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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A plot of federally-owned land that an advocacy organization had hoped to turn into housing for the homeless will instead be sold to the highest bidder.
On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services denied an application from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to turn the 59-acre Federal Center parcel into 600 units of emergency and permanent housing for the homeless.
Cathy Alderman, with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, calls it a once in a lifetime opportunity to build emergency and permanent housing for up to 1,000 homeless people, badly needed in our area.
"What people who are experiencing homelessness need, is housing and so you know that's what we do," said Alderman. "We were very surprised and very disappointed. We fully anticipated that there would be a period of time where HHS would ask us for additional information."
HHS said the nonprofit didn't meet the requirements, including financing details. In a letter to the CCH, the reasons range from as small a detail as a missing signature to as big as a bank's backing.
"We would be happy to get a letter of intent from a bank if that's what they were requiring, but because there's no guidance on what they require, we submitted the best plan that we could," said Alderman.
The site, near 6th and Union avenues, was once a landfill and some portions of the land are still contaminated with asbestos. It's now zoned for transit-oriented development.
On Wednesday, the General Services Administration announced that with the denial of CCH's application, the agency plans to move ahead with auctioning off the property.
"The sale of this property will provide an opportunity to transform underutilized federal real estate into a transit oriented development that will spur economic growth," said Tim Horne, GSA Acting Regional Administrator of Rocky Mountain Region. "This approach is part of a long-term master plan for the DFC and we envision that it will benefit the community and the 6,000 plus workers at the DFC in the same way as the 2007 land sale that led to the development of a regional hospital and transportation district."
So what's next? The land will go up for auction in April. It's open to anyone, like land developers and even international investors. The hope is that it spurs economic growth. But not if CCH has a say; they plan to appeal.
"I think the people that are living on the streets in Lakewood and Jefferson County [are] wondering where they are gonna (sic) sleep. Wondering if they are ever gonna (sic) find a home [they] are losing by further delays," said Alderman.
The GSA said it would announce a start date for the auction on April 2.