Looking Forward to 2016 in Central Arvada


by John Kiljan

Dear CLRC members and friends,

Happy New Year neighbors! About this time last year I did a shorter update on what had been happening to the neighborhoods in central Arvada and what developments seemed most likely in the coming year. It was a popular article, so I thought I’d try to do a similar one for 2016 and cover more developments. Overall, things are looking pretty good for this part of “old” Arvada that most of our members and friends live in, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things to be worried about.

Buckle your seatbelts! There is a lot happening in central Arvada and this is a pretty long review for a CLRC article.

WALMART
Despite what you see happening at what used to be Arvada Plaza, Walmart hasn’t yet started construction at the old Arvada Plaza site. And, according to the most recent reports, it does not plan to start construction until early April. Construction is still expected to take a year, which means an opening in the spring of 2017 for the discount retailer – if not later. Walmart itself has not announced any firm dates for the start of construction or when they expect to open their new Supercenter.   There has already been a year-and-a half delay in the start of construction, and the developer’s agreement with the City will let Walmart delay its start by even longer if they choose to do so.

The demolition at the site is not being done by Walmart but instead by the developer’s contractor. And, though the buildings have been pulled down, that work seems to be going more slowly than expected. In addition to pulling down the buildings and removing the asphalt paving, the developer has to dig out their foundations so the site can be regraded prior to construction. Right now they are working in a lot of mud. It will be nice not to have to follow all those large trucks used for hauling demolition debris down Ralston Road when the demolition is finally complete.

Arvada Plaza demolition at the old movie theater

Arvada Plaza demolition at the old movie theater

RALSTON CREEK NORTH AND THE OLD SAFEWAY BUILDING
Across the street, things are looking more interesting for 2016. Urban renewal now has a signed development contract (called a Development Distribution Agreement, DDA) with the Boulder-based developer, Loftus Development LLC, who will be rebuilding the Arvada Square shopping center which runs from Garrison Street to Independence Street on the north side of Ralston Road. The work is now expected to begin in June and will be done in two phases. Arvada Square is being renamed Ralston Creek North, but it is unclear when the signs with that name will start appearing.

The first phase will be the properties between Holland Street (where that traffic light next to the emergency room is) and Independence Street. The two remaining businesses there, Triangle Liquors and the check-cashing business, have already been given their vacation notices. They must be out by the end of May. But the liquor store may decide to leave early based on the difficulty of keeping the store fully stocked if they are going to relocate. These two sites will be used for new retail shops and restaurants, with work beginning on those by the end of 2016, but more likely, as soon as this June.

Lights out for Triangle Liquors by the end of May

Lights out for Triangle Liquors by the end of May

The Ralston Road Café is staying but the property will eventually be owned by the developer. Urban renewal (AURA) was to have closed on the purchase of the Ralston Road Café in December. The café’s owners had put the property up for sale on the open market in late 2015. AURA’s purchase offer included a very favorable lease-back rate to keep the business going. The owners now plan to stay on at the site and keep operating the café. That part of Ralston Creek North will not be redeveloped until the café’s owners decide to leave. AURA did not buy the business itself.

Ralston Road Cafe to stay in Arvada Square

Ralston Road Cafe to stay in Arvada Square

Which businesses will be moving into the remainder of Phase One? That’s hard to say. Even the developer doesn’t seem to know that yet. New rents will be priced at market rates and in line with what is currently being charged in Olde Town and in the shopping center where the Target on Kipling Street is located. But those are still much higher rates than what the tenants are currently paying for their store fronts in Arvada Square.

24 Hour Fitness’ move into the old Safeway building had been described as being more than 90% certain after six months of negotiations with the developer to work out a pre-contract letter-of-intent (LOI) with detailed contract provisions. Not anymore. 24 Hour Fitness may not have been negotiating in good faith. Their move into the building was recently described as being 90% UNLIKELY by the developer after 24 Hour Fitness declined to execute the agreement worked out in the non-binding LOI. The initial offer by 24 Hour Fitness to move into the building was unsolicited, and it was made over a year ago when AURA had already announced it was planning to pull the old building down. It’s unclear why 24 Hour Fitness balked at going ahead with their agreement.

The developer, Loftus, seems to be in no mood to continue negotiations, and is now openly looking for other tenants for the building. But Loftus has other options which include pulling down the old building and using the site for new retail. Another option is to move some of the 250 housing units planned for Thase Two of the development project onto the building’s site.

