by John Kiljan
Dear CLRC members and friends,
At a posted Arvada Urban Renewal Authority (AURA) workshop held on July 15th, the Board of Commissioners was briefed on three important developments near the Arvada Ridge Gold Line station that is now under construction.
Rich Schierburg talked about his plans to develop his remaining property just north of the tracks and next to Red Rocks Community College. Mr Schierburg, with Peregrine Group Development, is one of the developers of the Arvada Station apartments located just south of the new commuter rail station. He was also the developer of the nearby Target store.
Here are some extracts of my notes from his 20-minute talk:
He has spent the last 20 years developing the old Ridge Home area. Mr Schierburg is proud of his role in renewing the eyesore of old abandoned buildings left when the State closed down the Home and later offered the property up for redevelopment. This latest proposal is for the last remaining parcel of land he owns.
At first, he had planned on putting in 225 owner-occupied condos on the 11-acre site, but after having a couple of market studies done he found that he would lose money on the one- and two-bedroom units he built. And he would only make a return on his investment with the 8% that were to be 3-bedroom units.
And that doesn’t even figure in the $20 thousand-plus cost of construction-defect liability insurance per unit (amounting to about $4.5 million more) if he can get it. That expense would raise the price of the condos by another 10%.
Liability insurers are telling him that they are not going to lower the charges for Colorado cities, such as Lakewood, who have already passed their own construction defect laws. They are still worried about what the State laws say and they don’t want to take the risk. Like Lakewood, Arvada is now considering passing its own construction defect laws.
So he decided instead to go with 320 market-rate, for-rent-only apartments on the site. Peregrine will partner wth Embrey Partners on the project. That’s the same company Peregrine worked with on the Arvada Station apartments.
These units will not be what are often referred to ‘affordable housing’. Instead, they will be a higher grade of apartments with even more amenities than the Arvada Station apartments on the other side of the tracks.
Building them to a higher standard will cost more – about 12%, but it should also make it easier for them to be converted to condos after the construction defect time limitations have expired (after about 8 years). The apartment will come with a smaller average floor plan than Arvada Station to keep the rents down.
And they will be high density, with over 30 units per acre. To do that they will be built to four stories and will have elevators – something Arvada Station does not have across the tracks.
Mr Schierburg said he thought much of the trend toward higher-end apartments in the metro area is being driven by new tech-oriented jobs where young professionals are making very good salaries, even when just starting their careers. Even affordable housing in apartments has gotten to be expensive in Arvada’s market.
Apparently, the metro Denver area has the highest rental rates of any city in America that is not a coastal city. And, in turn, Arvada has some of the highest rents in the metro area – as well as some of the lowest apartment vacancy rates. He does, however, see hope for new affordable apartment housing just west of the Red Rocks campus along Ridge Road.
Other features will include a dog washing room, an area to walk dogs, a bicycle repair and storage area, and a small “pocket park” located adjacent to Ridge Road that will be open to the public using the Arvada Ridge commuter rail station on the other side of Ridge Road.
Still, Rich Schierburg is worried about getting financing for the project, mostly because of rising construction costs and higher impact fees, and because of other competition coming in the housing market for apartments.
His next step will be to solicit community feedback on the project. Mr Schierburg is planning to hold a public input meeting in the next 30 to 45 days. Look for an announcement as an update to this article on RalstonCommunity.org.
If it goes as planned, he hopes to be under construction in about a year – perhaps sooner. That will be followed with an 18-month construction schedule. That will mean completion after RTD’s Gold Line starts running in 2016; but, like Park Place in Olde Town, some units may be let out while the rest of the development is still under construction.
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Rich Schierburg and RTD are not the only ones building at Arvada Ridge. The adjacent Red Rocks Community College located on the west side of the Schierburg property just broke ground on a $22.5 million expansion. That expansion will more than double the attendance at the school – from 700 students to 1500. Most of the new students will be enrolled in accredited health sciences programs such as pre-nursing, nurses aides, medical technicians, medical diagnostics, physician assistants and other medical support careers. RRCC already has a healthy pre-university science program.
