Two decades ago, crews demolished a mall of more than 1 million square feet that had been built on Englewood's former city park. Its name was Cinderella City, an economic engine that opened in 1968 …
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Some Englewood business owners, property owners and residents will vote on Nov. 3 to choose whether to create a downtown development authority that would work to economically boost Englewood's CityCenter, traditional Broadway downtown area and medical districts.
The authority would do that through two tools. One is a tax, or a “mill levy,” which would be added to property tax currently assessed on properties in those areas of the city.
Englewood currently has a tax mill levy of about 72.9 mills — meaning 0.0729 times the assessed value of a property.
The authority is expected to begin operations in January 2021. The first year's mill levy is proposed to not exceed 2 mills. Tax rates for following years would be determined by the authority's board of directors.
What that means is that in 2021, a 900-square foot retail shop that paid about $3,000 in 2020 property tax would pay an additional $81.20 in 2021, according to Englewood's website. A restaurant of 5,700 square feet that paid about $20,780 in property tax would pay an additional $570. An apartment building of 47 units and about 30,500 square feet, which paid about $24,500 in property tax would pay another $14 per unit.
The authority's property tax could ultimately increase to up to 5 mills.
The second tool, tax-increment financing, allows for the reallocation of future increases in sales- and property-tax revenue within the authority's boundary to help finance public improvements and “support community benefits from development projects,” according to the city's downtown plan.
Tax-increment financing does not raise tax rates but, rather, reallocates the use of anticipated increases in tax revenue caused by increased economic activity as a result of the authority's actions.
Voters in the proposed district will decide on four ballot questions to form the authority and provide the authority with such financial tools.
Downtown development authorities have no power of eminent domain, Englewood's plan says.
Two decades ago, crews demolished a mall of more than 1 million square feet that had been built on Englewood's former city park.
Its name was Cinderella City, an economic engine that opened in 1968 amid much media hype. In 1974, it raked in just over half of Englewood's total sales tax revenue. It functioned as a community center that still stirs fond memories in Englewood residents today.
But competition from new malls like Southwest Plaza led to a decline, and after a late-1990s demolition, the site was redeveloped into today's CityCenter Englewood shopping site — the area around city hall and Walmart.
The site once touted as the Denver area's premier indoor mall stands now stands as a husk of its former self: Englewood's outdoor retail and city hall combination still struggles to fulfill the promise of a bustling retail scene supported by light rail.
“Time has taken its toll on Downtown Englewood, evidenced by empty storefronts, dormant retail sites and an overall lack of cohesiveness,” says the Englewood Downtown Plan, a vision facilitated by city staff.
City officials came back to the drawing board and now want to press forward with that downtown plan to revitalize a swath of the city stretching from the CityCenter area all the way east to its hospital district, with what is traditionally thought of as Englewood's downtown — the area of Hampden Avenue and South Broadway — in the middle.
The plan could result in filling vacant storefronts along that downtown Broadway corridor; pursuing a hotel for business visitors, hospital patrons and community members in CityCenter; adding residential density to underused sites near Englewood's light rail station; pushing for attainable housing; and attracting more office employers to bring more daytime workers downtown to support local merchants and restaurants.
To do that, the city wants to create an entity called a downtown development authority, an extension of the city government that works with business owners in the area to spearhead improvements to transportation, create an “authentic brand identity” and take those other steps to support the area's economic viability, according to the downtown plan.
Voters on Nov. 3 will decide whether to create the downtown development authority, which would implement the plan.
In July, Englewood City Council voted to ask the community within the boundaries of the authority's proposed area to create the downtown development authority. Under state law, only property owners, tenants and residents within the proposed district may vote on the question. That includes business owners in the district, according to the city's plan.
The governing board of the authority would consist of those stakeholders along with representatives from the city, appointed by the city council.
Many cities and towns in Colorado use downtown development authorities, including Castle Rock, Longmont and Colorado Springs, according to Englewood's website.
The authority's various goals point to pulling more people into Englewood's main shopping districts.
The plan hopes to “cultivate a vibrant Downtown activity zone that extends throughout every evening and weekend” and “market Downtown as a destination,” the 73-page plan says.
The area's brand could be shown in decorative lighting and public art to create harmony between Downtown's three sub-areas and “establish a sense of place,” the plan says. The three areas are CityCenter, roughly from South Santa Fe Drive to South Elati Street; the Broadway area between Elati and Sherman streets; and the medical area 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.
Other ideas the downtown development authority could carry out include:
• Filling vacant storefronts with uses such as pop-up art galleries, office space or pop-up retail concepts.
• Overseeing existing and new open spaces in the district such as plazas and public parks. One of those renovations could take place at the existing creek and plaza area near Broadway and U.S. Highway 285.
• Completing an east-west bicycle and pedestrian corridor between the Englewood light rail station and the city's medical districts where Craig Hospital and Swedish Medical Center sit. The corridor would focus on Englewood Parkway, Floyd and Girard avenues, and what locals call Old Hampden.
• Ensuring that “all people feel comfortable in Downtown at all times of the day,” the plan says. Lighting, signage, street and sidewalk cleaning, and alleyway improvements could “discourage nuisance behaviors and improve perceived safety of Downtown.” That's likely a reference to visible homelessness in the area.
• On the other hand, the plan lists the goal of partnering with local organizations to connect people experiencing homelessness to supportive services and housing opportunities.
• The plan also says a downtown development authority would help guide economic recovery beyond the COVID-19 pandemic in the near term and continue to steward the area in the long term.
• The effort could also help explore and guide private sector redevelopment on South Broadway north and south of the downtown area.
Downtown development authorities partner with businesses, property owners, and other civic partners such as chambers of commerce and local government, the plan says.
The plan is branded with the words “Downtown Matters Englewood.” The Downtown Matters Plan was created through a seven-month process to build consensus among stakeholders regarding the downtown plan and its implementation. The process was facilitated by the City of Englewood with the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce.
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