Vacant Safeway building in Arvada Square

Vacant Safeway building in Arvada Square

Phase Two of Ralston Creek North includes that part of the strip mall that hosts Chuck E Cheese. It backs onto Ralston Creek but it does not include the UC Health emergency room, nor does it include the Panetta repair shop and gas station on the northwest corner of Garrison and Ralston Road. Currently, 250 new housing units are planned for the site. That’s down from previous proposals of 350 units or more. The housing units are expected to include both owner-occupied units and for-rent units. The remainder of the property is expected to be used for retail and professional businesses and they will be built closer to Ralston Road, leaving the residential units to be build next to Ralston Creek on the north.

Strip mall in Arvada Square

Strip mall in Arvada Square

Since vacation notices have to be given to the existing tenants, no development is likely in Phase Two until early 2017. Neither AURA nor Loftus currently own the property. But urban renewal will exercise an option to buy the strip mall in July of 2016. Small relocation incentives (basically, two months free rent) are planned to help some of the existing businesses there to relocate, either to a new Phase One storefront or to relocate elsewhere.

What does Loftus get out this development agreement? Basically, the answer to that question is that they get a lot of land that is free. Well, not quite free. Loftus still has to pay $2 million up front for Arvada Square, but the property is worth much more than that.

Loftus also gets to keep whatever City sales tax (actually, a public-improvement-fee-in-lieu-of-a-City-sales-tax) they can get out of the small section of land that had the Big O tire shop, liquor store and check-cashing business in it. Basically, that’s the small triangle-shaped bit of land where Ralston Road used to cut across that corner long ago. It’s sometimes referred to as Independence Plaza. That sales tax income will come in over the next 12 years. No one knows how much that amount will be. But the amount will be capped at $4.1 million in any event. And just doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation, I think the real number will probably be less than a million dollars over that time period.

As with the Walmart development across the street, there is no tax-increment financing (TIF) available for this redevelopment. Why? Because, like Arvada Plaza across the street, this area has sunk below its base-line property-tax valuation established when the City included it into a designated urban renewal area in 2003. There is no TIF being offered to the developer simply because there is no property-tax increment available to offer them.

For more information about TIFs and how they work to clean up urban blight, try this link:

http://arvada.org/business/development/aura

But there is no such thing as a free lunch, nor a free shopping center: Loftus, on its part, has to invest many millions before they can own the land outright. In addition to footing the cost of building a new shopping center and putting up new housing, they also have to pull down the old buildings, remove any hazardous waste on the site, fix the remaining flood control problems, put in quite a bit of landscaping, and build a couple of new streets.

What does Arvada get out of this development? To answer that question, the urban renewal authority’s staff put together an interesting financial summary of the benefits of the Ralston Creek North will bring to the City, to the County, and to State as a whole. To read that summary, click on this link to read the entire PDF presentation:

Ralston Creek North

In summary, the 250 residential developments in Ralston Creek North (Arvada Square) are expected to generate $2.8 million in sales tax revenue being spent just in Arvada over the next 12 years. And the 25,000 square foot retail element of development is expected to generate $11 million in sales taxes through the same period. Why 12 years? The Arvada Urban Renewal Authority only gets 25 years to improve the Triangle. The clock on their ability to sponsor new urban renewal projects in that location has already half run out. It expires in 2028.

Ralston Creek North_6

Keep in mind that, although the numbers for State sales taxes spending by new residents are pretty impressive, almost all of the amounts generated for the State of Colorado would still be spent somewhere else in the State if not here. So this is not new revenue for the State. The real benefits are the local ones where the money being spent and taxes generated are returned to the City of Arvada and to Jefferson County, and where new residents’ incomes are being spent locally, providing new jobs and support for local businesses.

And we haven’t even talked about the increased property taxes the County and other special districts will be realizing from the new developments.

Colorado’s population has been growing for some time with new residents moving in from outside the state. It’s nice to see Arvada high on the list of desirable places to live in the metro area, and to see the benefits of some of that growth being used to help clean up its blighted areas, and to bring prosperity to the City as a whole.

KING SOOPERS AND KMART
This is something to worry about. Some analysts believe Kmart may be doomed – with or without Walmart arriving in Arvada Plaza – as the company continues to lose a lot of money. Although our local outlet seems to be holding its own, what was once the envy of Sam Walton is now in sad financial shape, and its future looks grim.

