Atlantis brings affordable accessibility to Baker

Universal design creates functional space for all residents and community members
(Photo: Enterprise Community Partners)

Within the historic Baker neighborhood in Denver sits a new and growing multifamily development that ties the needs of residents and the surrounding community into its design and amenities, while integrating flexibility for future uses. Atlantis I, which opened in 2020, and Atlantis II, now under construction, will provide 144 units of affordable housing, including 40 apartments for residents with disabilities.

Both phases of the affordable apartments have been developed by The Atlantis Community Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit that has been increasing the availability of accessible, affordable, integrated housing choices since 1998. After Atlantis Phase II is completed, the foundation will operate 244 apartments in eight properties that provide home to persons with disabilities and non-disabled tenants.

Designed by Humphries Poli Architects, the Atlantis Apartments accommodate residents with hearing and sight impairments, physical limitations, trauma or mental health challenges. For example, in apartments built and furnished to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, cabinets are not installed under kitchen or bathroom sinks, enabling a person in a wheelchair to easily use those features. Doors to kitchen appliances swing out and not down, making the kitchen completely accessible.

[Related: WDRC’s ADU initiative aims to increase affordable housing options]

“Colors were also a factor. So, there’s a palette of colors that are more accommodating to people who have experienced trauma,” noted Pat Coyle, executive director of the Atlantis Community Foundation. “We’ve also smoothed out sharp corners and angled walls to give a more open feel.”

Since some residents have service dogs, Atlantis has a portable and accessible dog wash, with a ramp for the dogs to walk up and get into the tub. It’s a feature, Coyle said, that all the dog owners use and enjoy.

The apartments also include a community room, used not only by Atlantis residents but also by neighborhood groups. There is an accessible exhibit on the ground floor that chronicles the disability rights movement, and the history of the foundation’s sister organization, Atlantis Community, Inc.

With 46 years of work in Denver and now with an office located in Atlantis Phase I, the nonprofit provides support and advocacy for individuals with disabilities to direct their own lives in the community they choose, explained Anaya Robinson, associate director at Atlantis Community.

[Related: Built for life—Buyers look to universal design for forever homes]

Atlantis Community was founded by Reverend Wade Blank, who worked as a nursing home activities director in the early 1970s, and saw that young disabled residents didn’t want to be living there. This prompted Atlantis Community to create housing choice and communities where people with disabilities could live more independently outside of institutional living. This eventually led to the creation of the Atlantis Community Foundation, to develop housing independently of Atlantis Community to increase housing choices and opportunity for individuals with myriad disabilities across Denver.

Jennie Rodgers

Jennie Rodgers is vice president and Denver market leader at Enterprise Community Partners Inc. She can be reached at [email protected].

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