Quarterly Message from the Executive Director
and Atrium at Austin Bluffs FAQ
After a tough 2nd quarter of 2020 which saw an emerging worldwide pandemic, remote-work by our staff, and 2 fires that temporarily displaced up to 36 individuals and families, the third quarter offering some much-needed relief and a many reasons to celebrate!
The Rocky Mountain Apartments was an adaptive reuse project which saw a vacant office building converted to 18 new and affordable rental homes near Circle and Bijou. After demo’ing the building down to the exterior walls, floors, and ceiling, everything else on the interior of the building was reconstructed – even the walls! The units were in high demand, and were fully occupied within weeks of opening. The common area and playground are some of the best in our portfolio, with its very large and enclosed courtyard, recreation equipment for kids of all ages, a barbecue, and sheltered picnic area for supervising adults. On the day of our first move-in, there was already a bunny that made a corner of the courtyard his home! If you’ve ever heard the story of the connection between St. Francis and the village of Greccio, you will appreciate the sweet symbolism of this little creature!
The long-awaited Ridge Apartments accepted its first residents in late June. The first of three buildings at the Ridge was fully occupied within 30 days, right around the time the 2nd building came online. Likewise, the second building was 100% occupied in a matter of days. These 2 buildings added 50 units of new affordable housing units to people in Colorado Springs earning 50% or less of the Area Median Income. The third and final building, under reconstruction after a devastating fire in April, is on track for completion just in time for Christmas, and will be the home of 10 much-needed 3-bedroom family apartments.
In July, The Atrium at Austin Bluffs enjoyed another huge milestone with its start of construction at the corner of Austin Bluffs and Templeton Gap. Just over a year after receiving a State Affordable Housing Tax Credit Award, ground work began on the 54-unit project designated for seniors. One of the more fun aspects of this project is our (and your) ability to watch its progress in real time. Click on this link: https://www.senserasystems.com/public/project/Atrium to see what happening – it renews every 5 minutes! Then, watch for news of our Grand Opening, expected in late summer or early fall, 2021.
In addition to the success of our housing development efforts, we were thrilled to begin returning to some degree of normal programming in our Resident Resource department – a critical aspect of housing stability for many of our residents. Not only did our staff start to return from their COVID-19 isolation, but at the direction of our hard-working fundraising team and many generous and committed partners, our Eviction Prevention Program brought in over $400,000 to assist those impacted by the pandemic, who would otherwise have dealt with the threat of losing their homes during one of the worst employment crises in decades. Many thanks to those who supported Greccio and our residents at this time: Wells Fargo Foundation, Colorado COVID Relief Fund, PPCF Emergency Response Funds, Women’s Foundation of Colorado, City of Colorado Springs- Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)- Coronavirus, and El Paso County CARES Act Individual Assistance.
We ended the quarter on a bittersweet note – celebrating the retirement of long-time Finance Director, Jim Ganyard. As Claudia would say, God placed Jim in our lives right when we needed him most. Serving as our first full-time Finance Director, Jim brought stability and certainty to our financial processes, as well as bringing candy canes to our Greccio Kids as Santa each year during our holiday celebrations. Jim will be missed, but we’re grateful to benefit from his outstanding career, and to celebrate the milestone of retirement with him and his wife, Stephanie.
So now we look forward to ending what can only be described as one of the most challenging years for our community and our country in the last hundred years. We look forward to building on our success, and marking the end of a year that is also Greccio Housing’s 30th Anniversary as one of the premiere nonprofit organizations in Colorado Springs. While we officially celebrated our 30th Anniversary with a Block Party in September, it was intentionally kept small and “distanced” due to precautions against COVID-19. Watch for a brief from that event and more thoughts about Greccio’s 30 years of providing stability, safety, and support to our residents in next quarter’s update, and as we near the end of 2020.
We are blessed to have the trust of so many, to have counted numerous blessings during a trying time.
Thank you for staying a committed Champion for Greccio Housing, and we look forward to the promise of the future.
Lee Patke, Executive Director
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: How is all that going to fit on such a small piece of land?
The 1.14 acre property is adequate for the building and required parking for the senior residents. We are working with experienced architects and land planners to ensure all codes and requirements are met. Plans are not yet final, and will be available for review during the City’s Land Use Review process. Update 11/22/19 – Variances are being requested for certain set-backs so that parking in addition to minimum requirement is available. Plans are available for review during the City’s Land Use Review process.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Why won’t the City sell the land and use the money to fix more roads and potholes?
The parcel of land was donated to the City by a developer with the condition that it be used specifically for a “public benefit.” By donating the land to Greccio for this development, the City is helping address a shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors; achieving the public benefit intended. City Council approved the agreement in March, 2018. Land transfer will occur after all approvals and financing are in place.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: What about the traffic impact on the neighborhood?
Traffic counts for the intended population (senior residential) are typically low impact, and much lower volume compared to other types of uses (retail and commercial).
A 3rd party Traffic and Transportation Consultant was hired to professionally analyze traffic impact of the project on the adjacent roadways; the complete analysis can be found here.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: There is no bus route on Austin Bluffs – how will residents get groceries or go to medical appointments?
For those without vehicles, there are transportation option from numerous providers in the community. Greccio is committed to providing weekly grocery access from current resources, and to advocating for additional bus service in this underserved area. Applicants to Greccio always know the resources of any property prior to signing a lease, and have choice to select the location and resources that are right for them.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Is this another “taxpayer subsidized facility” for “taxpayer subsidized residents?
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits were implemented in the Reagan era (1986) to incentivize for-profit companies to invest in affordable housing. The investor receives future tax credits, and the community gets affordable rentals for its residents.
Around 15% of Greccio’s residents receive ‘Section 8’ housing assistance, and
half of those, or 37, are at 2 “project based” properties. This will not be a “project based” property, but may have some renters who receive housing assistance. With similar ratios, about 5-7 of the 54 apartments may have residents with housing assistance.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Can someone rent the apartment, the sublease it or move others in that don’t meet qualifications?
No, properties with income restrictions such as this are often more strict than the general market about supervision, subleases, and unauthorized roommates. There will be on-site staff, Resident Resources, maintenance, regular supervision, and security cameras. Only those who qualify and are on the lease are allowed to stay.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: I’ve seen some of Greccio’s properties – will this property be the same type?
Most of Greccio’s early complexes were developed by acquiring older, distressed properties and renovating them. 3 are even over 100 years old (historic or Victorian)! Newly constructed affordable housing competes visually and functionally with all but the highest income market rate properties. Chances are you’ve seen newly constructed (2000-present) affordable housing, and had no idea it was “affordable.”
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Is the City co-signing a loan for this development?
No, the Private Activity Bonds (PAB) are a debt tool that Greccio will use to temporarily fund the development until repaid. The City is not party to the debt and has no financial obligation; it is only the issuer of the bonds/debt. These PABs are set aside specifically for affordable housing developments, and cannot be used for anything else.