Kmart on 58th with Arvada House in the background

Kmart on 58th with the Arvada House in the background

There are lots of investment articles on the internet about the problems Sears/Kmart face. With some analysts saying that the sales figures from the December shopping season will decide if the company can hang on for a few more years, it may be time to think about what this part of Arvada will be like without a Kmart, and for the City and urban renewal to think about what we should do to plan for that. Here’s an article from earlier in the year that sums up the company’s problems:

http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/08/investing/kmart-sales-decline-sears-eddie-lampert/

The adjacent King Soopers needs an upgrade. Without any nearby competition, the store has plenty of shoppers in a small space, and the layouts are looking pretty limited and shopworn. There have been rumors for months that Kings is planning a store upgrade in time for the nearby Walmart opening, but there’s nothing definite yet.

King Soopers at 58th Avenue and Independence

King Soopers at 58th Avenue and Independence

There are also rumors that if Kmart leaves, King Soopers may expand onto part of their lot. That’s a lot to hope for. Much of Kmart/Sears stock value is based on the properties they own or have long-term leases on. And that property is collateral for the company’s increasing debt. Kmart is supposed to have recently renewed its long-term lease on its 58th Avenue site. In other Denver-area locations where they have closed down underperforming stores, Kmart has let the property sit empty for years before selling its rights to a new developer.

PARK PLACE AND SOLANA
Moving back to Olde Town, Park Place at the corner of the Bypass and Ralston Road has been moving at a breakneck pace toward completion. The parkside construction fences are down, and they are now hoping to get a final certificate-of-occupancy from the City as early as the middle of January. About 30 new residents have already moved into the south end of the building. And the warm evening lights from the rooms with people actually living in them should extend to the whole building around the end of January.

Park Place Olde Town apartments nearing completion

Park Place Olde Town apartments nearing completion

Rents are high in these apartments – unless you are comparing them to similar developments in Denver – but so is the demand. It seems that about a third of the units have been pre-leased even before their construction was finished and all the common-area amenities are available for use. It looks like Olde Town is becoming a more popular place to live in.

Site clearance for the Solana apartments on 56th Avenue east of Wads Bypass

Site clearance for the Solana apartments on 56th Avenue east of Wads Bypass

Solana Olde Town Station lies just east of the mini-storage on the Wadsworth Bypass. Although there is certainly a lot of working going on, it is proceeding at a more stately pace. Much of the work so far on these new for-rent-only, high-end apartments has been in clearing the land and pulling down old industrial buildings. At last report, the work on cleaning up underground chemical contamination and regrading the land is just beginning. This development is more than twice the size of Park Place, and construction should extend right through 2016. The developer plans to open up the first of its 350+ units for lease in spring of 2017. These apartments won’t have the same nice views as Park Place, but they will be roomier and built to higher standards that could let them be converted to owner-occupied condos many years from now.

View on 56th Avenue near the mini-storage

Solana site view on 56th Avenue near the mini-storage

THE HILTON GARDEN INN HOTEL
Demolition of the old Brooklyn’s/Mile High Vineyard building is well underway, and construction of the five-story Hilton Garden Inn hotel is expected to start shortly after that work is complete. Construction should also run through 2016. So far, the overflow parking lot just off the street on Olde Wads Boulevard is still available for public use. Despite the nice City parking sign out front, the hotel now owns the lot outright and it may not stay open much longer, since the space is needed as a staging area when the site is regraded so construction can begin on the actual hotel. Arvada’s first modern hotel is now expected to be open for business sometime in first quarter of 2017.

Demolition for the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn on Olde Wadsworth

Demolition for the construction of the Hilton Garden Inn on Olde Wadsworth

THE GOLD LINE STATION AND THE NINE ACRE SITE
Urban renewal has entered into a formal development agreement with Trammel Crow to redevelop the nine acres of land just east of Vance Street where the RTD Park & Ride sits now. But not much work on the site is expected in 2016 since the construction of the Olde Town Gold Line rail station and the adjacent parking structure/bus station are holding back work on this urban renewal area. However, some construction should begin on the Nine Acre Site when the transit station work is finished in the fall of 2016 (maybe) and the Gold Line has opened up.

