contracts with subcontractors and suppliers, he explained.

The invitations were sent May 5, six days before the Court of Appeals issued its decision, and stated the development team, local dignitaries, buyers, friends and colleagues would be in attendance. The on-site sales trailer was packed with revelers as caterers and event staff set up food and beverage tables, red carpet, chairs and a battery of fireworks. It was not chips-and-canned-soda affair.

The Brothers of Brass, led by Gregg Ziemba on snare drum, marched up the red carpet to open the ceremony.

Trevor Hines of NAVA told the story of how his grandfather visited Aspen in the late 19th century, thanked Habitat for Humanity for partnering to provide affordable housing, and acknowledged everyone who made the project possible, and gushed about the development’s juice bar, sauna, waterfall, views and other amenities.  

Denver City Council President and District 9 Representative Albus Brooks spoke next, of the claim that 20 percent of the units would be affordable, and that four family homes would have yards.

Levitt of NAVA spoke last, of the three-year journey from contract to groundbreaking and how Lakehouse was working to be the first WELL-certified residential project in Denver.

“LEED is for buildings, but WELL is for people,” he said. It’s a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind.

The ceremony concluded as a long row of dignitaries, wielding gilded shovels, churned up the soil as a fusillade of fireworks burst overhead, engulfing the crowd in smoke.

Lakehouse’s amenities, per a NAVA press release, will include: a 7,000-square-foot wellness center; open sky pool, hot tub and mist lounge overlooking the lake; treetop sundeck; patio with fire pits and grills; organic urban farm and produce program; juice bar; gym, sauna and yoga studio; living “Green Wall”; community kitchen; library, business center and media den; and indoor/outdoor lounge and fireplaces.

The residences are being listed exclusively by Dee Chirafisi, Kevin Garrett and Matt McNeill Kentwood City Properties. Condominiums range in size from 675 to 2,285 square feet, with one-, two- and three-bedroom options, and the rowhomes are two bedrooms, ranging in size from 1,300 to 2,473 square feet.

“We have 25 units reserved and/or under contract out of our 199 units total,” said Raechel Terry, Sales Center Manager and agent with Kentwood City Properties. “We combined some floorplans from our original 206 total.”

Terry said prices had gone up slightly from the originally released pricing. In April the Neighborhood Gazette reported that pre-construction pricing had increased to $499,000, up from $455,000 for the one-bed, one-bath condos.

No, that’s not affordable housing.

“Our whole building is all one or two bedrooms,” and more bedrooms are better for families, said Levitt. So, rather than write a check to the city’s general fund, NAVA agreed to build affordable housing, but not at Lakehouse.

“As part of Denver’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, NAVA created an Affordable Housing Plan for their Lakehouse project,” said Mike Criner, Chief Operating Officer of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. “It called for a number of affordable rental units to be built at the St. Anthony’s redevelopment site and for affordable homeownership units to be built offsite.”

“Trevor Hines and Brian Levitt, from NAVA, reached out to Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver in July of 2015 to see if a partnership could be formed to build these units. Habitat was able to acquire a tract of land very close to the Evans Avenue Light Rail station where nine affordable homes will be built. NAVA is sponsoring four, four-bedroom units at this site.

”Not only will they be providing financial support for the construction of these units, they will also be volunteering,” said Criner.

Habitat will begin site work this fall and plans to sell the homes to low-income families in the late summer or early fall of 2018.

As for Lakehouse, construction will take 25 months, with residents likely moving in summer of 2019.

For information, visit lakehouse17.com.