With a population of 168,000, Fort Collins, CO, is by no means a metropolis, yet it struggles with issues that many densely populated areas of the United States and Canada currently face: finding affordable housing and childcare.
But by leveraging strong partnerships and sharing the 11 acres of land where the church building sits, Heart of the Rockies Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), (HRCC) is providing an astonishing level of relief for this mid-sized community.
HRCC’s partners include Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF), which supported the construction of the congregation’s building in 1999 and more recently its efforts to improve its technology. DCEF continues to support HRCC through investments and capital campaigns. Furthermore, the Central Rocky Mountain Region, which purchased the HRCC land when the congregation first launched, is another Disciples-related partner.
But as Heart of the Rockies launches the Heartside Hill housing project, they leverage their greatest assets to address the most pressing issues in Fort Collins — by developing partnerships with other faith-based organizations.
“From the beginning, we saw something bigger for this land,” says Rev. Melissa St. Clair, Heart of the Rockies senior minister. “It wouldn’t just be land that we use to serve and meet the needs of our own congregation… it would be used to support and sustain our community.”
HRCC provides the property, while another partner builds and manages apartments for low-income residents; another sponsors the construction of single-family homes, and yet another lends support specific to disabled adults and their assistants.
- CARE Housing, a nonprofit housing developer that serves people who earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income, will provide 71 units of affordable one-to four-bedroom apartments. The hope is this stable, low-cost rental housing will provide a launchpad for homeownership.
- Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity will construct nine single-family homes through Poudre Builds, a program that partners up the organization with two geometry classes at Poudre High School, each of which builds half of a house over the course of a school year.
- L’Arche Fort Collins, which provides host homes and supportive services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be building two homes for these adults and their assistants.
HRCC retains two acres for the church building. Additionally, a centrally located green space – including a community garden and neighborhood playground – offer an open feel to the new neighborhood.
“The biggest thing is collaboration,” says Sue Anderson, a nearby resident, long-time HRCC member, and the co-project manager of Heartside Hill’s steering team. “Heartside Hill, it’s bigger than what we (HRCC) can do ourselves. And it’s going to be so much better because of partnership.”
The partnerships don’t stop there. Plans include a community building with space for an early childhood center to serve up to 100 children, funded in part by a USD $2 million commitment from the local county in September. The building also includes space for a pediatrician’s office, some of Heartside Hill’s mission partners, a potential partnership with Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and offices and administrative space for HRCC.
That’s where the ongoing relationship with DCEF picks up again: helping the congregation raise the capital funds needed to reconfigure their existing building and for that additional space in the community building.
The church has outgrown its 20+-year-old building, so DCEF Building and Capital Services Advisor Jim Michel is helping address architectural needs. Furthermore, the church has invested a portion of its building reserve fund in interest-earning Investment Notes at DCEF.
“DCEF has allowed us to come to the table with our partners and feel like we have someone who is putting our interests first,” Rev. Melissa says. “We have someone who is helping us be as prepared as we can.”
What Heart of the Rockies Christian Church couldn’t have done alone is happening now through a creative partnership – an 11-acre lot, in a corner of southeast Fort Collins, is being transformed into a place to call home.
Does your congregation have an idea for a special project? Contact Disciples Church Extension Fund to see how we can assist you.