There have been cost overruns and delays on the parking structure part of the Olde Town transit station. And despite efforts to accelerate the work, it might be early next year before that part of the work is substantially complete. That kind of delay will, in turn, delay work on the adjacent Nine Acre Site. But the Gold Line itself is still expected to be open for paying passengers sometime this October.

Nine Acre Site east of Vance development concept with housing (yellow), retail (red), and grocery (orange)

Nine Acre Site east of Vance development concept with housing (yellow), retail (red), and grocery (orange)

I haven’t looked at the details of the Trammel Crow development agreement yet, but it looks like the Nine Acre Site will follow the pattern of similar developments in Olde Town with several plots of land being sold to the developer for only $30 (basically for free) and it will be further supported by property tax-increment financing over a number of years.

Currently, the nine-acre developer is planning a combination of residential housing and new commercial space for the site. Reportedly, they have been talking to a couple of niche grocers of the type that customers living in Olde Town would most likely patronize, but I’m not going to name possible candidates yet. A lot can happen in a year and there is no point in getting hopes up until there is something more definite.

Niche market grocery store in Boulder

A small niche-market grocery store located in Boulder

BIKE AND PED TRAILS
Two projects are underway near the Triangle. The one on 57th Avenue running from Balsam to Independence consists mostly of widening the sidewalks along the north side of 57th Avenue. The $600 thousand-plus project was paid for mostly with a federal grant and it should allow safer access for pedestrians and cyclists from Olde Town and the Arvada K-8 school on Balsam to get to the Triangle shopping areas.

Unless there are delays due to weather, the project is hoped to be complete by mid-February. Although there may be more work as a separate project later on to improve the connection to Independence Avenue on the west end and up the hill to the second ongoing project.

KiplingUnderpassMeeting graphics_1The second effort is a lot more visible, and is it likely to continue to affect traffic on the Kipling Parkway, almost until summer. The $2.4 million project is putting a bike/ped path under the Parkway. This one is quite an undertaking, but the benefits are large. The new path will run along the north side of the cemetery and will allow a connection with the miles of the Van Bibber bike/ped trail system through the Lutz/Stenger sports complex to Olde Town itself along 57th Avenue or along other residential streets.

KiplingUnderpassMeeting graphics_3

The project is running into some difficulties because of the need to shift traffic from one side of the Kipling Parkway to the other so that a large culvert can be built under the road in sections while keeping the road open during construction. Still, the project is expected to be complete sometime in June, unless we get delays from wet spring weather.

This project is also being funded mostly with a federal grant, with matching funds coming from the City. The City has put together a nifty three-minute video that explains what is going on. You can view the video at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpp129kwuXY

The video might make you feel a little better when you are squeezing into those changing twisty lanes on the Kipling Parkway this spring.

RECREATIONAL BOND ISSUE
Yes, a pool! This is a big deal. Arvada voters are going to be asked to vote on an important local issue again in May of 2016. That’s when the Apex Park and Recreation District plans to ask us to be allowed to renew $25 million in recreation bonds for another 20 years. Apex is not part of the government of the City of Arvada, which has its own parks and recreation program, but the two agencies often work together in cooperative partnerships where the City maintains the parks and Apex operates and, typically, owns the recreational facilities.

A half a dozen new recreational projects are being proposed across the City as a part of this bond renewal. Those include two that affect our neighborhoods in central Arvada: a somewhat smaller replacement for Fisher Pool that was once located in Ralston Central Park, and some substantial improvements to Lutz/Stenger sports fields. The pool and mini rec center proposal is to be located at the edge of Fitzmorris Park adjacent to the Fitzmorris Elementary School. And that will be the subject of a couple of neighborhood meetings early in the year on what the pool and facility should look like if the bond proposal passes in May.

FitzmorrisConceptPublicBirdsEye8Jan2016

The CLRC has offered to co-sponsor those public meetings. That’s a no-brainer for our neighborhood association. Our members, both young and old, have consistently said that local recreation for young people and the return of a neighborhood pool is a top priority for them. The City also sees this as another recreational partnership with Apex, and the City is picking up about 2/3rds of the cost of the new facility at Fitzmorris as well as all of the park improvements and schoolyard upgrades.

The proposal also includes an upgrade to all of Fitzmorris Park which is one of the lesser-used parks in the City. It currently doesn’t have many amenities or walkways. Most summer park visitors in this neighborhood prefer the nearby (and now somewhat overcrowded) Ralston Central Park on Garrison and Ralston Road where there is a restroom and a free spashpad for small children that is operated by the recreation district.

