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Denver Grants $3.85M Loan For 154-Unit Affordable Housing Project On Former Johnson & Wales Campus

Last week, the Denver City Council voted to approve a $3.85M loan that will be used to help redevelop a portion of the former Johnson & Wales University campus into affordable housing

The loan will be granted to Archway Communities, a developer focused on Colorado’s affordable housing market, by Denver’s Department of Housing Stability. Archway announced its intent to purchase four dormitory buildings at the campus in 2021. It will transform the residential structures, which currently contain 400 dorm rooms, according to Westword, into 58 one-bedroom units, 70 two-bedroom units and 26 three-bedroom units, for a total of 154 units. The rentals will be leased to people making between 30% and 60% of the area median income.

Johnson & Wales campus in Denver

Johnson & Wales announced it would close the 25-acre, 13-building South Park Hill campus in July 2020. The Urban Land Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to preserve access to affordable housing and office space in the Denver metro area, purchased the property for $62M in June 2021.

It then sold the west and south portions of the campus to Denver Public Schools and the Denver Housing Authority, respectively. ULC still owns the east side of campus, including the land on which Archway’s four dorms are situated, along with several other buildings. 

In a 2021 press release, Archway said it anticipated putting at least $50M toward the project, which it is calling the Park Hill Family Campus. That figure includes hard costs of about $190K per unit, a company spokesperson confirmed to Bisnow. Westword reports that the $2.85M of the city’s $3.85M loan will be forgiven after 60 years if agreements related to affordability are upheld. 

Between 2017 and 2020, nearly 600 higher education institutions closed their doors, according to data analyzed by Inside Higher Ed. That has led to an increase in the number of college campuses — often large, well-situated properties in growing real estate markets — going up for sale, as Bisnow reported in June.