The city of Denver plans to finish the construction of the National Western Center campus; however, future phases of the project have been halted for now.
To fund the remaining construction and the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, Denver will pursue issuing $274 million in revenue bonds, which were approved by Denver voters in 2015.
“We are making this investment at a critical point for our city,” Mayor Michael Hancock said. “These investments create good-paying jobs and economic opportunities for thousands of residents and businesses that have been burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Officials hope these projects will increase Denver’s tourism revenue, especially as people begin to travel after they receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Once the projects are completed, city officials estimate they will bring a combined $10 billion in regional economic activity and support 7,200 jobs over three years.
Finishing construction of the National Western Center campus will cover phases one and two of the project. However, phases three through eight, known as the Triangle, have been halted indefinitely due to financial impacts of the pandemic.
“Tourism taxes, which were planned to be used to support the (phase three), are expected to begin to recover in 2021, but are no longer overperforming,” said Tykus Holloway, executive director of the Mayor's Office of the National Western Center.
“The timing is inappropriate to commit the general fund to this specific procurement/delivery method.”
Celia Herrera, with Denver’s Performance-Based Infrastructure Office, said the work that has been done thus far will serve as a foundation for when the Triangle project is resumed in the future.
“We value the time and commitment from everyone throughout this process,” Herrera said. “Today’s news is just one step in an ongoing effort.”
The National Western Center campus will be a year-round destination for agriculture, food and western heritage and culture. It is currently under construction in north Denver.
Infrastructure including water lines, roads and bridges have already been completed and construction will begin on the 51st Avenue bridge and public access to the South Platte riverfront in the coming months.
For the Colorado Convention Center, expansion plans include lobby renovations and adding an 80,000-square-foot multipurpose room and rooftop terrace. This will allow for an additional 25 events per year, generating $85 million annually.
Of the $274 million in revenue bonds, $98 million will go toward the Colorado Convention Center expansion and $175.8 million will go toward the continued construction of the National Western Center campus.
The Denver City Council Finance and Governance Committee will vote on whether or not to pass the issuance of the revenue bonds on Feb. 23. If passed, the full City Council will have to approve the issuance.