May 9, 2024 - News

How Union Station could serve as a model for downtown Denver's revival

A man in a gray suit, a red-stripped necktie, and a baby blue shirt stands in front of a massive, decorative building with three windows on its facade. The words UNION STATION are engraved in the building.

Mayor Mike Johnston stands in front of Union Station following yesterday's announcement. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver leaders are tapping into one of the city's most triumphant revitalization projects in an attempt to replicate its success downtown.

State of play: Mayor Mike Johnston on Thursday announced plans to extend the boundaries of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), which helped pay for Union Station's extensive redevelopment. Completed in 2014, it added a hotel, restaurants and shops.

Why it matters: City leaders believe the plan could generate $500 million toward reviving the downtown, which is struggling to regain foot traffic from visitors and office workers.

How it works: The DDA generates money through tax increment financing, chair Doug Tisdale tells us.

  • Money comes from taking a percentage of what property owners and businesses in the authority's boundaries pay in property and sales tax. It's meant to be an incentive to draw more development.

Between the lines: The money generated by the expansion could finance downtown projects like new public spaces for recreation or converting underused office space into housing, including affordable units.

Yes, but: The plan is far from a done deal since more steps are required before it's implemented.

  • Tisdale says fewer than 100 businesses and property owners that were part of the authority's original footprint will need to approve its expansion.

What they're saying: "My belief is that the vast majority of people, having seen the success here, would love to have that same kind of success wherever they are," Tisdale says.

  • Johnston called downtown the city's economic driver: "We do think it is at the heart of the city."

Zoom out: Under the proposal, the authority's footprint would extend into the Central Business District, stretching south toward Colfax Avenue, west toward Speer Boulevard, and east up to Grant Street.

What's next: Denver City Council could consider the change as early as this summer.

  • Money for projects likely wouldn't become available until 2025.
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