Restoring and redeveloping Union Station is one of the great success stories in the ongoing transformation of LoDo into a thriving urban neighborhood.

Mayor Mike Johnston has proposed building on the success of the Union Station project to generate funds for more infrastructure investments throughout the downtown area, between Speer Boulevard and 20thStreet and Little Raven to the first three blocks on the east side of Broadway.

Background

In 2008, Denver created a Downtown Development Area (DDA) to finance bonds that paid for part of the redevelopment of Union Station and the surrounding area, plus Market Station on the site of the old RTD bus station at 16th and Market Street.  To provide funding, the city used a creative financing tool called Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

TIF allowed the city to borrow money to fund the redevelopment, based on the projected increase in future property and sales taxes that the projects would generate.  As the new buildings and increased economic activity generated additional tax revenue, this money was set aside to pay off the bonds, as opposed to the taxing agencies that usually receive property and sales tax.  TIF does not increase tax rates but reallocates increases in tax revenue from a specific area to be reinvested in that area.

The DDA TIF was expected to pay off $400 million in bonds over the 30-year life of the project.  In the first 15 years, the additional tax revenue has been much higher than expected, so that the bonds will be fully repaid by the end of 2024, 14 years before the end of the DDA.

Today Denver has a choice—we can:

Neither alternative will increase nor decrease taxes for the residents and businesses in LoDo or elsewhere in Denver.

In May, Mayor Johnston proposed preserving the DDA and using its TIF revenue to fund more projects by expanding its investment footprint to include most of the downtown area.

How will DDA expansion be approved?

The City is now creating a Plan of Development (PoD) to guide the use of TIF funds in the enlarged DDA footprint.  The PoD does not identify or approve specific projects; it establishes general parameters for the types of projects that will be eligible for public investment.

The city has been collecting suggestions and other input from the public through an online survey and community meetings to create a shared vision of the important features and attributes of a vibrant downtown.  As part of this process, the planning team will present the preliminary results of their work to the LoDoNA Board on July 22 at 3pm in Union Hall, 1750 Wewatta Street (first floor of The Coloradan)  All LoDoNA members are invited to attend.

When the PoD is finalized in the Fall, it will be presented to the DDA Board, the Denver Planning Board and the City Council.  The City Council must approve the Plan of Development and approve a ballot measure for the November election allowing eligible voters in the existing DDA footprint to vote on the expansion plan.

Registered voters with a primary residence in the current DDA footprint (both owners and renters) will be eligible to vote on this issue.  Commercial property owners and businesses leasing property in the current DDA area may also vote by designating a representative to cast a ballot on their behalf.

How much money will be available for investment projects?

Based on the growth in tax receipts in the DDA since 2008, the city projects that it will collect an additional $500 million between 2025 and 2038.  If the DDA expansion is approved, Denver may borrow (issue municipal bonds) to create a pool of money to fund individual projects.  If bonds are issued, the TIF revenue will be used to pay interest and principal on the new bonds just as it has in the past.

How will investment decisions be made?

At first, the expanded DDA will only include city-owned property–the public streets and alleys in the new DDA footprint.  Property owners who want to apply for funding for their investment projects must opt in by annexing their property to the expanded DDA.

The city will issue an application for property owners to request funding in the Winter of 2024-25.  Currently, the city has indicated an interest in funding projects that

Individual projects will be reviewed and approved by the city staff and the DDA board of directors.

4 Responses

  1. The most important development projects that will improve living and working in LoDo are:
    (1) extending the new 16th Street Mall format from Market Street to the foot bridge at Chestnut Street
    (2) converting some of our vacant parking lots to mini-parks/green spaces before they all in-fill with new construction
    (3) adding more trees (green canopy) and planters
    (4) organizing more storage corrals for e-scooters and incenting users to park them
    (5) preserving children’s playground and improving access across Speer to Ball Arena development area

    1. Thanks you, yes those are all great ideas. Have seen so many scooters and bikes left right in the middle of sidewalks, impeding pedestrians. Maybe they can be penalized if they don’t leave the vehicles in or near appropriate storage corrals. Also, I have asked the city to sign the pedestrian side of the Cherry Creek Trail between the Confluence and Larimer as closed to scooters. Scooter riders tell me that 1) the trail isn’t labeled as closed to them so why can’t they can ride there?; and 2) google maps tells them they can ride there. Scooters belong on the bike, skates, skateboard, etc. side of the Trail.

  2. Many people in LoDo have dogs. However there are few fenced dog parks and even fewer with grass. Turn some vacant lots into grass dog parks and provide water to them. The sidewalk is not a good option as it is too hot for their paws. The green space by Coors Field, used by many people, is now closed off. I have visited many other cities which maintain grass dog parks. Our furry friends deserve better.

  3. I think cleaner sidewalks would help. Gum and survey marks all over sidewalks gives an impression of grubbiness and dirt.

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