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A study by consulting company EPS looked at housing in Lakewood in 2016.
Among its findings:
• The average median income of households in the city was $60,984
• The average household’s target purchase price for a home was $300,000
• Monthly rents would need to be $1,120 or less to be considered affordable for average residents
• A household would have to be making twice the average area income to afford a Harlan Row unit
The west side of Lakewood is home to some of the city’s most beloved open spaces and views — places like Bear Creek Lake Park, Rooney Valley and Green Mountain.
Which explains why talk of residential development in that area — particularly high density — often meets with so much objection from residents.
But as Perry Cadman, president of Wheat Ridge-based building company Merkwood Homes explains, Lakewood’s east side is one of the most exciting places to be. Which is why his company’s new town home project, Harlan Row, is being built at West 17th Avenue and Harlan Street, near Walker Branch Park.
“We’re right on the edge of where everything has been happening at places like the Highlands, Sloan’s Lake and other popular areas,” he said. “While we’re on the edge now, this direction is where everything is going.”
Harlan Row and Merkwood’s other project in the area, City View, are at the hub of many areas of activity — West Colfax, Sloan’s Lake and all it’s new development, downtown Edgewater, and thanks to a nearby W Line stop, downtown Denver and Golden are just a ride away.
“Most of our residential development in the city is happening in the northeast area, and that makes sense,” said Lakewood’s Economic Development Director, Nanette Neelan.” It’s one of our city’s designated growth areas, plus the lot sizes are conducive to these kinds of projects.”
Projects like the West Line Village and 40 West Residences are also in the works or have opened, and both are on Lakewood’s east side.
Town homes serve dual purposes that many other housing options don’t — they are a small and less expensive starter home for young professionals and families and offer an alternative for older residents who are looking to downsize.
“We’ve found these populations share a lot of the same wants in a home,” Neelan said. “Something small and low maintenance that they can safely leave while they’re traveling.”
Harlan Row is a 24-unit project, all three stories tall and range from 1,678 to 1,704 square feet with rooftop patios and the option to customize the home to their personal tastes.
“Not only does this give buyers a chance to get in on the design process, which is the most fun part of the whole process, but it helps with resale,” said Michael Shank, sales manager with Merkwood. “It means all these homes aren’t the same — they have the personality buyers are looking for.”
The Harlan Row town homes are being sold at around $530,000 which is cheaper than many similar options just a few miles away in the happening Sloan’s Lake and Highlands areas — a fact Shank said is important in Denver’s hot housing market.
“We’ve heard that people still want that feeling of being in a neighborhood, and they want a good value,” Cadman added. “That’s also why we’re looking at a project in the same area that would offer condos for people not looking for a full town homes.”
Both condos and town homes are housing stock Lakewood could use more of, as it’s very difficult to find starter housing in the city, Neelan said.
“From 2000 to 2016, only 364 town homes were built out of about 6,700 residential units in total,” she said. “It’s important for a city to have a diversity of housing stock and layers of affordability. Because right now, teachers and fireman and many others can’t afford to buy here.”
While projects like Harlan Row are cheaper than Denver, Neelan said she hopes to see more condo-type projects that are in the price range of these vital community members. Because $500,000 is still far out of reach for many.
“Affordable housing, especially for single wage earner people, is really difficult right now,” she said. “We’re anxious to get some policy options to help our residents find a home.”
The city is nearing completion on a housing study that aims to paint a full picture of the city’s existing housing stock and needs, and Neelan hopes that will lead to legislative options to help the city be more affordable.
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