Developers embracing modular construction to combat housing affordability in Denver metro

Modular housing in going vertical in Denver.

Work is expected to begin in July on a mixed-use, 24-unit project in the 4300 block of Tennyson Street. Standard stuff in Denver’s trendy Berkeley neighborhood these days, except the housing at this project will be for sale and each unit will be built in a factory in Texas, trucked up to Denver and hoisted by a crane into place atop a ground floor retail space.

The Kasita on Tennyson development takes its name from the Austin, Texas-based company that designed and will prefabricate the 408-square-foot studio units. Kasita is working with Courtney McRickard, of 063 Design and Development and Sean Kulzer and Mike DePalma of MKD Development. They submitted the project to city planners for concept review in January.

The units, priced under $400,000, are expected to be marketed to young professionals and first-time homebuyers faced with few options in a market desperate for more inventory and pressured by seemingly ever-climbing prices.

“It’s really about being able to deliver a high-quality product at a faster rate than traditional construction and trying to deliver a more affordable component to the city,” McRickard said, estimating that due to the speed of factory construction, this project could go from the design stage to completion in about a year.

A rendering of the front of the forthcoming Kasita on Tennyson project, which will be built using 24 modular condo units that will be built in Texas. The project is expected to be done in early 2019.

The project isn’t expected to be completed until winter — the development team will demolish two buildings before then, with plans to help relocate the tenant businesses — but would-be buyers can get a look at one of Kasita’s modular homes in Denver on Saturday.

The company is displaying one of its “Independent” model units in the parking lot of the Great Divide Brewing Co. facility at 1812 35th St. as part of a seven-city sales tour. The stand-alone model, for people seeking a tiny home or an accessory dwelling unit to put on private property, is 352 square feet. It’s 12 feet wide and 12 feet tall, so it can fit on a trailer and travel under bridges. A basic model starts at $89,000, said Matt McPheely, the company’s head of sales. Saturday’s open house will run from noon to 5 p.m.

“We’re hitting places that are being hit hard by the housing crisis and the lack of supply of housing,” McPheely said of stopping in Denver, where the average home sale price in 2017 was $480,140. “We’re taking a manufacturing approach to housing, which enables high precision and scalability. We’re giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t.”

Kasita on Tennyson is not the only modular project in the metro area these days. Developer Adam Berger is nearing completion on the first of three duplexes he is building from modular sections in Aurora as part of his Alton Street Homes project. He expects the homes, which he designed and are being built in a factory in Nebraska, to be priced in the low $400,000 range. He said it’s time developers “apply technology to the problem” of housing affordability.

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