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Archive of posts filed under the Politics category.

US Patent Office Belongs in Downtown Denver

You probably have heard the news already that the federal government has just selected Denver, along with two other cities (Dallas and San Jose) to join Detroit as the four cities to receive a branch location of the U. S. Patent Office. The positive impacts of this for the Denver region are profound. Now, the speculation is on as to where in the Denver metro area that office should go. According to a Denver Post article from today (click here to view as a PDF), the options include Stapleton, Downtown Denver, Colorado Science & Technology Park at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Centennial, Greenwood Village, the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, and Lone Tree.

The U.S. Patent Office belongs in Downtown Denver.

Downtown is the obvious choice. Landing this new U.S. Patent office was a big win for the region, and Downtown Denver is almost in the exact geographic center of the region. The other proposed locations form a ring around Downtown. Being centrally located in Downtown would make it easy for people from anywhere—Boulder, the Denver Tech Center area, Lakewood and Golden, Broomfield, or Aurora—to get to the new Patent office.

The feds say that a location next to a transit stop is very important. While the other potential locations are found near existing or future RTD transit lines, the Downtown Denver option would put the U.S. Patent Office at the hub of all of RTD’s transit lines. Why place the office at a location that is accessible from only one transit line? That doesn’t make it very convenient for people from throughout the region to access the office by transit. Only a Downtown Denver location gives people from throughout the region the convenience of accessing the office by transit.

Those U.S. Patent Office employees will have very limited options for walking anywhere from their office at the other locations, but in Downtown Denver, hundreds of restaurants, shops, sports, cultural, and recreational options would be available within a short walk of the office.

Finally, locating this new Patent office in Downtown is by far the most sustainable option. A Downtown office would be proximate to the greatest number of people who could access the office by a mode of transportation other than the automobile. If the feds and regional officials are serious about sustainability (and just yesterday, Mayor Hancock announced his appointment of the city’s first Chief Sustainability Officer), then they will select Downtown Denver.

Mayor Hancock: I call on you to demonstrate your leadership and commitment to sustainability and to Downtown Denver by lobbying hard to bring the U.S. Patent Office to Downtown Denver.

DenverInfill readers, what I’d like you to do is contact Mayor Hancock by email (milehighmayor@denvergov.org) or by telephone (720-865-9000) and tell him “The new U.S. Patent Office belongs in Downtown Denver!”


ULI-Colorado to Host Mayoral Forum on March 10

The Colorado council of the Urban Land Institute will be hosting a “Building a Better Mayor” mayoral forum event on Thursday, March 10, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Denver. While ULI does not endorse candidates, the Denver mayoral candidates will be questioned on where they stand on a variety of urban issues facing Denver that are important to ULI members and urbanists in general. For all the details, please click here to read a press release describing the event. Please visit the ULI-Colorado website’s Mayoral Forum event page for fee information and to register. The event is open to both ULI members and non-members.


Possible Funding for Colfax Streetcar?

The Denver Post reports today that State Senator Chris Romer plans to introduce a bill in the Colorado legislature that would provide significant funding for a streetcar line along Colfax Avenue. Senator Romer suggests the streetcar line should run from the Auraria Campus in Downtown Denver to the Anschutz Medical Campus at Fitzsimons in Aurora. For the details, click here for a PDF of the Denver Post article.

Here is the graphic that accompanied the Post article that isn’t included in the PDF version:

Denver Post streetcar map graphic

It is exciting to see a potential funding source identified to help build Denver’s first modern streetcar line. Who knows if this bill will ever get to the governor’s desk, but it is an encouraging sign nevertheless. I’m pleased that at least some of our state leaders are interested in advocating for urban transit.


#3: The Amazing Denver Voter

Cheers! to Denver voters for coming in #3 on our Denver’s Top 10 Urbanism Achievements of the Aughts countdown. Frankly, Denver voters should probably come in #1 for not just this past decade, but for all 15 of Denver’s decades, considering their record of voting for civic projects of every kind.

