Englewood ‘downtown authority’ awaits funding, now has leaders

Voters may be asked again to OK funding for city’s major business corridors

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/27/21

Months after Englewood voters approved the creation of a body that would work to economically boost Englewood’s CityCenter, traditional Broadway downtown and medical areas, the public still awaits …

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Englewood ‘downtown authority’ awaits funding, now has leaders

Voters may be asked again to OK funding for city’s major business corridors

Posted

Months after Englewood voters approved the creation of a body that would work to economically boost Englewood’s CityCenter, traditional Broadway downtown and medical areas, the public still awaits clarity on where the government entity’s funding will come from, but some details are coming into focus.

In the Nov. 3 election, property owners, residents and business owners in the city’s “downtown” district approved the creation of the downtown development authority, a body that will attempt to attract more economic activity to the district. But voters turned down some of the tax and debt ballot questions that would have funded the body.

Soon, the Englewood City Council could consider whether to issue a $150,000 loan to the downtown authority to cover its year-one operating expenses, a decision likely to occur in early summer, according to a statement from Dan Poremba, Englewood’s chief redevelopment officer.

What’s more, voters in the district’s boundaries may see a funding question placed back on the ballot this year.

The district — the area the downtown authority would work to revitalize — includes the following areas:

• The Englewood CityCenter shopping development, roughly from South Santa Fe Drive to South Elati Street.

• The South Broadway area between Elati and Sherman streets.

• The city’s medical stretch, between Sherman and Lafayette streets. The district’s north-south length varies, but it stretches as far as Kenyon Avenue in the southwest and Eastman Avenue on the north.

Here’s a look at how the downtown authority is progressing and what’s still to be decided in its early stages.

Leadership chosen

City council voted to appoint six members of the downtown authority’s board of directors on April 5. The members are:

• Blake Calvert, president of CORE Consultants, a civil engineering firm.

• Amy Gallegos, owner of Eye Logic, an eye care office.

• Brad Nixon, owner of Nixon’s Coffee House and Share Good Foods.

• Diane Reinhard, chief nursing officer at Craig Hospital.

• Hugo Weinberger, a president of The Situs Group, a real-estate investment firm.

• Erika Zierke, owner of the Englewood Grand bar.

An Englewood city councilmember was also scheduled to be appointed as a board member on April 26, after the Englewood Herald’s press deadline. Under state law, the city councilmember votes on the downtown authority’s decisions along with other board members, according to the city’s statement.

Changes authority could bring

City officials hope the development authority will help fill vacant storefronts along the downtown Broadway corridor; pursue a hotel for business visitors, hospital patrons and community members in CityCenter; and add residential density — more residents — to underused sites near Englewood’s light rail station.

They also hope it will push for attainable housing and attract office employers to bring more daytime workers downtown to support local merchants and restaurants.

The development authority could, for example, carry out “economic recovery plans,” market and promote downtown Englewood, bolster maintenance and security, and create “enhancements” in the area, according to a Dec. 2 informational email from the city.

Those could include items such as landscaping, trees and “wayfinding” signs that help visitors locate parking and retail businesses, and foster a sense of local identity along streets such as South Broadway, Englewood Parkway and what locals call Old Hampden Avenue in the medical region.

Funding still taking shape

In November, voters in the downtown district approved the creation of the downtown authority — through ballot question A — with 91 “yes” votes to 62 “no” votes.

Because voters also approved ballot question B, the development authority can collect and spend money to carry out its operations. But because voters turned down questions C and D, the city could not raise property taxes or issue bonds to fund the authority’s operations. To use a bond is to issue a debt to investors that the city eventually would pay back with interest.

This year, if the downtown authority’s board and the city council give the green light, the bond question could be placed back on the ballot for voters in the downtown district. If voters then give the OK, a certain type of tax revenue collected by the downtown authority could be used for bonds used to fund the body’s efforts, according to the city’s statement. It’s not yet known what the dollar amount requested for the ballot question could be.

The possible bond debt would be supported by a tool called “tax-increment financing.” That’s a term for collecting higher levels of tax revenue spurred by added economic activity that the downtown authority’s actions would drive, in theory. The tax-increment method doesn’t involve a new tax or raising tax rates.

For example, if a new building is constructed in the district next year or sales-tax revenue increases, the added tax revenue would go to the development authority to be reinvested within the district.

It’s unclear when the cycle of downtown-authority investment and tax-revenue gains would begin and when it would put visible changes in motion downtown.

Property tax hike not on table

City council is not considering asking voters for a property tax increase again this November for purposes of funding the downtown authority, the city’s statement said.

Poremba’s statement said the downtown authority’s potential use of bond funding would not eventually require the city to ask voters for a property-tax increase to fund the debt payments.

“DDA bonds are secured only by new tax revenue generated in the district,” the statement said. It added: “This could include sales (tax revenue) generated by new businesses opening or more customers coming downtown to shop, socialize and do errands, or new property (tax revenue) created by the construction of new apartments or offices in the downtown district.”

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