What happens in markets with achievable housing options?

To get at the answer, let’s first ask a different question: what happens in markets where residents have a voice, when they collaborate, dream, and plan together? Well, you get that in Central Park in Denver, Colorado. This innovative effort transformed 7.5 square miles into one of the area’s most vibrant communities, while making achievable housing a key priority.

How did Central Park come to be — and how can we apply lessons learned to our own neighborhoods here in Indiana?

Welcome to the 80238

Central Park (formerly Stapleton) is a collaborative effort on the part of civil officials, business leaders, and citizens who wanted a voice in how Denver grows. And it all started at the airport.

In 1995, Stapleton International Airport was shuttered when the much (much!) larger Denver International Airport opened. As it turned out, the 7.5 square miles of unused terminals, concourses, and runways was fertile ground for the imagination and for collaboration. Civic officials, business leaders, and citizens wanted a say in the future of their city, and they worked tirelessly to create a plan for redevelopment that builders and developers helped to execute. (Or some other language that recognizes that vision & planning are just part of the equation & finding partners who can make plans come to fruition is equally important).

Forward-thinking community leaders wanted to focus on what made Denver, Denver  — the classic neighborhoods, architectural diversity, ample parks, beautiful tree-lined streets —and extend the appeal into new neighborhoods. They also wanted to enhance the living experience, putting energy efficient building standards, pedestrian-friendly mixed-use environments, and achievable housing options at the top of their wish list.

The Central Park community enjoys award-winning schools, over 60 public parks, seven swimming pools (each with its own unique features), eye-catching public art, six charming water features, and abundant shopping and dining. According to Central Park’s website, “Central Park now thrives at a grassroots level thanks to residents and business owners each adding their own touch. It has become a place that’s far better than anyone could have planned.”

Today, Central Park is “12 Neighborhoods Strong,” and each of these neighborhoods has its own unique character. A big part of what makes this development so successful is the diversity of housing options.

Achievable Housing in Central Park, Denver

Central Park is nothing if not diverse. This is apparent in the award-winning architecture, which ranges from traditional styles to ultra-modern designs. It is also evident in the mix of housing options available.

There are homes that start at $1 million. There are also homes that are achievable for those with a median or below-median income. We know what you’re thinking: compared to the million-dollar mansion, the attainable housing options must be… well, eyesores. They must be subpar. They must be “other.”

They are anything but. These homes are built with the same exacting standards (including sustainability and energy efficiency) as any other home in the area. Emily McCormick, a Coldwell Banker agent who works in Central Park, says, “People think that they can’t get a home… And that’s just not the case. They walk in the door, and they’re like, ‘I can afford this house — this house right here? It’s beautiful.”

Central Park recently added 132 condos to its stock, and these will be attainable for those earning 60-80% of the area median income. Britta Fisher, executive director of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability, says, “This project is so needed. This will make a meaningful difference for 132 individuals and families, providing housing stability and an asset from which to build and grow their lives.”

These are not subsidized or “affordable” housing programs. Hopeful homebuyers still have to save, get their credit in order, get a loan, and complete the process as usual. The difference is that they’re in the running. Homeownership is not easy; achievable options make it, at least, a possibility.

The Central Park neighborhoods feature single-family homes, bungalows, cottages, paired homes, townhomes, and apartments at a variety of price points. A portion is income-restricted. As Central Park promises, “The more choices you have, the better your chances of finding the new home or apartment that’s right for you.”

The more choices you have, the better your chances of being able to live in the community in which you work . The better your chances to achieve housing stability. The better your chances of realizing your dream of homeownership. The better your chances to reinvest in and contribute to your community. This is what happens in markets with achievable housing options.

Achievable Housing in Indy

Central Park was the culmination of vision, collaboration, forward-thinking housing policies, and hard work. At the same time, we are not looking to copy Denver’s playbook verbatim. What works there may not work here; we have different needs and different visions for our communities.

But what does work (and is backed by data) is planning for and building a variety of housing options with greater fiscal accessibility in mind. The economic benefits  are clear; the social and cultural benefits, while perhaps less easy to quantify, are no less important.

As Central Park shows us, introducing achievable housing into a market not only creates more opportunities for individuals and families, but it also enriches and enhances life in the community for all.

What can we do, right here, right now? How can we create communities that thrive? Let’s talk about solutions. Connect with us at https://buildindianaroots.com/



Note: Central Park, Denver was formerly known as Stapleton.  Like Stapleton International Airport, the development was named after Benjamin Stapleton, who served five terms as mayor in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Stapleton was an unabashed member of the KKK, and in 2020, residents succeeded in canceling him. They voted to change the name of their community to “Central Park.”