President’s Message – June 2024

The 16th Street Mall is looking great!  Sections of pavers are being completed, trees are being planted, and fencing is being removed.  The Cheesecake Factory’s and Blue Agave’s patios are scheduled to open on June 10th!  Interestingly, the patios will be set up in between the trees, providing great shade covering as the trees mature.  There is more work to be done, but things are looking good.  Now we have a unique and exciting opportunity to really gain momentum.  Please read the information below. 

Vibrant Denver DDA.  I’m sure that you have heard Mayor Johnston’s Vibrant Denver announcement wherein he proposed the expansion of the current Union Station DDA which, if approved, could provide more than $500m of investment in District 10, mostly in Upper Downtown.  After the announcement, UpDoNA requested a meeting with Laura Swartz, City and County of Denver’s Department of Finance, and Brad Segal, President of Progressive Urban Management Associates, to learn more about the plan.  This proposal is going to move fast and requires several steps and levels of approval.  Denver City Council and a certain segment of downtown residents must approve the DDA expansion.  UpDoNA and its members have been asked to help.  Let me give you some background information.

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a tool enabled by a state statute that allows municipalities to collect a portion of the incremental taxes generated within the central business district and reinvest those funds into economic development activities within that same area.  In August 2008, Denver City Council approved the formation of the Union Station DDA.  The $400 million in public investment at Union Station has transformed what was once a decommissioned railyard into a vibrant, mixed-use area, with more than $3.5 billion in private development projects in the surrounding area as well as more than $2 billion in economic impact annually.  (City and County of Denver, www.denvergov.org., accessed 5/10/24).  A similar DDA for Upper Downtown could do the same and more!  

Please use the link below to view the map that shows the boundaries of the Union Station DDA in orange and the boundaries of the proposed expansion designated by red lines.  A new DDA must be attached to a current DDA.  Therefore, the new DDA boundary begins at Wynkoop Street.  Most of UpDoNa’s boundary is included in the proposed expansion.  https://denvergov.org/files/assets/public/v/1/economic-development/documents/dda-map/ddaweblayout-1.pdf   

Like I said, this process is going to move fast.  Right now, the Department of Finance has meetings scheduled with downtown residents and other stakeholders to discuss the DDA expansion and to secure support.  Soon, a Plan of Development stating the parameters, legal requirements, etc. will be presented to Denver City Council so that in August it can refer the ballot measure.  If City Council refers it to ballot, it will go before the voters in November.  This is where it gets interesting and why UpDoNA’s help is needed.  The only registered voters eligible to vote on the DDA expansion ballot measure are the registered voters within the current Union Station DDA – approximately 1,000 Lower Downtown registered voters.  Again, refer to the map.  

Our role is to assist in getting City Council approval for referral to the ballot and to convince our friends and neighbors in Lower Downtown to vote for the expansion.  Please talk to your lower downtown neighbors and friends to discuss the importance of the DDA expansion for the future of downtown.  Here are some talking points:  1) what’s good for Upper Downtown is good for Lower Downtown, and the surrounding areas.  The more vibrant the entirety of downtown, the more it helps all neighborhoods.  This also includes other City Council Districts outside of downtown.  The tax revenue generated from the expanded DDA must be spent in the DDA areas, however, other city funds will become available for use in the other Districts.; 2) DDAs DO NOT RAISE TAXES for anyone.  Instead, it uses existing funding.  A base of value is established and DDA funds come from the increase in tax revenues generated from the increase in property value and sales revenue.   The money comes from taking a percentage of what properties owners and business in the DDA pay in property and sales tax.  Tax revenue is simply redirected to the DDA; 3) the Union Station DDA will continue to receive funds from the expanded DDA.  In fact, the Union Station DDA could see an increase in the funds it currently receives due to more property tax and sales revenue being generated from an expanded DDA.  The expanded DDA funds are anticipated to be available for approved projects in 2025.

Please visit the DDA website for more information at:  https://www.denvergov.org/Government/Agencies-Departments-Offices/Agencies-Departments-Offices-Directory/Economic-Development-Opportunity/Downtown-Development-Authority  Also, please take the very short survey to provide input on what improvements you think are important for the future of downtown.  The survey closes on Sunday, June 14th.  We’ll keep you updated as this process moves forward.  

Upcoming UpDoNA Election and Annual Meeting.  Thanks to everyone who is running for the UpDoNA board.  We have candidates from several buildings and a business member.   The voting instructions have been emailed, voting ends at close of business on June 11th.   

The Annual Meeting will be held at Casa Tequilas on Thursday, June 13th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m.  Join us for delicious margaritas and appetizers. The newly elected UpDoNA Board of Directors will be introduced.  You’ll also have the opportunity to hear from two guest speakers who will give short presentations about the 16th Street Mall project and the proposed infusion of $500m in investments in the downtown area.  Space is limited, so please RSVP using the Eventbrite link:  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/upper-downtown-neighborhood-association-annual-meeting-tickets-910731641857?aff=oddtdtcreator  

I’ll talk to you again in July!

Lisa L. Pope

Thumbnail attribution – Lisa Pope

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