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Nonprofit buys two motels on East Colfax with plans to create affordable housing

The Westerner and Sand & Sage motels could house people experiencing homelessness before being redeveloped as affordable housing.

DENVER — A nonprofit sees potential in two motels along East Colfax in Denver.

The Fax Partnership bought The Westerner and Sand & Sage motels as part of a plan to shelter people experiencing homelessness and eventually create affordable housing.

“These motels are really a strategy for addressing the housing crisis we have here," said Monica Martinez, executive director of The Fax Partnership.

The nonprofit started in 2004 as a "Main Street" booster seeking investment along East Colfax, Martinez said, but the organization later pivoted to focus on affordable housing.

“We really felt like you have to invest in affordable housing to keep this community diverse," Martinez said.

The Fax tried three other times to purchase motels along Colfax, Martinez said. The nonprofit finally secured a deal about six weeks ago for $4.5 million.

Martinez said various lenders helped fund the purchase including the national nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners, the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority, and the Latino Community Foundation. The Fax also received grant money from the City of Denver which was matched by the state of Colorado, Martinez said.

“We feel like by us buying [the motels], we’re now making them safer," Martinez said. "We’re providing services, and then next year, we’re going to be converting them to shelter, so that those who are unhoused have a place to live."

The motels will remain motels for the rest of the year, but Martinez said the nonprofit cut the cost of a room by 20 percent.

The motels will serve as non-congregate shelters in 2023. They'll also house people displaced from the redevelopment of the Volunteers of America Family Motel on Colfax, Martinez said.

Eventually, The Fax wants to tear down the two motels and build deed-restricted affordable housing in their place. Right now, there's a big billboard in the way.

“Once we got under contract, we realized that billboard that is sort of in the center of one of the motels, has a lease that doesn’t expire until 2028," Martinez said.

The billboard could also be a silver lining, Martinez said, in that it will give The Fax time to work with the city and other partners to develop the best plan for affordable housing.

Martinez said she envisions a six to seven-story building with a library or recreation center on the ground floor.

"We look forward to working with the community to figure out what is the best housing program that should be at this site," Martinez said.


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