The reasons for Denver’s enthusiasm for approving civic projects are complicated but discernible. Part of it has to do with Denver’s inferiority complex. Since our city’s founding (relatively late as big cities go—the late 1850s), we’ve tried to overcome our new-kid-on-the-block, dusty-outpost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere insecurities (the “cowtown syndrome”) by proving to the world that we can do all the stuff bigger and older cities do—and then bragging about it. When that fails to earn us the respect we believe we deserve, we try even harder. Next, Denver seems to draw people who are seeking a better place to live or who are looking to make a fresh start; so upon moving here, many newcomers are predisposed toward community improvement. Denverites are also known to be an optimistic bunch (due to the ubiquitous sunshine and stunning mountain vistas, no doubt), so one way people here express that optimism is through investing in their city. Finally, Denver has been fortunate over its history to have had a municipal government that has been relatively competent and corruption-free and that generally delivers civic projects as promised. Along with our strong-mayor system and the dynamic, effective leaders it has produced, a sense of trust exists between the citizens and the city that perpetuates an environment of collective civic ambition. That’s my take on it, anyway. Now, back to the voters:

  • November 1999 (just a few weeks from the start of the new decade): Denver voters approved (55%) an increase of the city’s lodging and car-rental taxes to raise $261.5 million toward the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, a $62.5 million general obligation bond for expansion of the Denver Art Museum (61%), and a $62.5 million bond for upgrades at the Denver Zoo (66%). Denverites also voted in favor (66%) of the state’s TRANS proposal which authorized the $1.7 billion T-REX light rail and highway reconstruction project. Denver voters also approved TABOR exemptions for both RTD and Denver Public Schools.
  • November 2002: Denver voters approved (68%) general obligation bonds totaling $25 million for the renovation of the Denver Auditorium (creating what is now the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex).
  • May 2003: Denver voters approved (65%) general obligation bonds in the amount of $148 million for the expansion of the Denver Health Medical Center.
  • November 2004: Denver voters approved (65%) an increase in the sales tax of 0.4% for RTD’s FasTracks program. Also, Denverites voted in favor (74%) to extend the 0.1% Scientific & Cultural Facilities District sales tax for another 14 years.
  • May 2005: Denver voters approved (56%) the issuance of $378 million in general obligation bonds for the construction of the new Denver Justice Center courthouse and detention facility in Downtown and other improvements at the existing County Jail on Smith Road.
  • November 2005: Denver voters approved (66%) increasing the city’s lodging tax by 1% to pay for Denver tourism and convention marketing programs, and a 10-year exemption from TABOR for the City & County of Denver (64%). Also, Denver voted in favor (63%) of Referendum D, which would have authorized the state to spend $2.1 billion for transportation and other capital improvements. Referendum D failed, however, statewide.
  • November 2007: Denver voters approved all eight of the Better Denver bond issues by margins ranging from 52% to 67% for a total of $550 million in capital improvements for health and human service facilities, libraries, transportation/public works projects, parks and recreation projects, public office buildings, public safety facilities, existing cultural facilities, and new cultural facilities (expansion at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the reconstruction of Boettcher Concert Hall). Denver voters also approved (55%) a permanent 2.5 mill property tax increase for regular capital improvements and infrastructure investments.
  • November 2008: Denver voters approved (68%) general obligation bonds in the amount of $454 million for renovations and new construction for Denver Public Schools.

The only Denver ballot item for a civic project that I could recall that failed during the decade was in November 2001 for the Denver Justice Center—then planned to be built at I-25 and 6th Avenue—which was controversial mostly due to the location and was approved a few years later after the switch to the Downtown site.

Denver’s legacy of supporting civic projects and investments in the city’s infrastructure continued to flourish this past decade, which is why I’m including it in our list of Denver’s Top 10 Urbanism Achievements of the Aughts.


Slowdown

Or perhaps this blog title should be “Screeching Halt.” Can you image being a real estate developer these days and you don’t have your project financing secured? Good luck. I’m just happy a bunch of our big downtown tower projects managed to get their loans and get under construction before the floor dropped out on our financial markets.

I’ve heard recently that a number of infill projects around the downtown area have been shelved: Mestizo 31, the Spanos project in Jefferson Park, 1780 Downing, Old Market Lofts… I’m sure there are many more. The failure of any real estate project to get underway is not unusual. Regardless of how strong the economy is, some projects just don’t make it off the drawing board. Of course, these days we’re clearly dealing with a situation that’s not your run-of-the-mill real estate cycle. Yet a few new projects continue to be proposed, like Bryant 25, which hit my inbox just a few weeks ago.

