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A pastor, an imam and a developer compromise and sacrifice to keep housing project moving forward

Posted at 6:11 PM, Feb 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-27 20:11:56-05

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DENVER — A collaborative effort to bring affordable housing to one of the most popular parts of the metro is underway.

Two religious groups and a developer, along with members of the community, had to compromise and sacrifice to give families a chance to stay in their neighborhoods.

Pastor Matthew Kingsbury keeps his congregation's history present while planning for its future. The Park Hill Orthodox Presbyterian Church's time at its longtime location is coming to a close. The property at the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. is up for sale.

The church could no longer survive, Kingsbury said, in part because membership dropped.

"The newer people that are coming in have not been able to afford Denver," said Kingsbury.

The church now plans to move to Aurora in the summer. While a developer wants their current property, it first needed to be rezoned. It was finally approved this week at a city council meeting, but not before an agreement was finalized following months of opposition from the neighborhood.

Across the street at Northeast Denver Islamic Center, Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali is fighting to stay afloat too.

"We had some contentious times. There’s no doubt about that," said Ali. "We're being priced out of the market and that's a big issue for us. We want to stay in this neighborhood."

He was originally opposed to the project but dropped his complaints as long as the developer agreed to keep 20 percent of the units affordable, and the church would compromise and drop its sale price by $200,000.

"Even though it is a major sacrifice, if that's a way to help people in the area, people who are poor or not able to afford housing, then that's a sacrifice they're willing to make," said Kingsbury, referring to his congregation.

And in the end, this corner found a way to embrace the good and the bad that comes with change.

Ali told Denver7 that the Northeast Denver Islamic Center is planning to build at least 30 affordable housing units in place of its current parking lot.