Lincoln Court affordable housing will be in nobody’s back yard

lincoln court development plan 2017

After a couple meetings with the city of Cheyenne planning office, the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project is making some headway. Click on the image to read the latest.

I’m leaving for Nashville in a few hours to participate on a panel at the Tennessee Governor’s Conference on Affordable Housing.

Part of my presentation was about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project I’m pushing in my hometown of Cheyenne. Based on what I learned at an informational meeting last week about the project, my entire presentation is changed.

We’re getting a little press about the Lincoln Court mixed use affordable housing project. It’s a moving target with lots of things happening in the neighborhood with the likely Hitching Post demolition and the Atlas Motel now up for sale.

Project architect and also my across-the-street neighbor Bryan Bowen and I held a couple informational meetings in Cheyenne last week. The first was attended by stakeholders from the city, realtors and lenders.

The second was attended only by the newspaper reporter Austin and photographer Jacob. That was a little disappointing, but based on the comments we sought on social media, it wasn’t surprising.

Both of them have wondered about the lack of affordable housing in Cheyenne. Having been a newspaper reporter, I know that news gatherers aren’t exactly pulling down the big bucks. Jacob reported that he spends 50 percent of his monthly income on housing in Cheyenne. The generally-accepted housing cost is closer to 30 percent.

hitching post 2017

The city shut off the power and water to the Hitching Post Inn signalling a move to demolish the historic hotel.

Based on the intrepid reporters’ observations around Cheyenne, particularly about the, apparently, very active Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) crowd, they, too are skeptical about whether Lincoln Court would actually happen because of the lack of community support for the idea of affordable housing.

Lincoln Court is the perfect project to satisfy the NIMBYs since it is bounded by Highway 30, Missile Drive and the railroad tracks – who in their right minds would want to live there, and to top it off how about 40 mph winds and 40 below?

This is a huge opportunity to anchor the redevelopment with a collaboration among the city, the Hitching Post Inn and the Atlas Motel to return the West End to the vibrant neighborhood it once was.

While comparing Boulder to Cheyenne is “apples and oranges,” Boulder’s Holiday Neighborhood is a strong corollary to what can happen on Cheyenne’s West End. Holiday is bounded by State Highway 93 (Broadway), US Highway 36 (to Estes Park). The surrounding land uses are industrial (peat moss yard), light industrial (garages, car lots, storage), trailer parks (Ponderosa and Meadows), risky recreation (two shooting ranges and a strip club – now closed).

Holiday ended up with over 333 homes with 40 percent permanently affordable on 27 acres. There are data from an affordable housing purveyer called Artspace that when new residents are introduced to slum and blighted areas, the land uses change and become vibrant.

This is generally identified negatively with the concept of gentrification where affordable housing is replaced with high end housing and kitschy boutiques and Starbucks.

What’s great about a place like the West End of Cheyenne is, there will be no displacement of current residents, but rather new ones will be attracted. No historic buildings will be demolished, but new ones built that keep memories alive through historic place making.

There is a huge housing gap not just in Cheyenne, but many places. On social media we asked for input and comments and heard from mostly skeptics about the meaning of “affordable housing” and whether or not the city government was going to lead or muddle through.

When housing is only reliant on market forces to set prices, developers typically nurture a niche that meets the needs of people who earn a good living, are of lower financial risk and able to purchase larger and more expensive houses.

In the absence of community supporting decent housing for all and no agreed upon definition for “affordable” anyone but those with an ability to buy what the market offers are literally left out in the cold. I think there is a WTE article coming out in the near future about people living in substandard conditions.

I’m not saying the public sector has to set up a bureaucracy to deal with affordable housing. One of the objectives of Lincoln Court is to come up with a way to market-regulate permanent affordability.

I have to say that the project is a bit frustrating since there’s a demonstrated need for lower cost housing in Cheyenne. The Lincoln Court wants to meet the heart-felt need to provide affordable and safe homes where individuals and families can thrive.

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Lincoln Court Mixed Use Community housing $200K to $300K

lincoln court old postcard

Click on the post card image to download the draft business plan narrative.

The LINCOLN COURT mixed use development is an ambitious one but meets a variety of community needs. Plans are to develop on the 15 acre Back 40 Subdivision on the West End of Cheyenne, Wyoming consistent with the approved Missile Driver Corridor Plan.

