There is no place like University Homes

Invalesco founder Gilda Zaragoza loved her University Homes Development so much, she decided she wanted to live there too.

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Cory Phare

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Courtesy of Invalesco Real Estate 

When Gilda Zaragoza secured the future location for her University Homes development in 2017, she knew it was both a challenge and an opportunity for Invalesco, the boutique real estate company she launched four years prior. 

Three parcels of undeveloped land in such a desirable, central area is a rarity in Denver. But, because the property was located on the busy University Boulevard  just north of Dartmouth, a deft touch was required to build the micro-community she envisioned.

“Design was very important,” Zaragoza says. “We wanted to create a higher-end modern cul-de-sac, where the homes could really speak to each other.”

“The project needed a thoughtful architect to make it live well—that’s how we came to Brad.” 

Brad Tomecek of Tomecek Studio Architecture was someone Zaragoza had been “admiring from afar for a while.” Their collaboration proved to be the right fit for the space and surroundings. Tomecek designed an L-shaped structural layout on the oversized sites to create courtyards, and located primary bedrooms at the back. Design solutions included strategic window placement and raised fenestration allowing light—but not movement or noise from the main road just outside—to permeate the interiors. The front home lacks a backyard, so front-yard living is key to engaging with neighbors and activating the cul-de-sac.

As the first two lots were finished in 2018 and 2019, the Invalesco and Tomecek partnership proved to be a resoundingly successful one—to the point that Zaragoza had a further realization for the final project leg.

“When I saw it really coming to light, with the kids coming out to play together and neighbors mingling, I realized, ‘Hey, I want to live here too.’”

Above left and center: Views of the backyard of Gilda Zaragoza's home. Above right: Architect Brad Tomecek, principal of Tomecek Studio that designed Zaragoza's home.

Having made the decision to make University Homes their residence and put their own stamp on it, Zaragoza and her husband adhered to a contemporary style while simultaneously honoring their respective Mexican and Pakistani heritages. The result is a tranquil space full of color and texture. An exterior venetian plaster provides a sheen that elevates the space, while a contiguous transversal limestone accent wall brings outside in.

Attention to detail has become a calling card of Invalesco. Founded in 2013, the firm began with small urban infill projects primarily in the south Denver metro area. Zaragoza notes how a constrained inventory supply has priced many would-be homebuyers out and led Invalesco to launch a new-build brokerage in 2018.

“There’s a real need in the market,” she says. “It opened my eyes on what we can do to help the situation in the development arena.”

Well-designed affordable housing is a priority for the company. They’re currently developing a 29-unit townhome community with KGA Architects and nonprofit partners, slated to break ground in 2024. And after the pandemic, Zaragoza sees creating well-designed structures and open outdoor spaces for people to congregate in as not only a good selling point, but as a larger imperative at the heart of a project like University Homes.

“We wanted to create a space for people to come together—community is a big deal,” she says. “People crave connection with others now more than ever, especially after the pandemic. Open outdoor spaces where people can come together are important; building community is important.”

Learn more about Invalesco here.