Condo projects in Denver: Where are they and why are they so rare?

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As noted in this week's cover story, "Design Flaw," there were 7,148 apartments planned or under construction in Denver as of July, according to the Downtown Denver Partnership, and just 145 for-sale units. Why the lopsidedness? Some blame the recession, while others point to lawsuits filed against condo builders alleging shoddy construction. Builders say those lawsuits cause their insurance prices to skyrocket, making condo-building nearly impossible.

So where are the few that are under construction?

Most of them -- 88 units, to be exact -- are in Highland, according to a chart compiled by the Downtown Denver Partnership. All of them are part of small developments of fewer than thirty units, which is a departure from years past, when 200-plus-unit behemoths -- several of which ended up embroiled in lawsuits -- were the norm.

There are 36 for-sale units planned or under construction in the Curtis Park/Five Points area and 21 more in the planning or construction phase in Jefferson Park, the DDP chart shows. (However, the DDP cautions that not all of the planned units will likely be built.)

The 88 for-sale units being built in Highland are a mix of condos and townhomes. The major difference between a condo and a townhome is that townhome owners typically own the interior of their home as well as the land on which it's built, whereas condo owners simply own the "air space" between their walls.

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A screenshot from the Tejon Ten website.
Developer Don Gooden is the man behind Tejon Ten, ten townhomes being built on Tejon Street between West 33rd and 34th avenues. With prices ranging from $499,000 to $599,000, the website proclaims that all ten are currently under contract. Asked why he's building townhomes, Gooden says, "That's what people want."

It would appear that high-end townhomes are selling like hotcakes in Highland. LoHi Court, a project consisting of eighteen townhomes at West 31st Avenue and Vallejo, is sold out, according to its website, and so is LoHi Row, twelve townhomes at West 32nd Avenue between Vallejo and Wyandot streets. Other for-sale housing being built in Highland includes Tejon 34, which features both condos and townhomes, and LoHi Central, fourteen townhomes -- at least seven of which are listed as "reserved" on its website.

Do we detect a pattern in townhome project names in Highland?

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A screenshot from the Clarkson Green website.
The projects in the Curtis Park/Five Points area include Clarkson Green, a solar-powered development consisting of five single-family homes and four townhomes. (Denver Mayor Michael Hancock personally attended the groundbreaking, according to the Denver Post.) The other project is The Glenarm, described on its website as "one-of-a-kind brownstones at the edge of Denver's downtown high rises yet nestled in a quiet and beautiful historic neighborhood." The DDP reports that The Glenarm will have 27 units.

And over in Jefferson Park, a 21-unit condo development called Clay/28th located at -- yep, you guessed it -- Clay Street and West 28th Avenue is reportedly underway.

So why are some builders going forward when most are backing away? Developer Paul Tamburello puts it simply: The condo market, he says, is "so hot right now."

Tamburello says he's considering a project that would be comprised of eighty condos (it's in the early stages and isn't included on the DDP's list), but he says he's being very cautious about how it's developed. He's never been involved in a construction defect lawsuit, and he doesn't ever want to be. "We're being very diligent and moving very slow and being very intentional about crossing every t and dotting every i,' he says.

On the last condo project he did back in 2001, Tamburello says he didn't carry any insurance. This time, he's estimating that a so-called wrap-up policy will cost $6,000 per unit. He thinks construction defect lawsuits play a part in escalating costs, but he says they're not solely to blame. The construction industry needs to step up its game, too, he adds: "If every building was built perfect, you wouldn't have construction defect claims."

More from our Business archive: "Photos: Five most expensive homes for sale in Vail."


Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com



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3 comments
Jill Mullican
Jill Mullican

Apartment finishes are generally much less expensive than for-sale units, rents are through the roof right now, it's almost impossible to get a loan (construction or purchase) on a condo, and when the market reverses all the apartments will just file a condo dec and sell anyway...well, that's why.

Noah Nethero
Noah Nethero

Unless congress changes a law they passed in the wake of the housing crash, there will be few condos built. Congress passed a law that made it so if a condo associate had too many units that are not owner occupied then all the units in the associate lose the ability to qualify for a gov backed loan. Which then limits the people who can buy them, thus driving down their value. Condos are currently selling for 75% less than their value precrash. No one wants to build more because the market is now distorted for them.

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