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Monday, January 24, 2022

Volunteers of America, RiNo Development Partner, to Grow Both of Their Tracks

Volunteers of America Colorado and real estate firm EDENS have formed a partnership to expand the services of the not-for-profit organization and expand the developer’s presence in the River North Art District.

EDENS will acquire the majority of VOA’s properties in the block between Larimer and Lawrence Streets and 26th and 27th Avenues. The Social Services Organization will hold its headquarters site at the east corner of Larimer and 27th Streets, and will move its kitchen and grocery store to a larger building in Commerce City.

The real estate firm, which owns real estate nationwide, acquired Joe’s Liquor Store, the only place in the block not owned by VOA.

“VOA has been on Larimer in one form or another for over 125 years. We plan to stay here for the next 125 years, ”said David Schunk, President and CEO of VOA.

However, as the Five Points neighborhood has evolved from an industrial district to an arts and entertainment district, Schunk said the logistics of accepting large quantities of food and delivering the roughly 750,000 meals he prepares locally each year has become more complex.

When he joined VOA about three years ago, Schunk said the organization was considering continuing kitchen operations at RiNo.

“Even at that moment, due to the growth of our services, we found that we had little space. The big semi-trailers are really having a hard time loading and unloading in the RiNo area, ”he added.

The organization began negotiations with EDENS in 2018 and 2019 about its properties, but has been slow to move forward with any deals.

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“Then, during a board meeting, I got a call that the semi-finished product actually missed its turn and crashed into our building. He almost knocked through the wall of the food warehouse, ”Schunk said. “It was kind of our signal that said, ‘You know what, this doesn’t work. It’s time to consider some options. “

After more than two years of discussions, VOA and EDENS came up with a plan to retain the organization’s headquarters on Larimer Street and relocate the kitchen and food warehouse to a 54,000 square foot building in Commerce City. The area is currently 30,000 square feet.

EDENS acquires a new warehouse and helps to renovate it. The real estate firm will also help renovate the basement, second and third floors of VOA’s headquarters, which will house its administrative, marketing and other offices. The ground floor will house retail stores and a heritage museum dedicated to the history of the VOA.

Schunk and Tom Keeler, Managing Director of EDENS West Region, declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement. Keeler said VOA will eventually own the Commerce City facility. Edens will take over the block owned by VOA and will develop various uses: retail, residential and possibly office space.

“We’re working through all the design and permitting,” Keeler said. “Volunteers from America, Colorado, will own their components, and then we will own ours.”

R.J. Sangosti, The Denver Post

A VAN of America’s Volunteers is parked outside their kitchen on December 16, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. EDENS Real Estate is the purchase of most of the city block, including Volunteers of America’s kitchen for redevelopment.

VOA is slated to begin relocating the kitchen and grocery store next spring or summer, and refurbishment of the headquarters will begin in early 2023.

“Once we get the parts ready, we’ll go into mixed-use development. This will cover the period 2024-25, ”Keeler said. “Mission (VOA) and what they do for the state and the city is a priority.”

EDENS owns most of the block across the street to the west of the VOA buildings. Business in the area includes Denver Central Market, a restaurant and market, and Patagonia on Walnut Street.

The company owns 16 buildings that house 41 businesses in RiNo. Keeler said EDENS plans to include some open space, underground parking and housing on the upper floors in the Larimer quarter. The firm also views these businesses as a small grocery store.

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