Aurora's Changing Neighborhoods: New hope for Hoffman Heights

Aurora Sentinel

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Washington, DC, February 20, 2015 | By Rachel Sapin | comments

A modest development to solve a post-War housing shortage, Hoffman Heights may soon be the hottest brand going for well-paid Anschutz workers.

The nearly 1,700 single-family houses built after World War II in Hoffman Heights, in north Aurora, once served military families on the Fitzsimons Medical Hospital and Lowry Air Force Base. Now the quaint homes sit a mile from the booming Anschutz Medical Campus and two light rail stations that will open as part of the Interstate 225 line next year.

Aurora Councilwoman Sally Mounier wants to make the area more attractive to prospective buyers, which is why she has worked with metro real estate agent Marianne Farrell to mail fliers to 700 registered voters in the historic neighborhood to let them know they can renovate and expand their homes.

“Overall, it will help the neighborhood,” Mounier said of the fliers, which give a brief history of Hoffman Heights, descriptions of nearby amenities as well as a phone number and address for the city’s Permit Center. “Think about that campus, with now 21,000 workers on it, people who want to live near their work.”

The fliers are part of the pair’s “Live Where You Work Campaign,” an effort the women launched last spring to encourage more home ownership in neighborhoods surrounding the Anschutz campus.

“Things are hot over here,” Farrell said, adding that Hoffman Heights has 1,250 homeowners.  “In Hoffman Heights, we have nothing for sale and three homes under contract.”

Last year, she said there were 16 homes sold in Hoffman Heights for an average price of $175,000.

Architect Samuel Hoffman, who called himself the “Henry Ford of the home-building industry,” used an assembly-line construction method to quickly build the homes to meet the demand of rapid suburban expansion in Aurora following World War II. They were also designed to be attractive to veterans’ wallets, with prices ranging from $9,000 to $13,000.

According to an architectural and historic survey of the area from 2010, there are three types of homes in the neighborhood: the deluxe brick model, the economy frame and shingle model, and the cosmopolitan brick model that includes an attached garage.

All of the homes have three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and no basement. They average 1,400 square feet.

Douglas Howey has lived in a deluxe brick home with his wife since 1990, where he raised three kids and made numerous improvements, which have included replacing a sliding pocket door in the kitchen with a wall.

“We walked in and we fell in love with it,” he says, “but I wanted the kids to have quieter bedrooms.”

His home’s proximity to several bus routes and the Colfax corridor also inspired Howey to convert his attached garage into an extra living space.

Howey, who has to get around by wheelchair because of a truck that hit and paralyzed him in 2012, has recently removed carpet and installed indoor cement flooring.

He said though charming with its casement windows, his  house has a variety of eccentricities that make it dated for someone who wants modern comforts.

“You can’t drill or cut these walls with normal blades because of the plaster (foundation),” he said. “It’s like cement. If you take a normal drill bit, it will just break the bit.”

He said he supports the “Live Where You Work” program because it will attract more workers from Anschutz to his neighborhood.

“For a little while, we had mostly investors buying up these houses and renting them,” he explained. “Now it’s starting to flip around, where the people buying them want to live here. It’s a great place to raise a family, the streets are pretty quiet at night. Aurora police have done a great job, and with the influx of doctors and nurses into this neighborhood, it’s a safer place.”

The 434-acre neighborhood is bounded by Peoria Street to the west and Potomac Street to the east, with East Sixth Avenue as the southern boundary, and East 13th Avenue to the north.

The Hoffman Heights homes are representative of a larger trend of community developments like those in Levittown, New York that popped up around the country following World War II.

The Hoffman Heights neighborhood is not recognized as a historical landmark, though the survey conducted in 2010 suggested landmarking individual properties in the neighborhood.

Howey said he’s not worried about losing a piece of history with people improving the homes and that Hoffman Heights now needs to serve a new demographic who may want more space.

“It’s going to keep its character,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district includes the neighborhood, agrees.

He has fond memories of his family renting an economy frame model in the 1960s when his father served as a soldier at Fitzsimons.

“I think what they’re doing is great. I want to see the impact of Anschutz spread to whole community,” he said. “If it helps the values of the homes in the neighborhood, I’m for it.”

There have been four building permits issued for home additions in the last two years in Hoffman Heights, according to Dirk Anderson, a city plans manager with Aurora Public Works.

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