The work of Denver muralist Allen True graces the Hoover Dam, state capitols in Colorado, Wyoming and Missouri, even Wyoming license plates.
Some of his art was destroyed along with the buildings that hosted it, or was banished to storage.
One piece, after more than a decade out of sight, can be seen again in a historic Denver building that has been converted into apartments for seniors on low incomes.
Celebrations earlier this month of the completion of Tammen Hall also marked the resurrection of the mural that True completed in 1932 for the former nurse’s residence, built in 1930. Tammen Hall now houses 49 apartments for people 62 or older. Rents are kept to no more than a third of tenants’ incomes and only seniors earning up to 60 percent of the area median income can be residents.
True’s lush, five-panel mural depicting Native American men and women in everyday settings is just one of the painstakingly restored architectural and design elements surrounding residents who might have been priced out of the gentrifying neighborhood. Annie Robb Levinsky, executive director of Historic Denver, called the project proof that history and affordability can coincide. Tammen benefitted from both historic and low-income housing tax credits.
“It’s a great example of how those programs can be teamed up to meet community needs,” said Levinsky, whose nonprofit works to preserve historic sites.
The housing would not have happened had the developers not been awarded state and federal historic tax credits, said Kurt Frantz, development manager for MGL Partners. Developers sell credits to investors for cash they can use to build, allowing them to borrow less. Because their loan costs are lower, they can charge less rent once their housing is built.
“The project would not have worked with just low-income tax credits,” said Frantz, whose MGL worked with Solvera Advisors to develop Tammen.
Frantz said renovating a historic building is more costly than erecting something new.
“That’s why they have the historic tax credit. It closes the gap,” he said.
Pairing historic credits with low-income housing credits “does definitely work for affordable housing,” he said. “It’s a good combination.”
Frantz said he would recommend other affordable housing developers try it — but said Denver no longer has many historic buildings that haven’t already been redeveloped.