As I mentioned in a recent blog, the one comfort we can take in all of this mess is that any slowdown in the pace of infilling Downtown is not an indication of the desirability of Downtown as a place to live, work, or invest. In fact, it is certainly possible that when the current financial crisis is resolved and banks return to some kind of “normal” lending environment, we may have a mini-boom of projects getting launched, considering the pent up demand. Very worthy projects that in any other circumstance would already be underway (like Two Tabor, for example) will finally get their financing and begin construction. Let’s hope that happens anyway.

The lack of blogs from me lately has also been influenced by the fact that I’m a HUGE political junkie. With our national elections just around the corner, I find myself glued to websites like FiveThirtyEight.com and similar resources, particularly if there are lots of colored electoral maps, charts, and graphs (that’s my inner geek coming out). Nevertheless, I’ll be happy once the campaigning is over. Hopefully, by the time we get into 2009, we’ll see something resembling normalcy on the horizon and we can refocus on getting rid of those nasty surface parking lots Downtown and improving the condition of Denver’s urban core.


A Call to Action, Part II

Last June, when I first blogged about the disgrace that is the Fontius building, I asked you to send an email/letter about the situation to the Mayor, to members of City Council, and to the newspapers. Many of you did, and it helped spark the movement that today has formalized as the Revitalizing the Core Task Force. About a month ago, in my first Call to Action, I asked you to send a letter to the newspapers to state your support for the mission of the Task Force. Again, many of you came through. Today, I am asking you to once again fire off an email in support of Downtown revitalization.

Let me put it very simply: We are at a stage in the Revitalizing the Core process where we need to demonstrate the degree to which the general public is supportive of the Task Force’s efforts to finally get something done about Certain Blocks Which Shall Remain Nameless, as well as all the many other streetscape, safety, and maintenance issues that affect the Downtown core. If it can be shown that there is not just tepid public acceptance, but an outcry of citizen support for these initiatives, then that will significantly increase the likelihood that our municipal leaders will forge ahead knowing that they have the support of Denver citizens.

So, here’s the next step in our campaign: Please send an email to the following people that says, in so many words, “I support the mission of the Revitalizing the Core Task Force to promote the development of vacant sites in Downtown and to improve the physical quality of Downtown Denver’s built environment.”

John Hickenlooper, Mayor, City & County of Denver
MileHighMayor@ci.denver.co.us

Tracy Huggins, Executive Director, Denver Urban Renewal Authority

Jim Basey, Denver Urban Renewal Authority Board of Commissioners
DURA.General@ci.denver.co.us

About 1,300 people read this blog every day. If even 10% of you were to send an email to these two individuals, it would have a huge impact. Imagine the impact if 50% of you were to respond! At this point, it’s about quantity, not quality. Both DURA and the Mayor’s office will be tracking the number of comments they receive about this issue, so please, let’s overwhelm them! Please use the links above to send a message to our public leaders that you support positive change in Downtown Denver.


Fontius, Cows, and a New Look

Hey what’s this, a new look to the DenverInfill blog? Yep. Due to popular demand, I’ve converted the blog to a Blogger page, which will allow people to post comments, link directly to a post, email a post to a friend, and more. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s looking good enough to get it up and running. For now, the previous 13 months of blog entries will remain under the old format, accessible by the link to the left. Maybe, over the course of time, I’ll convert all the archived months to the new format, or maybe not. I haven’t decided yet. Anyway, I hope you like the new format and find it a bit more appealing. Now, on to the some Downtown business…

Everyone’s favorite Downtown eyesore, the Fontius Building, was recently the victim of a graffiti vandal. Normally, I would find this rather upsetting, but actually the graffiti reinforces how pathetic this building’s condition has become, and how critical it is for something to be done about it. Perhaps this graffiti will serve a positive purpose in that it will cause more people to become disgusted with the whole issue and demand that the city make this building’s rehabilitation a top priority. Let’s hope anyway.

Finally, it’s good to see Denver has finally come to terms with its cowtownedness!