The project is organized by Boulder Community Media dba ECOS. Download a copy of the draft business plan narrative.

The property is adjacent to the former Hitching Post Inn site. The project name is homage to the Lincoln Court, a motor lodge that preceded the Hitching post, which fronted on the Historic Lincoln Highway (US 30).

The Lincoln Court project targets the affordable housing need with purchase price-points between $200,000 to $300,000. The vast majority of those needing housing will be those households who earn between 0 and 80% of the county’s Median Family Income. The project will work with Habitat for Humanity and the Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA) programs for first-time home buyers.

Based on a 2017 housing needs survey completed by the WCDA, Laramie county has 9,520 substandard housing units and based on incremental growth, an additional 4,074 dwelling units will be needed by 2020. Out of this need

WCM envisions a project positioned to target those wishing to incorporate more creativity in their business and day-to-day lives seeking to build equity in them selves or improving their housing situations. From a larger community perspective, the project supports and implements Cheyenne and Laramie County community development goals by enhancing the social and cultural experience for current and future residents through a mixed-use creative intentional community and possibly improving blighted property – the LINCOLN COURT alter-ego Hitching Post Inn site. The project also nurtures economic development by providing housing for primary jobs and also space for local low-impact businesses to expand and entrepreneurs to flourish.

Based on a 2014 economic development report by Cheyenne LEADS and a 2017 report by the Wyoming Community Development Authority there is a big need for housing, particularly affordable housing in Cheyenne and Laramie County.

wcdalogo

The WCDA offers down payment assistance programs for affordable housing and first time home buyers.

Lincoln Court offers the full range of benefits to Cheyenne with regards to affordable housing as a key economic development objective:

  • Available housing for all income groups helps a community retain jobs and retail stores, and helps business owners attract and retain quality and reliable workers.
  • The job creation and expansion impact is strongest if workers reside in the community. Employees are able to live near employment centers and thus are better able to report to work on time and have time to improve their job skills or get an education.
  • Improves ability of communities and businesses to attract and retain workers.
  • For a community, housing ties people together. It fosters a sense of place and local identity. It plays an important role in a economic sustainability and development.
  • New construction and management of a property creates new employment and generates multiple ripple effects that strengthen the local economy.
  • Workforce housing creates a more stable environment for children and helps them perform better in school.
  • Enables lower-wage earners to get into a home and begin building equity. A house payment is generally less expensive than rent, which increases disposable income.
  • Helps improve distressed areas and strengthen community and neighborhood pride.
  • Increases property values and property tax revenue to communities.
  • Creates family stability since wage earners work nearby and not commuter-distance away.
  • Housing plays a key role in individual welfare and often represents the single-largest family expense/investment.

The project meets this housing need through a mixed-use development consisting of owner occupied and rental, universally-accessible senior and intergenerational cohousing dwelling units – detached and duplexes, civic and community spaces and appropriate retail that would support the community such as a coffee shop, offices, live-work options. A site map is attached.

The LINCOLN COURT also is interested in innovative continuous care, including intergenerational “green houses” as championed by Bill Thomas for caregivers who could live “on site” in the cohousing community with their disabled family members who need more intensive and specialized health care nearby.

The target market is wide open and consists of intergenerational individuals and families, as well as seniors over 50 years of age, who may be local or from out of town “empty nesters” and wanting to downsize, “vigorous retired” people wanting to stay active and age in a community setting. In support of this, the project will investigate compatible services such as personal care, urgent care.

The project is a public – private partnership with strong private sector partners and the affordable housing component involving participation by local, state and federal government agencies. The project is economically viable with a balance among strong equity from the public and private non-profit sectors, debt financing and sales/lease.

Collaborative Communities 101 and Lincoln Court

Boulder Senior Cohousing Communities

Click on the image of Lindy Cook and Alan O’Hashi and join the Lincoln Court facebook page. (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post)

Baby Boomers have kicked the birdies out of their nests and downsizing from years of accumulating the detritus of life.

Millennials are finding it increasingly difficult to find low cost housing for themselves.

One lifestyle that’s getting some traction is that of living in a community whether it being a traditional retirement village or having housemates which are well known alternatives or in not-so-well known communities like cohousing.

While cohousing is far from mainstream, there is growing interest in intentional neighborhoods. Architects Chuck Durrett and Katie McCamant studied in Denmark and coined the term “cohousing.”