The number of staff and faculty will also increase fourfold, and the campus will triple in size with the inclusion of a new clinic.
The expansion will make the college a national leader in training healthcare professionals in these fields. Unlike most community colleges, Red Rocks will offer Bachelor’s degrees, and it will be the only community college in the nation to offer a Master’s Degree. The MS degree will be for the highly competitive profession of Physician Assistant. PAs are increasingly being used in the rural parts of Colorado where there are no resident MDs.
There were a lot of players in getting funding for this project. Ron Slinger, the Executive Director of the RRCC Foundation, said that the largest project donation ($10 million) came from the Colorado General Assembly. Apparently, the Legislature was impressed by the economics of the expansion. The PA program alone is expected to cause an additional $900 thousand a year to be spent in proximity to the campus by the 60 students enrolled in that program. Also, in a Department of Labor report, the Legislature was also told that there will be a severe shortage of needed health care providers in the metro area in the coming years. The college has a goal of achieving a 100% placement rate for its health-care graduates.
Even though the college is $2.6 million short of needed funding, the expansion project is on a fast track to be completed sometime in the fall of 2016. The City of Arvada has already contributed $1 million to the expansion.
Dr Michele Haney, the President of RRCC, said there will be an emphasis on teamwork and new medical technologies for simulations. For example, their mannequins will breathe, have heart attacks, give birth to babies, talk, groan and sometimes die on their ‘caregivers’.
The college will have emergency response facilities with an ambulance bay, x-ray and ultrasound equipment and other medical technologies that can be turned over to emergency-response authorities in the event of an emergency. The on-site clinic will include exam rooms, operating rooms and a meeting space that can hold 200 people.
Dr Haney also said that Red Rocks partners with Jeffco schools to allow students to graduate from high school and the community college with an associate’s degree at [the same] time – effectively getting two years of college out of the way for graduating high school seniors.
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But there is more happening at Arvada Ridge. A new road and intersection with the Kipling Parkway is also in the works.
Arvada has a vehicle access problem with developments on the north side of the Arvada Ridge commuter rail station. The Gold Line can only be boarded from the north side of the track because of the Burlington Northern track next to it. But the available parking will only be on the south side. Riders from the 200-space parking lot will have to pass through a tunnel under the tracks and then take an elevator up to the platform. And southbound drivers on Kipling who want to get to the station’s parking lot will have to follow a circuitous access route passing the Jack-in-the-Box restaurant on 51st Place.
What that means is that drivers doing drop-offs or pick-ups at the rail station, or going to the college, or to the new apartments may tend to instead follow either a very residential Miller Street or to use an already very busy Independence Street. In the past, City traffic engineers have looked at providing an exit-only off-ramp off of southbound Kipling to mitigate the problem. They concluded that, not only would the project be very expensive, but it would be unlikely to be effective in keeping traffic off of Miller and Independence.
But the City Council was not satisfied with that answer. They asked City Traffic to do another evaluation using a consultant. The plan the consultant came up with was shown at the AURA workshop by City Traffic Engineer Ben Waldman. The plan (and the exact road location) is still preliminary, but the idea is to split off another short road from the Red Rocks campus entry drive and drop it down the hill to meet the Kipling Parkway where it will connect with a signalized full intersection.
You can see where that is likely to be in the first illustration in this article. The short road and proposed intersection is roughly drawn in in black. In the current concept, the traffic coming off of Kipling would have to be distributed in five different directions. Those would be joined at a single signal-free, European-style roundabout. The road will also provide access to Rich Schierburg’s new apartments.
This concept hasn’t been run by the full Council yet, but a workshop is tentatively scheduled for September 21st to do that. The price tag is also iffy. The consultant, Felsburg Holt & Ulliveg, currently has a $1.25 million estimated cost for the project. But there may be some unanticipated difficulties getting the design to work. The grade is steep. Mr Waldman said the final cost may go higher. And the project is currently without a schedule. It has yet to be prioritized and put into the Capital Improvement Projects budget.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.
You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004
July 20, 2015