ULI Colorado Blog

REDI Opens for Application and Selects Holly Square Neighborhood as This Year’s Area of Study!

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ULI Colorado announces the opportunity to apply for our sixth  year of the REDI program. Launched in 2009, REDI is a partnership with Denver OED designed to boost the careers of minorities and women in real estate. The program pairs six mentors with up to 36 students to develop a hypothetical project in the Westwood neighborhood on Morrison Road in Denver. REDI protégés learn the ins and outs of developing a project and meet key players involved in finance, approvals, planning, design and marketing. Applications will be accepted from March 24th through May 15th, 2014. Successful graduates receive a one-year ULI membership and certificate of completion!

About this year’s project site:

The Holly Area Redevelopment Project (HARP) is a group of Denver’s Northeast Park Hill residents and community stakeholders that have come together to guide the redevelopment of the former Holly Square Shopping Center, located between Holly and Hudson streets north of East 33rd Ave.  Holly Square, affectionately known as “The Holly”, was built in the early 1950s, was once a vibrant and vital shopping center in the neighborhood.  It was nearly destroyed by an act of gang related arson in 2008.

The property was purchased in April 2009 by ULC with assistance from the Denver Office of Economic Development.  ULC oversaw demolition of the burned structures on the 2.6 acre site, resolved environmental issues, and launched a community visioning process in 2009 with the help of The Denver Foundation’s Strengthening Neighborhoods Program (SN) to re-imagine the entire six-block area including and surrounding the former shopping center.

The HARP Visioning Process was a year-and half long open, public process that led to creation of a set of “Good Neighbor Principles”, as well as a set of broad design concepts that the ULC has committed to using in selecting developers for the site, and which have provided overall guidance to reinvestment in the surrounding community.

There are a number of community assets already in place at the Holly, either immediately adjacent to or across the street from Holly Square.  HOPE Center provides programming for developmentally disabled adults.  The Pauline Robinson Library and Hiawatha David Recreation Center are among the local government institutions present, as well as Senator Michael Johnston’s office.  His office is now shared with the new Community Oriented Policing (COP) Shop sponsored by Impact Empowerment Group with current grant funding support from the Denver Foundation.

The results of the visioning process were shared with the larger community at the Holly Fair, in which the design concepts and planning principles identified by those who took part in the process were showcased.  Partners and other organizations from the community were also invited to promote their services and take part in the momentum gained from kick starting discussions for the process.  A second event was held that brought together developers, foundations, government officials and others to gauge the progress of HARP and provide valuable insight about the feasibility of the redevelopment goals iterated in the vision plan.

The planned redevelopment of Holly Square will happen in multiple phases and  requires investment partners, compatible program and/or service providers that, working with HARP as the guiding organization and the ULC as the property owner, will explore innovative and creative ways of providing services on this strategically located site.  Rather than issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) from developers, HARP and ULC chose to proceed with the Request for Statements of Interest (RFSI) approach. This allowed HARP and ULC to reach out as broadly as possible to compatible program and service providers, regardless of their size.  It also provided the opportunity to build collaborative partnerships and explore creative redevelopment strategies with those who recognize the value of Holly Square and its neighbors, respect the Good Neighbor Principles of the HARP, understand the benefit of joint development of the site, and incorporate innovative approaches towards meeting the challenges of today’s economic climate.

New basketball courts, a futsal court, and a new playground for community use were constructed as an interim use prior to full redevelopment of the site.   These facilities have provided opportunities for a variety of community events and have served to extend the programming of HARP partners, such as Hiawatha David Recreation Center and Impact Empowerment Group.

Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver was among the organizations that were selected during the RFSI process.  Their commitment to the neighborhood was proven through a long term land lease with ULC for construction of the Nancy P. Anschutz Community Center.  Thanks to a $5 million investment from the Anschutz Foundation, Boys & Girls Club is leveraging ULC’s $1 million investment at Holly Square.  HARP celebrated the completion and opening  of the Nancy P. Anschutz Center, home of the Jack A. Vickers Boys & Girls Club, in Fall of 2013.

This wonderful new community serving facility resulted  from a thoughtful RFSI process and newly formed partnership between HARP and Boys & Girls Club to work with ULC and other stakeholders to create a state of the art community center.  In addition to the Boys & Girls Club, the center was completed with a community space available for special events, as well as space for offices and programming for other organizations.  The Boys & Girls Club is now at capacity for their enrollment.  MiCasa Resource Center, whose Innovation Lab provides entrepreneurship guidance and career development services for local residents, and Impact Empowerment Group have settled in and are serving the community with increasing numbers.

HARP also supported efforts of ULC and the Colorado Construction Institute (CCI) to build an elevated walkway, fulfilling the HARP Vision Plan goal for connecting the HOPE Center to the Nancy P. Anschutz Community Center.  CCI is a nonprofit construction education and training program that helps local at risk youth and adults to develop construction skills, gain job experience and has played an active role in the HARP process. This walkway beautifies the site, enhances the pedestrian experience and serves to promote the idea of a “community campus,” in which the variety of organizations at Holly Square can link their programs and services.

Though significant progress has been made, there is still a tremendous opportunity for the site.  There is approximately 1.2 acres of land still available for redevelopment, as the existing sports facilities and playground will ultimately be relocated to another deserving site.  In December of 2015, ULC issued a second RFSI to identify entities interested in participating in the redevelopment of the remaining 1.2 acres of the Holly Square. HARP will be an integral part of the RFSI evaluation and selection process, which will ultimately lead to the next phase of vertical development.

The primary goal of HARP is to ensure that the redevelopment of Holly Square adheres to the Good Neighbor Principles articulated in the HARP Vision Plan.  HARP’s RFSI Subcommittee will be reviewing the responses to the latest RFSI to identify partners and cohorts for the next phase of development.  Vetting candidates and assisting with the due diligence of the predevelopment process will be critical to selecting the most ideally suited respondents.  This selection process will be integral to the long-term success of the redevelopment.

HARP is actively leading community conversations with the Denver Police Department and the Department of Public Works regarding a new streetscape   project planned for Summer 2015 construction at Holly Square.  Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a law enforcement tactic that will be utilized to discourage gang and drug traffic around Holly Square.   Streetscape character is an important element in achieving better safety and economic outcomes.  HARP’s aim is to provide attractive streetscapes that reinforce the functions of the street, enhance connections between the amenities there, and are sensitive to the built form, landscape and environmental conditions around Holly Square.

HOPE Center received 2014 funding from the Denver Office of Economic Development to update and renovate their facility at Holly Square.   HOPE Center will also be the site of a Fall 2015 shared space partnership with a new charter school, Roots Elementary.  Roots Elementary is a community-supported public charter school in Northeast Park Hill opening its doors to 100 K-1 scholars in 2015.   Roots is the product of over three years of rigorous design work, drawing on best practices from high-performing schools around the country, cutting edge technology, and an innovative use of time and space.

HARP is also working with Impact Empowerment Group to support the new COP Shop at33rd and Hudson in a building partially occupied by  Senator Mike Johnston’s office.  COP Shops are storefronts managed by community volunteers that place officers in readily accessible commercial areas to aid citizens in preventing crime and accessing public safety related services. The purpose of The Holly area COP Shop is to provide a convenient place for citizens and local businesses to be able to file police reports such as non-injury auto accidents, thefts, drug activity, graffiti and gang activities. They also furnish assistance to the public with other matters such as zoning issues, neighborhood cleanup, crime prevention, and traffic problems.  COP Shops are operated by trained volunteers who work with the Denver Police Department to assist with citizen complaints, accident reports and various other activities that would normally require a trip to the district station.



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