Creating Meaningful Places Through TOD Projects

Transit-oriented development is quite the buzz word in the real estate industry these days, and for good reason. It’s no wonder the Colorado market is continuing to see a rise in the demand for this product. Not only does it make good business sense, but also it brings unique benefits for the environment, the end user and the community.

According to a recent article in Westword, nearly one in three Denver renters is considering moving somewhere else, with rising rent costs among the biggest factors. Recent surveys have shown that for a reduction as little as $200 per month, renters are willing to move farther from work and commute. With many large employers based in Denver, renters are shifting to tertiary markets that are easily commutable back to the city. This has led to a trend of TOD opportunities popping up in secondary regions across Colorado. The public sector has made significant investments in public transportation and are continuing to seek private investment to further enhance these destinations.

  • Catalyzing transitionary neighborhoods. Just as these TOD projects are advancing the community’s goals, they also are meeting the needs of renters who are looking to get out of the congestion of the city, skip the hassle of sitting in traffic or find more affordable rent. While many TOD communities have smaller unit square footage than a traditional three-story walk-up product, the consumer is willing to trade the nominal loss of space for the financial benefits and increased mobility.
  • Diversifying the unit mix. As we’ve experienced with nearly a dozen recent TOD projects, this product also affords us flexibility in the end use of the units. We’ve had success in building residential, commercial and live-work units into each of these projects. Developers can enhance the living experience for residents by choosing commercial tenants that serve as an additional on-site amenity while also filling a gap for the broader community.
  • Sustainable approach to urban planning. By definition, transit-oriented development and public transportation complement each other and together represent a sustainable approach to urban planning. Building housing options adjacent to public transportation keeps cars off the road and, ultimately, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond the proximity to rapid transit and bus transportation, transitoriented development often places a focus on connectivity via pedestrian and bike trails, further reducing the need for residents to take even small trips in their cars. According to the TOD Institute, residents of TOD can reduce energy consumption and driving by up to 85%.
  • Cheaper land translates to affordable rent. TOD projects often can be easier to pencil than greenfield development in secondary communities, even with more affordable rent costs for tenants. While construction costs are fairly fixed across the industry as a whole, land is less expensive in secondary neighborhoods. In contrast to greenfield development, the infrastructure is oftentimes already in place so developers can save on the costs of creating it from scratch. We’re also able to get more density on less land – all of these factors ultimately translate to cheaper rents for the end user.

“With many large employers based in Denver, renters are shifting to tertiary markets that are easily commutable back to the city. This has led to a trend of TOD opportunities popping up in secondary regions across Colorado.”

We’ve recently been selected by the city of Westminster as the developer on a transit-oriented community within its Westminster Station. This project will support the city’s goal of creating a regional destination in the Denver metro area. The apartment community is located along the Regional Transportation District’s B Line, allowing direct access from the property to Denver’s Union Station within 15 minutes. Two five-story, multifamily buildings with ground-level commercial and live-work will wrap an existing parking garage with available spots for residents, commuters and the public. The intent of the property’s proximity to public transportation is to provide an urban living option for people commuting to Denver while revitalizing this historic area of Westminster. This configuration provides public transportation within a three- to four minute walk from their residence along with immediately available parking.

The multifamily project is one piece of the larger Westminster Station redevelopment, which consists of 58 acres of developable transit-oriented land, parks and activity centers. This project is a prime example of the private sector responding to the public sector’s investment in the community and we’re motivated by the city’s passion around this long-term vision.