As development in Denver abounds, a blighted strip of East Colfax Avenue has "languished," an urban renewal official says. City officials are now eying that area for redevelopment.
An urban redevelopment plan would focus on 80 acres, or about 48 city blocks, of the historic thoroughfare, bounded by Monaco Parkway on the west and Yosemite Street on the east.
Denver City Council members on the city’s Finance and Governance Committee approved a redevelopment plan on a 5-1 vote Tuesday.
Councilwoman Candi CeBaca cast the lone "no" vote on the plan during the committee meeting, without explaining why.
A public hearing on the redevelopment plan is slated for Aug. 26 during a Denver City Council meeting.
While neighboring areas have seen development, the strip of East Colfax has been neglected, Tracy Huggins, executive director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA), said during a council briefing. Huggins’ DURA office, in part, assists the city in redevelopment of blighted property.
“There has been development in other areas, but it really has languished along this corridor,” Huggins said, referencing the strip of East Colfax.
As part of plan development, DURA conducted a condition study of the street.
Under state statute, there are 11 factors that are used when considering whether a site or area is blighted; four of the 11 must be identified to officially designate an area as blighted, Huggins said.
The East Colfax Avenue condition study found five blight factors in the area, including deteriorating /deteriorated structures; unsanitary/unsafe conditions; deterioration of the site or other improvements; inadequate public improvements or utilities; and health, safety or welfare factors that require high levels of municipal services or underutilization or vacancy or buildings, site or improvements.
Higgins pointed to vacant buildings in the area, some with broken windows, and the frequency of police calls to the area, sidewalks in disrepair and missing pedestrian walkways as contributing factors for the blight label.
As currently written, the plan doesn’t include any specific projects. But the development plan could pave the way for the creation of a tax increment financing district, or TIF, which is used often by governments and municipalities as a mechanism to spur growth and development.
The impetus of the plan was interest by City Council members in putting forward an Urban Redevelopment Plan to help bring about change in the area. Additionally, Huggins and some city officials said redevelopment of the area is something community members, neighborhood associations and business leaders invite.
“We didn’t come in and say, ‘Here we are'; we were invited in,” Huggins said.
In line with the city’s new framework for growth over the coming decades, Denver would focus on maintaining the area’s character, adding public transit options and pedestrian-friendly areas and parks among other priorities during any redevelopment projects.
City officials expect the area to see a 25% increase in housing and 20% increase in employment by 2040.