New Report Examines Efforts to Link Residents to Jobs at Three Local TOD Project Sites

In 2015 Mile High Connects focused much of its jobs-related work on exploring place-based community workforce development strategies. One of our projects, funded by a grant from JP Morgan Chase Foundation explored the linking of local residents with construction employment on an affordable housing development project in the Northeast Park Hill area of Denver. The grant provided funding for improved job placement for graduates of training through the Colorado Construction Institute (CCI), the organization that trained East Denver residents for new careers in construction and for an evaluation of how well place-based community workforce initiatives worked in Park Hill Village West and two other TOD project sites – Denver Housing Authority’s (DHA) Mariposa Redevelopment at La Alma/Lincoln in Denver and Alameda Station in Central Denver.

This report, Construction Community Workforce Programs: Recommendations from Three Transit-oriented Developments in Denver, details the learning experiences of the three projects that capitalized on infrastructure investments in order to generate employment and training opportunities for local residents and expand the pipeline of qualified workers to meet industry workforce demands. The report was authored by Katrina Wert, Director of the Workforce Initiative Now (WIN) program at the Community College of Denver. WIN was one of the workforce training providers for the three projects, along with CCI and DHA, who also contributed data to the report.

The report contains recommendations related to the planning and execution of community workforce development programs connected to targeted construction opportunities and the potential for recruiting and training traditionally disadvantaged low-income workers for those opportunities. The intended audience includes community-based or education and training organizations engaged in construction workforce preparation, employers or project owners interested in community workforce initiatives, and prospective private and public funders. Key recommendations from the report, some of which apply to community workforce development initiatives in other industries, include:

• Aligning all stakeholders to communicate and set realistic goals
• Supporting expansive community outreach and recruitment of resident
• Fund services to overcome residents’ barriers to employment
• Providing financial incentives to complete training

MHC will continue to work on community workforce development opportunities in 2016 in construction, as well as health care and other industries. If you’re interested in participating in the learning and/or implementation of these efforts, contact Jennifer Billig, MHC Coordinator for Business, Local Workforce and Middle Skill Jobs at jennifer@tulacollaborative.com.

Enterprise Community Partners – Creating Opportunity for Low-Income People Through Affordable Housing

The Denver region’s economy has been booming for many years, but a significant portion of the population is increasingly left behind. Across the seven county Denver metro region, there are over 175,000 low-income households experiencing housing insecurity: over 6,300 homeless persons, over 106,000 renters paying more than half of their monthly income on rent, and over 63,000 homeowners paying over half their monthly income on housing costs. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of housing insecure households increased by 70%! These households are forced every month to make tough decisions – choosing whether to pay their housing/utility bills or buying groceries, paying for housing or transportation to get to work or get their children to school.

Enterprise Community Partners is a proud member of Mile High Connects. There are too many great resources and too many great people in this region to allow these inequities to exist. That is why we continue to lead efforts like the Denver Regional Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Fund, why we are partnering with the City of Denver on the region’s first Social Impact Bond transaction to provide critical intervention services for formerly homeless individuals with severe mental illnesses and/or substance abuse issues, why we are working with local, regional, and statewide agencies on a collaborative effort to preserve existing affordable housing and prevent displacement of low-income families, and why we are working hand in hand with our MHC partners and many other organizations and community members to fight for a permanent, dedicated source of local funding for affordable housing.

These challenges are great and many, but they are not impossible. Mile High Connects envisions a region where every individual and family in the Denver region has access to opportunity, and at Enterprise, we believe that opportunity begins at home. We look forward to our continued partnership with Mile High Connects in reversing this region’s growing trend of housing insecurity.

Preserving & Developing Transit Oriented Real Estate to Benefit All Residents – Urban Land Conservancy

Since 2003, the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) has invested $60 million into metro Denver communities, creating real estate that benefits communities. As a founding member of Mile High Connects, ULC’s contribution has been significant through equitable transit oriented developments (TOD). As sole borrower of the Denver TOD Fund, ULC made 8 investments along 5 rail lines that will result in over 600 units of affordable housing, well over 200,000 square feet of commercial space and new community assets including a library, nonprofit performance theatre, childcare facility and a workforce training center. ULC’s investments at transit sites have leveraged an additional $300 million in economic development, created hundreds of new jobs and increased local tax revenue.

One catalytic development ULC is focusing on, along with multiple MHC partners, is a 9.4 acre site on the East Rail Commuter Line called Park Hill Village West. The Park Hill Station Apartments: a new 4-story, 156 units, affordable residential community is currently under construction by Delwest Capital. The completion is scheduled for the first quarter of 2016, to coincide with the opening of the 40th & Colorado Station on the East Line. A variety of MHC partners are also working to address existing First and Last Mile Connection issues. ULC has proposed a creative concept for a new 1.6 mile trail connecting the station area to the surrounding neighborhood. Recently selected as a grant finalist by ArtPlace America, the Health and Heritage Trail, if fully planned and funded, will provide a new public transit accessible safe, healthy, pedestrian and bike promenade; celebrating the unique cultural identity as well as the pride and passion of Denver’s only remaining predominantly African American neighborhood.

ULC is also leading a workforce training pilot with MHC, Colorado Construction Institute, and Community College of Denver-Workforce Initiative Now (CCD-WIN) to implement a project to train local youth for middle-skilled construction work and then employ them at the TOD sites in their own neighborhood. The event will highlight the magnitude of Colorado’s immediate skilled construction labor needs and engage local construction industry leaders in exploring creative solutions focused on local workforce training. This pilot project demonstrates the important linkage of employment opportunities for low-income neighborhoods and access to transit.

While the need for 26,000 affordable units in Denver remains a priority, increasing the incomes of families living in affordable housing is equally vital to a sustainable economy for the entire Denver region.

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