When Gete Mekonnen dreams, he dreams big.
As Executive Director of the Northeast Denver Housing Center (NDHC), he’s not content with just visualizing affordable housing in the city. He’s a methodical strategist who sees both short and long-term housing needs for Denver and sets about getting it done.
Even as he studied Community Development / City-Urban Planning at the Ohio State University, (graduated in 1975) , he dreamed of incorporating self-sufficiency, affordable housing strategies and assistance, eco-friendly building practices, property management and sustained community development into Urban Community Development’s landscape.
“I moved to Denver in 1979 and got my first professional job aligned with my dream at the University of Colorado – Center For Community Development and Design”. The Center provided technical and practical development assistance to communities throughout Denver. Gete worked with like-minded professionals and became part of a committed and passionate group that started assisting communities in need.
So, everything began serendipitously falling into place
Mekonnen was hired to work in one of the program’s community design centers where he ended up interacting and collaborating with community groups, Denver’s City Council and other civic organizations.
Shortly after, the NDHC was founded (in 1982) and Mekonnen has been on board with them from the beginning. That’s 37 years.
One of his biggest accomplishments during his tenure was the formation of the organization’s partnership with the master developer of Stapleton Denver (Forest City, now Brookfield Properties). Under his leadership, the NDHC was selected as one of three developers to provide affordable housing in the community.
“Gete is a passionate advocate for affordable housing in Denver, Aurora and our region,” says the Rev. Dr. James Fouther, who sits on the NDHC’s board of directors. “He has the ideal mix of qualities that take housing initiatives such as this to the next level and has established key relationships in the community, which makes him a trusted and knowledgeable leader.”
Since then, Mekonnen has spearheaded the development of ten housing properties in Stapleton Denver, including the recently-opened Moline@Stapleton Apartments.
This affordable apartment complex illustrates that mix of elements that make for a well-planned, thoughtful community.
The 180-unit community of 2-3-bedroom townhomes comes equipped with a community room, recreation room, bike storage area, leisure areas, children play areas and 209 parking spaces. Its180 units are offered to households who earn up to 60 percent of the area median income.
“Placing housing units in communities of opportunity where you find good transportation access, shopping, jobs and schools is key for the long-term well-being of residents and the community as a whole,” Mekonnen says.
“This was a team effort between the NDHC, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and Brookfield Properties, and we’re proud to see this effort come full circle.”
After 37 years, the NDHC is now embarking on its 11th development for the Stapleton community.
“It’s been a good ride. A real win-win,” he says.