Denver, Colorado, June 11, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) –
Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Denver Public Schools (DPS) and Denver Housing Authority (DHA) today announced the purchase of the former Johnson & Wales University Denver campus. Last summer, the university announced it would cease operations in Denver after the 2020/21 school year and attempted to sell the entire 25-acre campus. In January of this year, representatives of the JWU, with the help of CBRE brokers, selected ULC as the main buyer of the property. ULC has submitted a proposal in collaboration with DPS and DHA. Of three finalists who applied to campus, ULC was the only nonprofit and only organization aiming to keep the campus for community purposes.
“We are pleased that the buyer is a community-based organization with a rich heritage in maintaining and redesigning campuses throughout the greater Denver area. ULC’s mission-driven focus was evident in its ability to work immediately with the Denver Housing Authority, Denver Public Schools and St. Elizabeth’s School on key components of the campus, ”said Joseph Greene, Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Johnson & Wales University .
Upon completion of this transaction, DPS owns the west side of the campus and plans to expand the Denver School of the Arts (DSA) and use the campus as a community arts center. “When I heard that the [Johnson & Wales] The university would sell the property across the street, and I started thinking about how DSA could be expanded on campus to support more students, “said Dr. Anthony McWright, director of the Denver School of the Arts. The expansion will allow DSA to accept 500th to 700 additional students over time, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion of low-income and colored students. The western campus includes the Wildcat Center, Whatley Chapel, Academic Center and the Aspen Hall.
Denver Housing Authority (DHA) purchased the southern portion of the campus, which includes Triangolo Hall and Gaebe Hall, two former dormitory buildings, with the aim of expanding affordable housing in the community. “DHA is excited about this unique partnership to provide affordable housing opportunities in Denver and looks forward to working with the surrounding neighborhoods to create a vibrant community with our partners on campus,” said David Nisivoccia, Executive Director the Denver Housing Authority. Both DHA and DPS were represented in this transaction by Dorit Fischer and Hayden Hirschfeld at NAI Shames Makovsky.
ULC is the new owner of the east side of the campus and holds the land on a 99-year long lease that maintains its affordability and commitment to community-based uses over the long term. ULC works with the following organizations who lease and / or buy buildings on the east campus:
- St. Elizabeth’s School, which will move to Centennial Hall, has served Northeast Denver for the past 15 years as a purposely inclusive school with a commitment to equal opportunity, belonging and educational opportunities for all students. The school community represents the mix of races, ethnicities, beliefs, and family cultures that make up Denver, CO. consists. They hold the fundamental belief that every family should have affordable and sustainable access to great education for their children and an individual curriculum that enables the school to accommodate families from a broad socio-economic spectrum that is truly representative of the neighborhoods it serves.
- BuCu West / The Kitchen Network, Denver’s longest-running community kitchen incubating specialty food businesses, is expanding to include the Culinary Arts Building and Vail Hall on campus, more than doubling the organization’s impact and the number of small businesses it serves. The nonprofit has hired renowned JWU chef Jorge de la Torre and will also work with Emily Griffith Technical College to provide culinary training and certification.
- The Archway Communities will acquire all four residential buildings on the East Campus: Johnson Hall, Wales Hall, President’s Hall and Founder’s Hall. Archway improves lives by providing affordable housing, food security, and the supportive social services people need to be successful.
Meeting the needs of the community
The campus is at the intersection of two very different communities: South Park Hill with an average income of $ 141,851 and 6.06% poor families and East Colfax with an average household income of $ 57,413 and 23.6% poor families. The acquisition of the property promotes the goals of ULC, which intervenes in the real estate market in metropolitan areas on behalf of low-income, disadvantaged communities currently threatened by gentrification.
“We recognize the foresight of Dr. Anthony McWright for seeing this opportunity to expand DSA to serve more students and that he reached out to ULC to work with DPS to do this and for more community service purposes, ”said Aaron Miripol, President and CEO of ULC. He adds, “It all happened in a very tight time frame. We have been able to form great partnerships with local nonprofits, foundations, and lenders within that time due to great partnerships. In particular, ULC’s access to low-interest debt through the Metro Denver Impact Facility (MDIF) was critical to our acquisition of the campus. ”MDIF lenders include FirstBank, CHFA, Gates Family Foundation (GFF), The Colorado Health Foundation ( CHF), Gary Community Investments (GCI), Colorado Trust and Northern Trust. GFF, CHF and GCI each granted grant dollars, and the Kenneth King Foundation provided a zero percent loan to aid the acquisition.
The partners will begin the transition to the campus in the summer. St. Elizabeth’s plans to start the 2021-22 school year at its new location in August this year and has reached an understanding with current and future student families regarding the move. Other partner organizations will move to campus over a longer period of time. For example, DSA is requiring renovations to prepare buildings for the unique needs of music, dance and theater programs, and plans to start teaching on campus in the 2022-23 school year. In the coming weeks and months, the Watson Wenk Group will encourage exchanges with community members and stakeholders, both collectively and organizationally, to determine uses and guidelines for the campus’ open spaces and facilities.
Building on the history and heritage of the campus
Johnson & Wales acquired the first portion of the Denver campus in 1999 and welcomed its opening class in 2000. Previously, the site was home to Colorado Women’s College and the University of Denver Law School.
ULC Vice President, Masters Site Development, Erin Clark said, “As a Denver native who spent part of my childhood around the corner from this campus and my mother graduated from DU Law School, I’m very proud of it to have been there to preserve this long-standing common good. Many of the female leaders in our area have graduated from Colorado Women’s College over the past century. To partner with other women like Sara Walsh from DPS, Haley Jordahl from DHA and Adriana Murphy and her team from St. Elizabeth’s School, along with many others, to bring this deal together was a real honor. “
Via Urban Land Conservancy
Urban Land Conservancy preserves, develops, manages and maintains affordable housing and shared office space for nonprofit and missionary organizations in Metro Denver and the surrounding communities. To learn more, visit www.urbanlandc.org