The City’s parks department will be seeking local public input on just the Fitzmorris pool, rec center, park and schoolyard upgrades at an open-house meeting that is now scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th at the Fitzmorris school auditorium from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. Flyers will be sent out to the nearby residences beforehand, and there will be more information available on the CLRC website in the next two weeks.

FitzmorrisCenterBuilding2015

The bond renewal will not increase anyone’s property tax rate. If approved by the voters in May, it will simply extend the current property taxes on the outstanding Apex bonds, which amount to about $35 per year for a typical $250,000 home. But Apex has not had a very good track record in getting ballot issues passed, so it is far from certain this bond issue will pass in May. Look for more from the CLRC on this ballot question in the coming weeks and months.

For those who are just interested in the proposal to improve Fitzmorris Park, it is supposed to be included in a draft master park plan that is being presented at yet another meeting on January 13th at the Arvada Center (from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm). Here’s the link where you can view that document:

http://arvada.org/explore/open-space-nature/arvada-park-system-master-plan

The actual draft plan may not be available until shortly before this open-house meeting referenced on the web page.

ROADS AND TAXES
How much are you willing to pay? Another issue that may come to a head in 2016, is what to do about our roads. The latest condition surveys show that the City’s roads have been holding their own in recent years thanks to a bump in funding allocations from the City’s General Fund over several years. But the longer-term prognosis for our aging roads is not very good, and the projected costs to even keep the roads in the condition they are now are alarming. There is simply not enough revenue available to improve road conditions – and possibly not enough to keep these pavements in their current state.

And it gets worse. Most pavement management analyses show that putting off needed roadway maintenance and repairs, doesn’t save money, but instead increases the overall cost of needed repairs by a large amount. Simply put, if a city delays less expensive maintenance repairs such as crack sealing, pothole repairs, chip seals and other thin overlays, then the existing pavement becomes unrepairable and has to then be milled out and repaved at a much greater cost.

Looking at past condition survey maps, it seems that less travelled streets in older residential neighborhoods tend to be the ones that have the most deferred maintenance. That describes much of central Arvada. The back streets in my own Alta Vista neighborhood have been in sorry shape for years, but since we don’t travel on them much, it’s the nearby arterials, such as Garrison, Carr and Brooks Drive that give us the most benefit when they are overlaid.

Add to that the need for widening a number of arterial roads in the City to handle increasing traffic (particularly in western Arvada) and rebuilding congested intersections, and the amount of new revenue needed becomes a staggering number. The only way to do that is to increase revenues for road maintenance and construction in some way. A local tax increase, a new City road maintenance fee, an increase in State tax on gasoline and diesel fuels, or even a City fuel tax, new bonding, cutting back funding for other City functions such as parks or police protection – all are possible solutions. All of these are things that most City Council members will be loath to do without a clear indication that that is what their constituents really want. And, since surveys can often be unreliable, they may want to see a City-wide vote on the matter as well.

2013 survey results

Satisfaction versus importance in the 2013 survey results – click to enlarge

 

So, how much more did you said you were willing to pay to keep the roads in good shape and build new ones? Some of the answers to these questions may come in January when the biennial citizens’ survey is released to the public. The survey took place last summer and was probably written up last October or November, but it has not yet been released to the public. The survey is important because it shows how important citizens rate various City functions and how satisfied they are with how they are being dealt with. But even that survey is not likely to be enough for the Council to decide what to do. And that’s what to watch for this year as the Council starts to consider its options, and starts asking for more feedback from Arvada residents.

Despite the complexity of predicting pavement life and the costs of repairs, there are some simple materials available to help the public to understand the scope of the problem. One of the best is the PowerPoint presentation shown to the Council in a recent workshop. It recommends a $115 million INCREASE in road maintenance expenditures over the next ten years. The cost of widening roads and rebuilding intersections is not included in this number. Another is a brief video of the most recent road condition survey done during the year. Here is the link to the Council presentation packet:

02.A. Pavement Condition Update Presentation-1

And the the four-minute road condition survey video can be found (for a little while at least) by going to

http://arvada.org/explore/transportation/street-services

and then looking for the “Media Featured Video”. For some reason it is not listed in the regular Arvada Youtube archives, so you might not find it again later on.

