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Health center development offers innovative model for affordable housing

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) A new development in Denver's Elyria-Swansea neighborhood that combines affordable housing, a healthcare provider, a pharmacy - and next, a grocery store offering fresh produce - is proving how collaborative partnerships with real community input can meet the needs of historically underserved neighborhoods. 

Tepeyac Community Health Center Founder and CEO Jim Garcia said the innovative mix makes it just a little bit easier for people working two and three jobs to meet their family's basic needs.

"A family that has very limited time during the course of a day or course of a week to go to a medical appointment, or a dental appointment, or get a prescription filled," said Garcia. "And so, to be able to offer those services all under one roof represents a huge benefit for working families."

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Tepeyac is just blocks away from bus and light rail stops, which Garcia said was key to the decision to build a new 24,000 square foot health center that serves all patients regardless of their ability to pay. 

A Georgia-based developer added 150 affordable apartments to the site, and more affordable units for seniors and a community center are expected to open across the street next year.

In a time when virtually all new housing construction delivers luxury units for hedge fund investors and the very rich, Tepeyac represents a working model for addressing what has become a national affordable housing and homelessness crisis. 

Garcia said his advice for future multi-use developers is to be open to partnerships that can deliver key components for complex projects with many moving parts.

"The level of health care services, affordable housing, and offering fresh food as part of the overall project," said Garcia. "So I would just say to be open to innovative ideas, and to be open to being able to collaborate with partners who you may not intuitively think represent an opportunity for collaboration."

Tepeyac launched in 1995, operating out of a north Denver two bedroom bungalo. In 2022, Tepeyac served some 4,600 clients, 90% of whom identified as Hispanic or Latino. 

Garcia said the impact of the new facility has been significant since opening last year.

"We were able to significantly expand our ability to serve more patients," said Garcia. "We anticipate that we will be able to eventually triple the number of patients we can serve and provide high quality medical, dental, mental health and pharmacy services."