The last several months have brought many changes to downtown Denver. We have a new mayor, several new city councilmembers, and a lot of new ideas. While the Mayor has only been in office for about 10 weeks, some see improvement while others see decline. Please be assured that UpDoNA continues to represent the interests of residents and businesses in Upper Downtown. We have already attended several meetings with the mayor, and we have introduced UpDoNA to several new city council members. Our work with the Denver Police Department, Department of Safety, and other city agencies also continues. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Food for thought. Recently, I read an article in the 5280 Magazine written by Riane Menardi Morrison titled, “A Local’s Guide to Eating and Drinking in Downtown Denver.” Ms. Morrison lists the 30 best restaurants and bars to visit in downtown. While I enjoyed reading her article, the thing that struck me was that the second line of the first paragraph started with “Despite what cynical locals will tell you . . . the scene is alive and well . . .” Downtown Denver definitely has issues such as crime, homelessness, safety, cleanliness, etc., but there is still a lot of good here, too. We have fabulous restaurants, bars, and museums. The Performing Arts Complex provides world-class entertainment, and we can walk to sports venues to watch four different professional sports teams. We are not only residents of downtown, but we are also advocates. If we aren’t positive about downtown, who will be? Let’s continue to work together to solve the issues, and let’s remember the great things that are at our fingertips. Those things are why we chose to live, work, and play in downtown.
Mayor Johnston has a lot on his plate as evidenced by his record $1.7 billion budget. His top five priorities are: housing for all, a city where everyone can afford to live, safe neighborhoods, revitalization of downtown, and world-class public services for residents. As you have heard, Mayor Johnston plans to provide housing for 1,000 of the unhoused by the end of the year. In fact, his budget shows that $242 million is earmarked to get the unhoused into transitional housing with support services.
Although the mayor has declared a moratorium on the cleanup of illegal encampments, he has authorized the removal of five encampments for health and safety issues. Those issues have included rat infestation, gun fights, and openly selling alcohol. Remaining encampments are to be provided with trash removal and portable bathrooms. Once a site is cleaned up, that area is decommissioned meaning that no one will be allowed to reestablish an encampment. However, there is still some confusion as to how that will be enforced. One of the most recent cleanups occurred at 8th and Logan where approximately 75 tents had been erected. Those living in the encampment were offered housing at the newly purchased Best Western hotel. Those individuals will be counted toward the goal of housing 1,000. While we have yet to see the mayor’s full plan in action, UpDoNA is here to support his efforts.
The “Future of Downtown Denver” meeting sponsored by BusinessDen, was held at the Clayton Hotel in Cherry Creek. Yes, BusinessDen got a lot of flak for holding an event in Cherry Creek about the future of downtown. Their answer was that they had already booked the hotel before the topic was decided.
There were several panelists including Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO Kourtny Garrett, Owner and Vice President of Monfort Companies Kenneth Monfort, broker Evan Makovsky, Thompson Hotel GM Amanda Parsons, and Visit Denver President Richard Scharf. All speakers shared pertinent information about the state of downtown and their outlook for the future. Mr. Scharf stated that there are conventions booked through 2033 and that the new addition to the convention center already has bookings worth $167m. He mentioned that Visit Denver is receiving great feedback from convention attendees and went on to say that the closure of the Aloft Hotel has really helped. Monfort Companies continues to invest in downtown, particularly with revitalization of the Market Street area. Topics such as building conversion, demolishing older skyscrapers, and the need to provide financial incentives for investment in Upper Downtown were also discussed.
Overall, the sentiment of the future of downtown was very positive, but everyone agreed that there is a lot of work and investment needed in downtown. Mr. Makovsky emphasized the critical importance of investing in downtown when he stated that “downtown is really the heart of this entire body . . . And if we are having a heart problem, if we don’t do something about it collectively, we’re all going to die off.”
Okay let’s lighten this up a bit. Thanks to everyone who attended UpDoNA’s Social/Membership event at the Teller Bar in the Renaissance Hotel. We had a terrific time and enjoyed music, delicious appetizers, and drinks. Terri McGinley and Melissa Matuska, our Social and Membership Committee chairs, are already planning our next event. Watch for the announcement.
Exciting news! A new museum has opened in Upper Downtown. The Museum of Illusions, located at the corner of Curtis and 16th Streets, opened on September 29th. There are more than 60 visual and educational exhibits designed to tease the senses and trick the mind. Some of the experiences are specific to Denver like allowing visitors to appear upside down on an RTD bus. Make plans to visit and support our new neighbor.
Have a wonderful October. I’ll talk to you again in November.
Lisa L. Pope