Come December, it will be time to move again for the Beloved Community Village, a collection of eleven tiny homes in RiNo occupied by formerly homeless residents. The tiny homes, which by all accounts have been a success in helping their occupants find stability and have had the city’s support — including receiving one of the mayor’s 2017 Design Awards — already had to move once last December, about 200 feet, to the tune of $25,000, to accommodate another affordable housing development near the 38th and Blake light-rail station.
At the end of this year, the Colorado Village Collaborative (CVC), the organization behind Beloved, must move the tiny homes again since the owner of the property, the Urban Land Conservancy, supports the village but has long been planning to redevelop the parcel in the first quarter of 2019. Well aware of this sunsetting agreement, organizers with the CVC have been scouting a new location for months, engaging with other property owners about hosting the village.
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This week, the organization announced that it has found a new host: The CVC is planning to move the tiny home village to the TAXI development owned by Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin, located about a mile north, just on the other side of the South Platte River. In a statement, Kyle Zeppelin said, “The Beloved Community Village has been a huge success at its current location, and we are excited to be able to bring it here and use our vacant land to make a positive impact on our community.”
The idea is to move the village to the north end of the TAXI campus, where the CVC wants to build a new communal structure with a kitchen and bathrooms. An existing bathhouse at the current RiNo location may be converted into a twelfth tiny home after the move.
But first, Denver’s Department of Community Planning and Development must approve a zoning permit sponsored by Zeppelin Development. While the city has so far worked with the tiny home organizers and granted special temporary permits, there are no permanent zoning options in Denver for tiny home villages.
CVC organizer Cole Chandler says that his organization and other housing and homeless advocates have been working with the Community Planning and Development’s Advisory Committee to review “Group Living Uses” in the zoning code, with the hope of allowing permanent zoning for tiny homes. Another option, Chandler says, is to extend the length of temporary permits from six months to two years or longer.
TAXI is a mixed-use development that already hosts a variety of businesses and nonprofits, including the North American headquarters of sports company Boa and social enterprises Project VOYCE, DenverCAN, the Equity Project and Focus Points. “We're pretty excited to get on campus with those great organizations and find ways to deepen and strengthen one another's work,” Chandler says.
As for the move itself, the CVC is already fundraising as much as $100,000 to transport the village, build new facilities and connect buildings at the new site to gas and sewer lines.
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“Moving the village will actually be harder this time around,” Chandler says. “Last time the process went quite smoothly because we were just able to go across an alleyway. A forklift actually carried the houses the entire way and then set them down in their new location.
“That will not be the case this time,” he continues. “We will need to rent a flatbed truck and will need to have forklifts operating on the current and future site. In terms of fundraising, the first $25,000 has been committed from Collegiate Peaks Bank, and we are hoping to be able to leverage that to find some additional corporate donors that can increase our funding capacity. We have also requested that the City of Denver provide $10,000, as they did for the move last winter.”
In July, the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver released a study evaluating the impact of the Beloved Community Village on residents and the surrounding RiNo community. The report found that the village improved residents’ employment, education, health and safety, with existing neighbors reporting no increases in crime and few concerns since the village was established.
The CVC has also been scouting a location for a second tiny home village serving women and transgender occupants since a bid to situate that village near downtown at St. Andrew’s Church was rejected by Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission on the grounds that it did not fit design and use stipulations within the Clements Historic District.