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DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) begins expanding central I-70 through the heart of Denver this summer, capping part of the highway with soccer fields and a park.
When it happens, lives will undoubtedly be disrupted – both for commuters and those living in that area. In fact, for some neighbors, that disruption has already started.
"It's been a horrible nightmare," said one resident who lives within a half block of the proposed expansion area. “We are so worried about the noise and the dust.”
But, given those growing pains, a new plan from the City of Denver and Habitat for Humanity aims to lessen the blow.
"This is really important for Denver, specifically for the neighborhood," said Katie McKenna, director of community development for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.
Denver has given Habitat the green light to develop an open lot that sits in the middle of the Elyria-Swansia neighborhood. The lot was owned by the Denver Housing Authority and sits just two blocks south of I-70 and one block north of the A Line, the train from downtown to Denver International Airport.
"This is an incredibly important project to the neighborhood, and to me," said city councilman Albus Brooks.
Together, Denver and Habitat will partner to build 32 three- and four-bedroom homes in the area. It will feature 16 townhomes facing Elizabeth Street in between 43rd and 44th and 16 facing Columbine St. on the opposite side of the lot.
The homes will be offered exclusively to families already living in the neighborhood who are making less than 80 percent of the median income.
The price of the townhomes won't be discounted. McKenna estimates they will likely be listed in the $300,000 range. They will sell at market value as to not depress the housing market in that area. But, Habitat will offer low interest and low cost loans to families impacted by I-70.
"Impacted because of everything going on,” said Brooks. “Displacement, rising costs - those folks will have first right of refusal for these projects."
“Currently, it's an empty lot and it's a wonderful opportunity for affordable home ownership in an area where there's a huge need," McKenna said.
In terms of the timeline, it's going to happen fast. Habitat wants to break ground late this summer, with a goal of having the first families moving into those homes by early 2019.
"It’s close to light rail, close to resources in the heart of the community,” McKenna said.
As you can imagine, opinions vary on the whole idea of a neighborhood experiencing so much change, so quickly.
"It's really cool to see that they do care," said one neighbor.
"I don't think they're going to follow through with anything," said another.
Habitat will begin accepting applications within a few weeks.