Property Spotlight March 2023 – Mosaic Community Campus
Since Archway’s announcement of their acquisition of four dormitory buildings on the former Johnson and Wales campus, newly named the Mosaic Community Campus, this past December, there has been a lot of buzz! We knew we had to feature this property for its rich Women’s History, which we will dive into later this month in our Monthly Thought Leadership Newsletter with Sarah Blanchard, Senior Development Manager for Archway.
In the meantime, we wanted to give you some context on how the project came to be including the significance and the challenge of renovating historic buildings into affordable housing and what the future of the Mosaic Community Campus will look like.
In early 2021, Johnson & Wales University closed their Denver campus, a beautiful historic campus in the heart of Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. The Urban Land Conservancy, a Denver non-profit that secures land for community-serving uses, partnered with Denver Public Schools and the Denver Housing Authority to purchase the entire campus with a vision of creating a variety of community-serving uses. ULC approached Archway in June 2021 as a potential partner to bring family affordable housing to four historic dorm buildings on the north side of campus. Although it would have been easy to transform single-room dorms into smaller units, we shared ULC’s commitment to creating affordable access to the campus for larger families. We worked intensively with our partners at Shopworks Architects to design a redevelopment plan that includes about 100 2- and 3-bedroom units, and successfully secured competitive tax credits in November 2021.
Adaptive Reuse and Tax Credits
The Mosaic Community Campus project has been an amazing opportunity for our design and construction team (Shopworks Architects and Taylor-Kohrs) to build our capacity to tackle the complexities of adaptive reuse projects. One thing that made adaptive reuse work well in this case was that the building systems were already well on their way to being suited for multi-family residential use. That, along with the availability of space that can deliver Archway programming and services – a key part of our mission – will be an important filter for us as we explore different building types for future projects.
The age and historic significance of the buildings meant we could leverage state and federal historic tax credits which provided a major piece of the financing puzzle. These factors made an adaptive reuse sensible here. It’s certainly an interesting option to explore any time there is an existing structure to work with, but unfortunately most times it can be physically infeasible or cost prohibitive.
Challenges Associated with Acquiring, Developing, and Operating Affordable Housing in Denver
The economics of affordable housing development and project management are continually getting tougher. Interest rates are going up, tax credit pricing is stagnating, construction costs are both increasing and increasingly unpredictable, and operating costs like insurance are increasing tremendously. The only way to address these challenges is to increase commitment from our state and local government partners in making affordable housing development projects a priority and to support the ability of our organizations to sustainably deliver high-quality housing and supportive services. We are lucky to see more and more state and local resources coming online to support our work in the coming years and looking forward to rolling up our sleeves to get these funds invested in the health of our communities.
Community Amenities and Notable Features
All four buildings at Mosaic have fantastic historic community spaces that will support programming for our residents. Beyond the four walls of our buildings, our adaptive reuse is just one piece of a larger vision of the campus as a community and economic development hub. We’re excited to partner with other organizations on the campus including the Denver School of the Arts, St. Elizabeth School, and the Kitchen Network to provide innovative programming for our residents as part of the comprehensive supportive services offering that Archway implements at all of our properties.