Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square

Something crucial and life-changing is happening here at Saint John’s. 
Something glorious is happening in the heart of the city.

Saint John's Cathedral and Saint Francis Center are excited to announce that the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) has approved an allocation of tax credits to build permanent supportive housing for 50 formerly homeless people.

This is great news and we should all be very proud of the work that has been done by many people in our congregation and on our staff for many years to make this project possible. There’s still a lot of work ahead to do, but we are excited that we can now move forward in this work together.

"Saint John's Cathedral and Saint Francis Center are committed to being good neighbors," says The Reverend Sally Brown, who volunteers with both Saint John's Cathedral and Saint Francis Center. "Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square will provide a supportive environment where residents might also be our good neighbors and friends."

Saint John's has donated the land for the project, which will be built by BlueLine Development on the Cathedral/Argonaut parking lot on Cathedral Square North. The Cathedral is most grateful to the Robinson family, Argonaut's owners, for their willingness to redesign the parking lot to accommodate the new building. The Robinsons were impressed with their tour of Cornerstone Residences, Saint Francis Center's first supportive housing project, at 1001 Park Ave West. Tom Luehrs, Executive Director for Saint Francis Center, explains that, like Cornerstone Residences, Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square will have an on-site manager and provide permanent homes for its new residents. Saint Francis Center is still seeking a little more than $1 million in private donations to fully fund the project, but based on the outpouring of support at the Saint Francis Center fundraising luncheon in May, we are confident the target will be met.

Groundbreaking is tentatively planned for January 2016. Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square will soon be the most visible element of the intergenerational community that has been emerging since 2009, when the Clarkson Community Task Force was charged by the Vestry to create a long-term plan to realize the Cathedral's vision of service to our neediest neighbors.

As Father Robert Hendrickson explained, “As Saint John’s embarks on this partnership, we are announcing to the congregation, the city, and the diocese that we place our ministry with those most in need at the very heart of our congregation’s life and witness.”

“The Saint Francis Center has a historic connection to the Cathedral,” notes The Reverend Sally Brown. “The Women’s Homeless Initiative is a thriving ministry at Saint John’s, members of the congregation volunteer at Saint Francis Center, and we provide financial and in-kind support.”

Once Saint Francis Center Apartments at Cathedral Square is underway, the task force will revisit and revise the initial master plan, which in addition to calling for space for Wartburg and Sewall students also specified housing and services for low-income families and the elderly and highlighted the need to provide a community-gathering space.  The Cathedral is undergoing many changes, and the master plan for the Clarkson Community may change several times, but it will always be guided by the needs of those at the heart of its ministry.

Tom Stoever, former Senior Warden and a member of the task force, expressed it this way: “The Saint Francis Apartments at Cathedral Square and the vision of the entire Clarkson Community are about more than just ministry to those in need. It is about living life with them. It is not about hand-outs or charity but about offering a home where hope can be restored.”

Joe Poli, of Humphries Poli Architects, has been working with the task force since 2012 on a master plan that places the lovely Dominick Park, the task force’s first project, as the gateway to the community. Early partners in the long-term plan were the Wartburg West college program and the Sewall Child Development Center. Poli encouraged the task force to build on the Cathedral’s existing strengths, and in the summer of 2013 students from Wartburg West moved into the Kimberly apartment building, now renamed Wartburg Center at Saint John’s Cathedral. A few months later, Sewall set up a “satellite” center in the Cathedral.

Residences to house our neighbors transitioning out of homelessness was not in the master plan, but as the Vestry fast-tracked the request from Saint Francis Center, Poli and the task force went to work re-envisioning the design to welcome the poorest of our neighbors. There was no doubt that this project was what the Cathedral was called to do.


What is the scope of this project?

The supportive housing project will contain 51 one-bedroom units, that will be approximately 500 sq. ft. each. One unit will be for a residential property manager. The main floor will most likely house a lobby area along with offices for the case workers and there are plans for communal meeting spaces on the top floor.  The initial design is for a five story building, below the zoning-allowed eight stories.  

What is the budget for this project?

Approximately $8.5 million (91%) of the total funding will be through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program from the Colorado Housing and Finance Agency.  This is a public/private partnership program in which tax credits are allocated to states through the IRS and awarded to housing projects by the state Housing Finance Agency.  Private investors pay equity into the project in return for the use of the tax credits over a ten year period, bringing private investment from national sources into the local community.  

The remaining $795,000 (9%) in funding will come from Housing Development Grant (HDG) through the Colorado Division of Housing.  This is a state funded program with a priority for ending homelessness.  These funds go directly to the project as a grant or non-amortizing loan, which allows for 100% of revenue generated by the project to be used for permanent supportive services, a vital tool in the fight against homelessness.  While the tax credits have been approved, funding decisions by the Colorado Division of Housing have not yet been announced.

The project will be supported by project based vouchers from the Denver Housing Authority (25 - HUD Housing Choice Vouchers) and Colorado Division of Housing (25 - CO State Voucher Program).  By providing operating subsidy to extremely low income (at or below 30% of area median income) and chronically homeless individuals residents will not have to worry about permanent housing or how to pay for it at a time when all their energy and income is focused on survival.  These subsidies will go directly to the manager of the project so residents will not have to worry about critical cash management.

What about parking?

Temporary parking during construction:  Once we have received notice that the project has been fully funded and will move forward, we will begin negotiating with other local businesses to obtain alternative parking to replace spaces lost during the construction.
Permanent Parking: Replacement parking for spaces lost to the building are being planned.

Read more about the Clarkson Community >
1350 N. Washington Street
Denver, CO 80203