What if the six characteristics of cohousing were applied to an urban community consisting of not only housing but a mix of businesses and public uses?

A small group of cohousing, mixed use visionaries, including myself have started a 20 acre project on the urban fringe of Cheyenne, Wyoming called the Lincoln Court. We’re laying cohousing approaches over a high density, mixed use community anchored by a city owned and operated indoor ice rink and a proposed indoor sports complex. It’s a grassroots project that will come about as a result of a high degree of consensus among the future community denizens:

back-40-subdivisionCollaborative neighborhood process. Future Lincoln Court denizens will have a chance to participate in the design of the community so that it meets their needs. There will be a series of meetings as the project progresses to define them. Some collaborative communities are initiated or driven by a developer.  The Lincoln Court Collaborative Community is a combination of both with the developer playing more of a technical role making the community member vision real. This collaboration will result in a well-designed, pedestrian-oriented community that integrates with the adjacent West Edge community, as outlined in the city of Cheyenne Missile Drive Corridor Plan.

ssv-coho-alan-boulder

Collaborative neighborhood design. Rather than a top-down approach with planners, architects driving the design, the physical layout and orientation of the buildings will be initially determined by a “focus group” of people who attend various informational meetings. The design process encourages a sense of community and facilitates social interactions from the get-go. For example, the private residences will likely be clustered on the site, leaving more shared open space; compatible businesses are planned to co-locate in the common house or on other common spaces. The goal: create a strong sense of community using physical design choices – walk-ability, live / work artist spaces, community and private spaces for public and private performance and art exhibits and classes, co-working spaces for residents.

garden-dayCollaborative common spaces. Common facilities will be designed for daily use, and for special community activities. They are an integral part of the collaborative community, and complementary to the private residences and businesses. The extent to which the private businesses and studio spaces are public will be determined. There will likely be an expectation that community uses and activities will be a part of the private business spaces. Participating in community life is optional – denizens may have as much community as or as little community as they want.  Since the buildings are clustered, the Lincoln Court may retain several or many acres of undeveloped shared open space for future expansion.

henry-facilitatingCollaborative management. Lincoln Court denizens will manage, to a great extent, the business of the collaborative community, and also perform much of the work required to maintain the property. The cohousing sub-communities participate in the preparation of common meals, and meet regularly to solve problems and develop policies for the community. A master Community Association may be formed to deal with issues concerning common spaces of the entire collaborative community, such as snow removal, open space maintenance, and managing community business relations.

ssv-sharing-circleCollaborative consensus. Leadership roles will evolve and based on how and when community members join Lincoln Court. However, no one person (or persons) has authority over others. As individuals, families, businesses and organizations join the collaboration, each take on one or more roles consistent with their skills, abilities or interests. Lincoln Court will make decisions by consensus or similar forms of consensus decision-making. Although likely will have a policy for majority-rules voting if the group cannot reach consensus (nuclear option).

cr-art-showCollaborative community economy. The community is not a source of income for its individual members. However, in the Lincoln Court, rental income from businesses, use of performance / exhibition space, studio / co-working spaces would accrue back to the community at-large to decrease homeowner / community owner association fees / reserve funds. It is possible that the master association or a sub-associations could contract with a resident / tenant to perform a specific task for compensation, but more typically the work will be considered that member’s contribution to the shared responsibilities. It is possible that community residents will earn income from rented studio or business location.

CFD-Production-5948Collaborative higher purpose. The envisioned community “higher purpose” is around arts, culture and fostering creative thinking in the day-to-day community functionality. The site has a great story. The original site was a part of a Homestead Act land grant at the turn of the 20th century. Historic Highway 30, also known as the Lincoln Highway spanned coast to coast in the 1930s. The Lincoln Court was built as a motor hotel which later evolved into the Hitching Post Inn. The Hitching Post was a legendary Cheyenne landmark. There are some great stories associated with the site which are big selling points for the project. Mine, for example? My first job when I was a 12-year-old was at the Hitching Post.

An introductory meeting is being planned for early December. We’ll provide some information about the project, about collaborative communities, cohousing, the arts and cultural higher purpose. We’ll ask those in attendance to “break ground” and help with some general land use concepts for the site. It will be informative and a lot of fun.