Montbello FreshLo, the long-awaited grocery store/affordable housing project, just took a big leap toward funding

Posted on: May 25, 2021

Source: Denverite, Desiree Mathurin

“I like to say we’re an example of a community who said they were tired of waiting to be rescued, so we’ll rescue ourselves. We’re passionate about Montbello, and it’s important for folks to know we built this.”

The neighborhood group behind the project expects it will break ground sometime in January.

The finishing line for a long-awaited Montbello community project centered around affordable housing and an accessible grocery store is in sight.

Denver City Council has agreed to reserve $19 million for the Montbello FreshLo project, which will include housing, a supermarket, retail stores and a cultural center.

The funding will come from the city’s Private Activity Bond, which has funded other affordable housing endeavors, including the Mariposa Development project. Private Activity Bonds are tax-exempt bonds used to attract private investments for public benefit projects, i.e. affordable housing.

The massive community project has been in the works since 2018 and was initiated by the Montbello Organizing Committee, a registered neighborhood organization.

 

Donna Garnett, executive director of the MOC, said the project was born from necessity: Most Montbello residents live about four to five miles from a grocery store.

The Hub, as the project is dubbed, will be a 7-story building comprised of 97 one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable housing units. A majority of the units (55, to be exact) will be for those making 60% of the area median income.

“This project will be owned by the community, not a developer,” Garnett said. “We want this to be an antidote for gentrification. And we want the people who have lived in this community for two, three generations to stay.”

The building will also hold a two-level grocery store, several retail spaces and a cultural hub that’ll include performing art space. And yes, there will be parking.

The project will cost around $55 million to $57 million, with funding coming from various lenders, grants, investors and potentially Denver if City Council approves, Garnett said.

She said the deadline for funding proposals from potential investors and lenders is May 26. She said the project will hopefully break ground in January.

The Hub will take up the 1.39-acre lot at 12300 East Albrook Dr., which was purchased by the MOC for $600,000 in February 2020. The site used to be the Montbello Park-n-Ride, which closed in April 2016.

Garnett said the Hub will be in the heart of the residential area of Montbello, which will ease commutes to outside grocery stores for residents.

Pam Jiner shops for ingredients inside Montbello's Save A Lot for a healthy cooking class in the store's community room, March 28, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Pam Jiner shops for ingredients inside Montbello’s Save A Lot for a healthy cooking class in the store’s community room, March 28, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

She also said that the building will be constructed by Montbello residents.

“There will be about 120 jobs during construction, and our goal is to hire people from the 80239 zip code,” Garnett said. “We’re already working on training programs to help people get prepared. And when the building is built, there will be about 70 to 100 new jobs, and we want people from the community to work here.”

According to Julie Smith, the city’s Department of Finance’s communications director, City Council will consider whether to approve the bond in the fall.

Until then, Garnett said the MOC will continue to look for funding and stoke interest in the project.

“This project is unique,” Garnett said. “I like to say we’re an example of a community who said they were tired of waiting to be rescued, so we’ll rescue ourselves. We’re passionate about Montbello, and it’s important for folks to know we built this.”

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