Zeppelin plans 300 affordable housing apartments in RiNo

A rendering of the planned 300-unit apartment complex.(Courtesy of Zeppelin Development)

A rendering of the planned 300-unit apartment complex.(Courtesy of Zeppelin Development)

Another nearly 300 apartments are pulling into Taxi.

Zeppelin Development wants to build 288 new affordable housing units to its Taxi complex in RiNo. It will be the first affordable housing project at Taxi, adding to a development that already includes office space, condos and a market-rate apartment building.

“It’s almost counter-cyclical compared to the rest of the apartment market,” said principal Kyle Zeppelin. “We’re looking around and seeing a lot of luxury apartments and housing for millennials, and wanted to do something that was different that would be for an underserved area of the market.”

Zeppelin said the project will cost between $50 million and $60 million. It’s Zeppelin Development’s first affordable housing project, he said. The Denver-based developer is bringing on Andy Allison, a veteran Boulder-based affordable housing developer, as an equity partner in the project.

The site stretches southwest from Taxi office building Drive 2 to 31st Street. Zeppelin bought the land in May 2015 for $1.8 million, according to Denver city records.

As land prices continue to climb around RiNo, Zeppelin said a more reasonably priced real estate acquisition is part of what makes the affordable housing plan work.

Kyle Zeppelin

Kyle Zeppelin

“We’re kind of isolated from the cycles, just based on that fact that we’re doing something different,” he said. “We’re not as concerned about immediate returns as the rest of the market, so we can do something that will hopefully fill a need; and the bet is that over time it will work better economically.”

The project will stand four stories tall, with nearly 300 units on about four acres. Zeppelin Development is planning at least 10-foot tall ceilings and concrete floors, shop space, a commercial kitchen, and amenities like a pool and fitness center.

Rooms will average 420 square feet for one-bedroom units and closer to 550 square feet for two-bedroom apartments. The apartments will have garage doors that have become a hallmark of Zeppelin-developed buildings, opening towards mountain and city views.

Zeppelin said they’ll also make the bedrooms smaller than typical sleeping quarters, in hopes of adding extra space to the living areas. It’s one of several design elements he said the company is borrowing from the suites at its Source Hotel, which under construction on Brighton Boulevard.

“Those are 350- or 400-square-foot, highly functional spaces,” he said. “The thought is to include a lot of those features and provide something for a different area of the market.”

The site stretches southwest from the Drive 2 office building to 31st Street. (Burl Rolett)

The site stretches southwest from the Drive 2 office building to 31st Street. (Burl Rolett)

The apartments will be set aside for renters making no more than 60 percent of the area median income. According to guidelines issued by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, one-person households could make no more than $33,660 in order to qualify. A two-person household could earn up to $38,460.

Rents for one-bedroom units would be capped at $901 with two-bedrooms topping out at $1,081, again using 2016 figures from CHFA.

“Certainly affordable housing is one everyone’s mind with the need for some more lower-cost options,” Zeppelin said. “You have people that work in the service industry and a lot of other jobs who can’t afford a $2,000 rent, or a $1,600 rent for a comparable unit.”

Right now Zeppelin Development is working on getting the 4.2-acre site rezoned to make way for the apartment building. Zeppelin hopes to break ground in about a year and a half. It will take another year or so to build.

Dynia Architects is designing the complex along with landscape architects Wenk Associates.

Meanwhile at Taxi, Zeppelin Development this year finished Freight Residences. That project is a 48-unit apartment building Zeppelin Development geared toward family tenants, as opposed to millennial renters.

“We’ve definitely covered some bases for market rate projects,” Zeppelin said. “The focus had been on workplaces, and we just finished Freight, which filled up in the first four or five months.”

Earlier this year Zeppelin also bought 5.5 acres at the former Ready Mixed Concrete plant near Washington Street and Ringsby Court. Zeppelin said his firm is still working through plans for that site, but it would likely be more similar to Freight than the affordable housing project – a development Zeppelin has dubbed “Redacted.”

The name, Zeppelin said, refers to how he thinks well-designed affordable housing projects have been cut out of Denver’s downtown development boom.

“Redacted means something that’s separated, and edited out,” he said. “There’s a lot of development activity in the market, but it’s really very focused on the high end, and then the affordable projects are somewhat cookie cutter, and it’s not about people and who is going to occupy them.”

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