Larimer County donates $2 million for daycare at church housing site

Larimer County Commissioners pony up $2 million in dollars from the U.S. bailout to help establish a child care center in a low-income housing development project in south Fort Collins to help meet a critical need in the city.

The $2 million is a “good starting point” to raise the $16 million needed for a community center in Heartside Hill, said Steve Kuehneman, executive director of CARE Housing, which is leading the project. The center would include a daycare for 100 children from birth to age 5 and an after-school and summer program for 80 children in elementary to middle school age through Boys and Girls Clubs.

The community center is part of Heartside Hill, a joint venture between CARE Housing, L’Arche Fort Collins, Habitat for Humanity and Heart of the Rockies Church. It includes 71 apartments in six three-story buildings and 11 single-family housing lots on church-owned land at 6501 S. Brittany Street, northwest of the intersection of Lemay Avenue and Trilby Road. .

The group is also working with other partners to have a center for pediatric health care, workforce development and behavioral health as part of the community center, Kuehneman said.

The daycare will be operated by Teaching Tree and is part of the second phase of the project, which is expected to start in 2024 and open in 2025.

The $2 million “is a perfect use for ARPA funding,” Kuehneman said. The partnership is in talks with the city of Fort Collins and the state to secure more ARPA dollars to help cover the costs of the community center. And Heart of the Rockies is also planning a fundraising campaign for their space in the community center as well as renovations to the existing church, he said.

Kuehneman expects the full construction cost to be covered by money from ARPA and other fundraisers so the center can open debt-free.

“Our model through this is how can we finance the construction of this building without going into debt so that our operating partners such as Teaching Tree don’t have to pay rent or mortgages…and don’t just have to pay the operating costs,” he said. This allows them to “address some of the challenges they face in the early years sector,” including paying sustainable salaries to staff and maintaining affordable childcare.

Teaching Tree fees will be based on a sliding scale based on income, and Kuehneman said they are in discussions with Teaching Tree to have a certain percentage of slots available to Heartside Hill residents.

Laura Walker, Larimer County’s Director of Human and Economic Health, said, “We are doing our best to ensure that we have a regional impact, that we affect multiple populations within our community and that we make investments. transformational.”

The Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Commission approved Heartside Hill’s comprehensive development plan in mid-September. The global development plan is considered as a model of the global vision of the site.

Construction of the $28 million apartments is expected to begin next year with occupancy by the end of 2024 depending on funding.

CARE Housing submitted its application for tax credit funding to the Colorado Housing Finance Authority in August and expects to hear it in November. He has already received $1.1 million from the city to help fund the project.

Housing units will include affordable homes for sale and rent, homes for adults with developmental disabilities, a shared multi-purpose community building and a neighborhood playground.

Colorado reporter Bethany Osborn contributed to this report.

Jerry B. Hatch