Littleton City Council votes to redevelop Geneva Village, forcing 12 senior residents to find new housing options

Decision reached after years of discussion

Nina Joss
Posted 9/21/23

After years of uncertainty about the future of their apartment complex, the 12 female residents of Geneva Village will now be required to find new homes.

In what some Littleton city …

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Littleton City Council votes to redevelop Geneva Village, forcing 12 senior residents to find new housing options

Decision reached after years of discussion


After years of uncertainty about the future of their apartment complex, the 12 female residents of Geneva Village will now be required to find new homes.

In what some Littleton city councilmembers deemed the hardest decision they had ever been faced with, the elected leaders voted to redevelop the 28-unit, low-income, senior housing complex instead of rehabilitating it.

Residents have worried  what might become of their homes since the fall of 2019 when notices taped to tenant's doors informed them that the city would stop filling vacancies in the complex "pending further decisions."

From there, the city developed two main options for the aging property, which officials say would cost about $5 million to rehabilitate.

One option was to conduct the rehabilitation, including electrical and plumbing updates, heating and cooling system improvements, asbestos abatement, replacing drywall and cabinets, adding energy-efficient appliances and more, according to city documents.

Alternatively, staff recommended that the city redevelop the property in order to increase needed affordable housing stock in the community and to activate the area as a “northern gateway” into downtown Littleton with mixed-use spaces.

“(The council) is grappling with, as you think about what's in the best interest of the city, issues ranging from historic significance to financial responsibility with city resources, to the opportunities to meet many of the community's current critical challenges, like housing and integration with the vision taking shape for downtown,” City Manager Jim Becklenberg said at the Sept. 19 meeting.

Above the many factors involved in the decision, Becklenberg said ensuring the welfare of the current residents was paramount.

No matter which decision the council made, he said, there would be some housing instability for the residents.

The decision to move forward with redevelopment plans passed in a 6-1 vote, with At-Large Councilmember Pam Grove voting no.

Split public opinion

A total of 28 public commenters spoke at the meeting, with all but one speaking on the topic of Geneva Village.

Among these comments, opinions were almost evenly split. Fourteen of the public commenters spoke in favor of redeveloping the property. Thirteen asked the council to preserve the property.

Community members who spoke in favor of redevelopment emphasized the need for affordable housing stock in Littleton.

“I believe affordable housing is an incredible charge upon us,” said Mike Wright, pastor of Littleton Christian Church. “I have had too many people in my community … who have had to move away because they simply cannot afford to stay in Littleton.”

On the topic of affordable housing, some commenters spoke about the value of adapting land use to the needs of the time.

“I ask you to consider the real need for homes today,” said Patrick Santana, who serves on the city’s planning commission. “I just caution you against being sidetracked by aesthetic or abstract concerns … Real needs can be addressed here by a decision.”

Many who spoke in favor of preserving and rehabilitating the property emphasized its historical significance.

According to the city’s historical preservation board, the property is an example of Eugene Sternberg’s mid-century modern architecture with “unusually high architectural integrity of both site, design and use.”

“If you do decide to redevelop this site and tear (the buildings) down, that tangible history will be gone forever,” said Rebecca Kast, who serves on the board of Historic Littleton Inc.

Other commenters spoke about the well-being of the residents of Geneva Village, who have a uniquely connected and supportive community.

“Geneva Village has been an extreme blessing to our family,” said Mark Testroet, whose mother, Barbara, lives in the complex.

A couple of years ago, Barbara told her family that she thought it was time for her to stop driving due to her age, Testroet said.

“I can count on one hand in the last couple of years the times she's called me to go get something for her because her neighbors around her have paid that back to her in an amazing way,” he said. “It's a community that you're not going to be able to recreate.”

Several Geneva Village residents spoke at the meeting, encouraging the council to let them keep their homes.

“Council, you either have integrity or you don't,” said Robyn Bernstein, who lives in the complex. “I think targeting vulnerable senior women is cowardly. And we have been shocked enough.”

Mary Hansen, another resident, said Geneva Village is the her community’s “forever home.”

“When people pass … they see the clean, calm and beautiful life we have here in Littleton,” she said. “Help save Geneva Village.”

'The hardest decision'

Mayor Pro Tem Gretchen Rydin began the council discussion by acknowledging the wide range of emotions she had in considering the Geneva Village options.

