Rows of tiny houses await final construction details from volunteers.
Rows of tiny houses await finishing touches from volunteers, which include future residents.

About two weeks into construction, the “Beloved Community Village” is taking shape on an otherwise vacant lot near 38th and Brighton. According to the group organizing volunteers for the build, the project for people experiencing homelessness currently has more volunteers than work, but encourages those who want to help to drop by with snacks, a donation, or just to say hi. As covered in an earlier blog post, the community will include eleven individual shelters, as well as shared kitchen and bathroom facilities.

Many of the residents selected for the Beloved Community Village have had issues getting into Denver’s shelters—there are a few couples who want to live together, a transgender person, a person in a wheelchair, and Sandra Herman, who has pets. Credit: Westword
Many of the residents selected for the Beloved Community Village have had issues getting into Denver’s shelters—there are a few couples who want to live together, a transgender person, a person in a wheelchair, and Sandra Herman, who has pets. Credit: Westword

Earlier this week, Denver approved a temporary zoning permit for a tiny-house community for homeless people, the “Beloved Community Village.” The community will include eleven 8-foot by 12-foot shelters, as well as shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, constructed for about $130,000 on Urban Land Conservancy-owned property at 38th and Walnut Streets in the RiNo neighborhood. Continue Reading Local Governments Making Room for Tiny Homes

The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute held the 2014 installment of its annual conference at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law March 12-14. The 2014 conference, which saw a record number of registrations, was titled “Moving Beyond Recession: What’s Next?” and focused on the need to balance population and economic growth in the Mountain West with the environmental limitations of our region. In keeping with the conference’s theme, many conference participants followed the “Conservation in Metropolitan Regions” track of sessions, which focused on providing open space and environmental resources in the major population centers of the West. Attendees—who came from throughout the Rocky Mountain region and the United States—included urban planners; federal, state and local government officials; real estate developers; professors of planning, law and other disciplines; current students; and public- and private-sector land use and real estate lawyers. The Thursday morning keynote address was delivered by former Secretary of the Interior and former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, who focused his remarks on the importance of sustainable growth and public outdoor recreational resources in the West.

Otten Johnson was a Summit sponsor of the conference, and many Otten Johnson lawyers featured prominently in the conference program. Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Chairman and Otten Johnson shareholder Tom Ragonetti moderated the first-ever, daylong “Dynamics of the Land Use Case” seminar, an intensive training program on the fundamentals of the land use and real estate development process. As part of that seminar, Jim Johnson discussed how to assemble the right consulting team, and Tom Macdonald, Bill Kyriagis, and Brian Connolly spoke about various approaches for addressing an adverse land use decision. In the regular conference program, Tom Ragonetti facilitated a lunchtime discussion with a number of Denver-area residential developers discussing innovative approaches to homebuilding, Tom Macdonald shared his thoughts on the practical impacts of the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, and Brian Connolly spoke on the topic of local government obligations under federal fair housing law and moderated a panel event on best practices for improving communication between the public and private sectors in the real estate development process.


Attendees at the Office & Industrial Market Update and 2013 Forecast Summit presented by The Colorado Real Estate Journal and Otten, Johnson, Robinson, Neff & Ragonetti on September 6 heard from a panel of general contractors who reported that developers of industrial properties frequently choose to meet LEED standards without seeking the official LEED certification, because the certification process adds $50,000 to $100,000 to the cost of the building.

Along those same lines, a September 5 Wall Street Journal article focused on a new apartment building to be built in Manhattan by a developer who was one of the first to build a LEED-certified skyscraper a decade ago. For its new building, the developer, the Durst Organization, plans to incorporate “green” features, but will not seek LEED certification. The developer says it wants the chance to be more innovative and not be bound by LEED’s checklist of features.

LEED has been criticized by others for being too lax in its standards, and for certifying buildings before they are actually in operation.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Green Building Council, which oversees LEED standards and certification, has said it is working on updated standards (LEED v4). Members of the Council are currently scheduled to vote on the updated standards in June 2013. According to the Council, “LEED v4 focuses on increasing technical stringency from past versions and developing new requirements for project types such as data centers, warehouse & distribution centers, hotels/motels, existing schools, existing retail, and mid-rise residential.”

It remains to be seen whether changes to the LEED standards will bring developers back into the LEED fold.

Last week I attended the 20th annual Rocky Mountain Land Land Use Institute conference at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.  Nicola Villa with Cisco was the Keynote Speaker on Friday morning.  Mr. Villa works with the Connected Urban Development (“CUD”) program across the world in cities like Amsterdam, San Francisco and Seoul.

Launched in 2006, CUD was born out of the the Clinton Global initiative intended to help lower carbon emissions across the world.  CUD’s goal of reduced carbon emission is achieved through high connectivity – broadband, wireless and “smart urban structures.”  CUD works by changing how cities deliver services, how residents work and commute and how real estate resources are used and managed.

CUD continues to evolve.  Last year, the next phase of the CUD was announced at the Shanghai World Expo.  It’s called SMART 2020: Cities and Regions.  The program is administered by a non-governmental organization and seeks to help cities collaborate with each other and the business community to develop a global industry platform for information technology in the sustainable city.

At least 12 successful pilot projects in participating cities have demonstrated CUD’s potential.  One important pilot project that could have far reaching implications for urban development is called the Smart Work Center (“SWC”).  SWCs are structures located in residential areas that offer a highly connected professional work environment.  These centers are equipped with networking technology and collaboration tools, which allow users to connect to colleagues and customers.  Users from many different organizations share the SWC’s resources.  This type of office sharing arrangement could reduce the need for centralized offices and other development in the heart of downtown areas in participating CUD cities.