So what is Tandem House? We’ll hold off on that topic for now and I’ll give you the back-story that starts with the “Wyandot House”. Considering that if it weren’t for “Wyandot House” we wouldn’t be talking about the Tandem House and therefore there would be no blog.
3634 Wyandot was purchased in 2009 and over the next 6 years, it would become a lifeline for both of us. This was Scott’s first big investment when he was single and it turned out to be a good one. At the time the economy was still in a slump and LoHi was an unassuming neighborhood to live, let alone invest in.
Not only has this house become a home but it has also helped pay the bills through each life transition. When Scott was single without a job he was able to get a roommate to help cover the mortgage and that continued through his first year of architecture school. In 2011 as the market started to rebound, home values in the neighborhood started to rise and rental home demand was up. Scott saw the potential in renting the home out to pay the mortgage and school tuition. Around this time was when Scott and I met and since then we have watched this neighborhood change before our eyes.
In parallel with our school curriculum in Architecture and Urban Planning, we both became hyper-aware of what was going on not only in LoHi but also in the greater Denver area. We started to be flooded with information from all angles that revealed the potential of our property and that is when we started dreaming together.
Here’s some of the information we have comprehended over the years that has kept our imagination evolving.
Denver’s Growth Spurt
While in school Scott and I were taking classes like “The Form and Formation of Cities”, “Land Development and Regulation” and “Urban Real Estate”. In congruence with this curriculum, we were lucky enough to go to school in the heart of Downtown Denver, making this city our learning lab. Everything we absorbed in school related to what we were seeing happen in Denver during an unprecedented development boom.
This kind of surge hadn’t been seen since the “Imagine a Great City” era under Mayor Pena (1983-1992) when the Central Platte Valley was transformed; railroad tracks were consolidated making room for Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, a new Convention Center was built and the Rockies were recruited to their new baseball stadium, Coors Field in Lower Downtown (LoDo). All these things were visionary and important to making Denver a “World Class City”. Now 20 years later, we found ourselves not only studying urban development but also watching the next big wave of investment in our city happen before us. This time it was around historic Union Station and the build-out of the transit system.
The Power of Zoning….
We quickly realized that by owning real estate so close to downtown and Union Station that we would reap the benefits. But we also realized that this kind of growth didn’t just happen, that there was an incentive for the growth to happen where it was, in places like LoHi and the trendy RiNo neighborhood in Denver. LoHi had always been there, but why now did everyone want to develop and live in this area? That reason is Zoning.
If you remember, Scott bought the Wyandot house in 2009 and come to find out Denver’s Zoning Code that hadn’t been revised since 1956, was updated one year after he bought it, in 2010. Wyandot went from being zoned R-1 to U-TU-B. Now it was possible to put two homes on our lot when only one was previously allowed. Many people would say, “so what… we like the house we live in and don’t see the value added.” It’s definitely not appealing to the average person and at first, we didn’t care about it, until it started to affect us.
It turns out that the new zoning was a long time in the making. It began to orchestrate in 2002 with Blueprint Denver and it was that visioning, which got implemented in the new Zoning Code and went into effect in June 2010.
The goal of Blueprint Denver was to adopt the idea of “New Urbanism.” Rethinking the way our city was growing and also sprawling into suburbs because of the car. The result is separated land uses where people find themselves driving from one parking lot to the next and sitting in traffic all day. Instead, city planners were opting to think in the way we built cities in the 1920s. When cities were built around transportation hubs and the land-uses around them were diverse with housing, work, parks, and entertainment within walking distance of each other. New Urbanism promotes increased use of trains and light rail, instead of more highways and roads.
What came out of Blueprint Denver was a popular map that designates areas of Denver as either an “Area of Change” or an “Area of Stability”. Ultimately this is what informed the new zoning code. Much of LoHi is designated as an “Area of Change”. It’s a place where the City believes that growth and Density are necessary to create the walkability and access that is characteristic of a great city.
So why am I giving you the lengthy background information? Well, it simply just explains why when we walk Rio (our too smart for his own good Australian Shepherd) around the neighborhood, we see every other house with orange fencing around the trees and temporary dumpsters in the streets that create even less street parking! And although we are not fond of the ugly stick build duplexes popping up everywhere, it explains why on a weekly basis we get letters in the mail from developers wanting to buy our house. It explains why they are offering well over what the house is actually worth because the simple fact is it’s a chance to make a pretty penny. The land is worth more than the house so developers buy one house for $450k, build two houses on the same lot, and sell each for $700-850k and Voila! It’s a simple equation to make money.