She said she is disappointed in the city for letting the conversation get to this point by pushing it off for so many years. She is proud of the current council and staff for tackling the issue now, and grateful to the Geneva Village residents for helping her see how the policy decision would affect them.

She also said she is disappointed to hear the high rent numbers that would be involved in the rehabilitation plan, as presented by staff.

Assuming that the debt service costs for improvements would be built into future rent costs to tenants, the average rent for a unit would be approximately $1,600 per month to cover the costs of renovations, maintenance and provide for capital reserves, staff said.

If the city subsidized half of the renovation costs, the average rent would be about $1,200 per month.

Rents have averaged $368 per unit for about 40 years.

“What I don't think I've heard tonight is how to adequately fund those renovations and preservations (in a way)  that doesn't actually compromise the intent of that building, which is affordability and to some extent, even respite,” Rydin said.

Residents could potentially use housing choice vouchers to rent the units if they were at $1,200 range, according to city-hired social worker Britany Katalenas.

At the end of Rydin’s considerations, which she said made up the biggest decision she had ever faced on council, she said she supported redeveloping the property.

“It's my belief that people and families are what make up our communities, not buildings themselves. And I'm always gonna prioritize the former,” she said. “We have a housing crisis in Littleton, especially for renters, and we just need more homes.”

She said she would push for a redevelopment plan that makes the property 100% affordable, not just majority-affordable.

District 1 Councilmember Patrick Driscoll, Mayor Kyle Schlachter, District 4 Councilmember Kelly Milliman and District 3 Councilmember Stephen Barr echoed similar statements, reinforcing the need for more housing in the community.

District 2 Councilmember Jerry Valdes proposed that a redevelopment plan for the property still preserve part of the original structure. He said the city should maintain ownership and partner with a nonprofit organization to develop a portion of it.

“I’d hate to see the entire property be scraped and rebuilt, and especially not owned by the city,” he said. “I think we can preserve part of that property — maybe not the whole thing — but we can develop … without putting in, say, 75 or 100 units. I think that'd be atrocious to put that on that small of a property.”

Other considerations

Grove, who voted against redeveloping Geneva Village, said keeping historical properties in Littleton is important.

“What if our previous city leaders thought that the Carnegie Library, town hall or the courthouse were in need of renovation and would have been better to tear it down?” she said. “We wouldn't have our quaint downtown. We wouldn't have what makes us unique. We wouldn't have the character or the way to draw businesses in.”

She said she recognizes the demand for affordable housing, but said there are already many affordable housing units in Littleton through South Metro Housing Options, Habitat for Humanity and other properties.

She also said the connection and support of the community at Geneva Village is something to protect.

“In these days of becoming isolated and loneliness becoming an epidemic that actually takes people's lives, why should we not be good stewards of our community and protect the way of life and rehabilitate this historic asset?” she said.

During the conversation, Schlachter asked Katalenas if she thought there would be a large difference in the toll on the residents if they were to have to fully relocate or relocate temporarily while renovations were made at Geneva Village.

Public Works Director Keith Reester said it could be possible for residents to relocate within the property during rehabilitation, although it would be difficult to execute.

Katalenas said keeping the residents on the Geneva Village property would likely be emotionally easier and more trauma-informed for many of the residents.

Before voting, District 3 Councilmember Stephen Barr apologized to the Geneva Village residents for the city putting them in the situation.

“The decision we have in front of us, with both of these options, is not punitive — but as a result of Littleton’s poor oversight, or lack of action, and really multiple, compounding decades of inattention to the financial sustainability of the problem,” he said. “And it truly could have been avoided.”

What’s next?

The council’s motion directed staff to proceed with planning for the redevelopment of the Geneva Village site.

The upcoming process will include a visioning and design process that will likely take one to two years, Becklenberg said.

The process will include decisions such as whether the city will keep or sell the property, how much of it will be affordable housing, how many units will be constructed and what types of use the site will have beyond residential uses.

Future discussions will also explore how to preserve historic elements of the existing site and how to integrate the site with the emerging vision for the future of downtown, Becklenberg said.

The city will continue working with residents to support their transition by providing housing navigation support from Katalenas at B-Konnected.

The city has also made moving expense assistance available for residents who request it, including covering the costs of moving belongings, waste management in the moving process, move-out inspections, security deposits and holding fees at new residences, Becklenberg said.

Staff will develop potential ideas and topics to be discussed by the council in 90 days.

aging, littleton, Geneva Village


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