The city of Denver saw a massive surge in development proposal submissions last month, as firms raced to meet a deadline to avoid new regulations affecting developers.
In early June, the Denver City Council passed its “Expanding Housing Affordability” plan, which requires those building residential projects in the city to incorporate a varying amount of income-restricted units, or to pay between $250,000 and $478,000 for each missing unit. The law also significantly raises the “linkage fee” that developers of non-residential projects pay.
But the measure included a sort of grace period. If developers submitted an early-stage development proposal known as a concept plan by June 30, the project would be grandfathered in under the previous regulations, which didn’t require any income-restricted units in new projects.
Plenty of firms wanted to be grandfathered in.
The city received 162 concept plans in June, according to a city spokeswoman. That’s up 277 percent from June 2021, when 43 plans were submitted. In fact, more plans were submitted this June than the four previous Junes combined.
And the city was already seeing a submission surge prior to June. In total, during the first six months of the year, the city received 368 concept plans, up 70 percent from the same period in 2021 and more than twice the number submitted between January and June 2020.
Among the concept plans submitted last month were one calling for a 53-story tower rising atop two historic downtown buildings, a three-story apartment building at the site of the recently closed Bonnie Brae Tavern and a 25-story building in Arapahoe Square that is one of three local projects being considered by a Chicago-based developer.
Submitting their concept plan by June 30 isn’t the only thing that developers have to do to be grandfathered in. They must also have their site development plan, a later-stage development proposal, approved by either Aug. 30 or Dec. 31, 2023, depending on the type of project.
In April, Denver City Councilman Kevin Flynn expressed concerns that some developers might miss the approval deadlines because their building plans sit unseen for weeks on a city staffer’s desk.
Laura Swartz, spokeswoman for Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department, told BusinessDen in early June that, given the surge in submissions, those coming in close to the deadline could take longer to review than ones received months ago.
“The ordinance’s proposed effective dates have been public since October 2021,” she said. “However, the city will monitor the impact of review timeframes every six months and determine whether an extension to effective dates or another solution is warranted in the future.”