Meeting new neighbors has been a recurring fact of life in Stapleton as homes spring up at a rate of about 600 a year. Two of those new neighbors, Taylor and Garrett Norwell, moved into the recently completed Spruce Townhomes on Montview Blvd. Knowing everyone has a story, we asked these 29-year-old first time homeowners to let us introduce them with a story about their lives.
The beginnings of this young family go back to when they were 10 years old. Taylor and Garrett went to the same church and became good friends despite going to different schools—such good friends that when young Garrett found a lucky penny, he drilled a hole in it and put it on a chain for his pal Taylor. Years later the lucky penny would loom large in his marriage proposal to her.
They drifted apart in their high school years, but reconnected when they both found themselves in Greeley where Taylor was getting a degree in education. Garrett had tried studying criminal justice but it wasn’t a good fit. He dropped out and went to Greeley because some buddies lived there and he could get by doing odd jobs. He describes it as his rebellious time. But as he was trying to figure out what to do with his life he discovered there was someone in Greeley he could talk to—Taylor. They didn’t date—but they were best friends. And they talked a lot.
Garrett ended that uncertain stage of his life in 2009 by joining the Army. He drove tanks in Ft. Bliss, Texas, and says not much of what he learned driving tanks has carried over into his current life—except that he learned the importance of attention to detail.
When he wasn’t attending to his M1A2 tank for three years in Texas, he was in touch with Taylor. The best friends just kept talking and texting. “The distance grew, but the relationship grew closer,” says Garrett. “I was having feelings for her for quite a while, but I didn’t have the courage to tell her because I didn’t want to ruin what we had as a friendship.”
By Jan. 2012 their long distance friendship had gone on for a year and a half. They spent Garrett’s two-week holiday break hanging out together.
Garrett had just seen the movie We Bought a Zoo based on the book by Benjamin Mee—and he kept replaying in his mind a quote from it, “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something good will come of it.” On the last night before going back to Ft. Bliss, Garrett said to himself, “Damn the friendship. I have to be courageous and wear my feelings on my sleeve.”
It turned out Taylor was feeling the same way, and she also worried about losing him as a friend if their relationship changed. Their friends shrugged and said, “We all knew. Why didn’t you do this sooner?”
Fast forward almost a year to December 2012. Taylor knew Garrett was coming home, but not his exact arrival time. A note written with a finger in the dust on her car told her he was home. The message was a clue that took her to her parents’ house, where she found another clue in the mailbox. That one was about their first date. Off she went, her friend Tracey photographing her, to the downtown Westin, where ice skating had been their first date. The receptionist at the Westin gave her the next clue. The answer, she knew, was the lucky penny. When she texted that to Garrett, she got, in return, a link to a You-Tube he had made. It led her to the bridge at Confluence Park, one of her favorite places.
When she arrived, he was there—on his knee.
For Taylor and Garrett, Denver’s affordable housing program and getting one of the newly-built homes in Stapleton means this chapter in their lives offers what’s important to them. Taylor is happy she can be a stay-at-home mom while her kids are young, then she’ll work as a holistic health coach (a field in which she obtained certification after college). Garrett is in the Army Reserves and studying exercise science—a field that helps people move, whether to improve fitness or recover from injuries. Maybe someday the two will work together helping people be more healthy and fit. But that’s another chapter.
Stapleton Affordable Homes
NE Denver Housing, which built Spruce Townhomes, is currently building 40 units along Central Park Blvd. just east of the Central Park rail station. All are under contract with occupancy expected to start in the last quarter of this year. Executive Director Gete Mekonnen says 63 more units in south Stapleton are in the pipeline and they have about 100 names on their “interest” list for those units. Potential buyers can contact NE Denver housing at 303-377-3334 for more information.
All buyers in Denver’s affordable homes program must go through the income verification process with the city’s Office of Economic Development, which takes about 10 days after all forms are turned in. Buyers must meet minimum and maximum income limits, take a homeownership education class, and get themselves qualified for a loan.
Thrive Home Builders has started construction on 165 north Stapleton homes in the affordable program. The first sale on these Thrive Elements homes closed in April, but Thrive sales representative Becca Mortenson says as of now they still have plenty of availability. To get on Thrive’s reservation list, buyers must have completed the income verification process. Once on Thrive’s reservation list, Mortensen says it will be about 4-5 months before the house will go under contract, at which time an earnest deposit will be required. Then it will likely be another nine months before closing and occupancy.
Two- and three-bedroom homes are sized at 1,213 and 1,330 square feet. The starting price is $189,900 and the maximum price, depending on options chosen, is $246,000. Call 303-707-4410 for more information.
Another future affordable option is expected to be in the upcoming development around the Central Park rail station. It is our understanding that approximately ten percent of a 200-unit development there will be affordable.