Historic downtown Denver building to become affordable housing for seniors

A 1930s art-deco building that originally was a dormitory for nurses will reopen in 2019 as affordable apartment housing for seniors priced out of their downtown Denver neighborhood.

Tammen Hall, an eight-story, blond-brick beauty with gargoyles, terrazzo floors, a marble fireplace and vaulted ceilings in its grand entryway, will have 49 one- and two-bedroom apartments for people who are at least 62 and qualify based on income.

The hall sits next to Saint Joseph Hospital, near 19th Avenue and Ogden Street in Denver, and is within walking distance to grocery shopping, public transportation and restaurants. It’s intended to provide housing for low-income seniors — people who may have worked as police officers or teachers — in a neighborhood that has few options for older people who might not qualify for government voucher “Section 8” housing but can’t afford the going rate.

The $17 million project, by affordable housing developer MGL Partners/Solvera Advisors and architects and general contractor the Neenan Company, has been years in the making.

It came together through a combination of federal and state tax credits for historic preservation and low-income housing, a loan from the Denver Office of Economic Development, and an investment from SLC Health, which owned the historic hall and owns the hospital next door.

The 52,000-square-foot hall, named after original Denver Post publisher Harry Tammen, is expected to open as apartments in early 2019. It will have an eighth-floor rooftop deck with views of the downtown skyline and the mountains, said MGL’s  Kurt Frantz.

The historic Tammen Hall building on ...
Courtesy of Google Street View
The historic Tammen Hall building on the Saint Joseph’s Hospital campus at 1010 E 19th Avenue in Denver.

The densely populated area has left little room for seniors who aren’t wealthy, he said. “This gives them an option to be able to age within their own neighborhood,” Frantz said.

The repurposed hall will maintain its inner charm, including molded ceilings, detailed floors and a theater. “We really want to harness that era,” said Michele Forrest, design manager for the project at Neenan.

Built in 1930, Tammen Hall originally was a dorm for Children’s Hospital Colorado and was later used as office space for Children’s. It has been vacant for 10 years, since Children’s relocated to Aurora.

Updated Aug. 24 at 1:18 p.m.: The story was clarified to reflect that the neighborhood has rental options other than the high end, but remains unaffordable for many seniors.

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