[A little disclosure here: This writer has a career background in pavement management systems and generally thinks that putting money into preventative pavement maintenance is a good public investment.]

ELECTIONS

P1000055Our 2015 elections are over. There was a good turnout and it will be nice not seeing so many Council seats come open at the same time (and with so many candidates running) during the next City election scheduled for November of 2017. Only Council District 3 (John Marriott), one At-Large seat (Don Allard’s), and District 1 (Nancy Ford) are scheduled to be on the ballot the next go round.

Why Nancy Ford? She was just elected. Normally Council members are elected for four years, but her appointment is only for two years. And that’s because the City Charter is set up to have about half the seats come open each year, with only a temporary schedule adjustment in the event a Council member resigns – as Rachel Zenzinger did two years ago in District 1. And that could make it a little harder for Dr Ford to get up to speed on City affairs and establish a voting constituency before she faces reelection in 2017. Our other new Council member, David Jones (in District 4) will enjoy a full four-year term in his district.

Coming up in November, there will be a rematch between former State Senator Rachel Zenzinger and incumbent Senator Laura Woods in Senate District 19. That district includes most of Arvada and promises to be a tight race. Expect gun control, education, and social services to be campaign issues.

ARVADA CENTER
There is a big change coming to the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, but you probably won’t notice anything unusual unless you are an employee of the Center. On July 1st the operation of the Center is expected to be turned over to a private organization for at least five years. The Center will no longer be a department of the City of Arvada. It is hoped that the change will make it easier for the Center to solicit private funding to expand its programming.

The employees who work at the Center – I think that’s about 40 people, including the Executive Director, Philip Sneed – will no longer be City employees. They will, instead, become employees of the new non-profit that will operate it.   However, the City employees who maintain the grounds and the building will remain City employees. That will be a part of the City’s in-kind contribution to the operation of the facility.

Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed

Arvada Center Executive Director Philip Sneed

What should grab some attention at the Center is the ballot issue planned for November of 2016. That’s when the voters will be asked to renew the sales tax for the metro-wide Scientific Cultural and Facilities District (SCFD). You may not have noticed, but an extra one-tenth of one percent sales tax (a dime on every $100) is charged whenever you buy something in Arvada. That may not seem like a lot, but it supports the Denver Zoo, its natural history museum and many other cultural facilities in the metro area – including the Arvada Center and Majestic View Park.

The Arvada Center gets about $1 million of its approximately $4 million annual budget from the SCFD. Losing that income, would mean a substantial change in what the Center is able to provide to Arvada residents in terms of arts and humanities and the overall cultural attraction the Center brings to the City.

URBAN RENEWAL LAWS
For those who want to see no new urban renewal projects in Arvada, 2015 was a good year. The Colorado General Assembly passed new urban renewal legislation that took effect on January 1, 2016. The new law (HB 15-1348) looks like it will effectively stop any additional urban renewal projects in the City. Current projects such as those in the Arvada Triangle (Ralston Creek and Ralston Creek North), in Olde Town (Park Place, Solana, Nine Acres), the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, and a couple of Candelas-area projects, are all unaffected unless there is some sort “substantial change” in what they are doing – such as expanding a blighted area or extending the number of years allowed to redevelop an urban-renewal area – things that don’t seem very likely.

For new urban renewal areas and their projects, it’s a much different story. The legislation that recently passed has enough uncertainty in how its provisions will be interpreted, and in how long it will take to get final approval for a new urban renewal project, that the private financing needed to actually do projects seems likely to dry up. The banks, bond holders, developers, underwriters, and individual investors who come up with the money to actually build things, all want to be certain that they are going to be paid back before they will loan money to fund a new project.

HB15-1348FrontPageThat certainty is now gone. Under the new law, any affected special district, the County, or the school district can put an automatic four-month hold on a new project for negotiations with Arvada’s urban renewal authority, AURA, on who gets to keep what tax incentives. Our fire department can do that. Our recreation district can do that. Even our sewage disposal district or flood-control district can do that.

After the negotiation period, if any party does not agree, the negotiations then go to what the law calls “mediation” for another three months. If the parties cannot agree with the mediation recommendation, then they can go to the courts to ask for a ruling some months later, which, of course, can be appealed. It could take a couple of years for the Colorado courts to actually decide how the new statute will be interpreted.

In the meantime, it may get even more uncertain. The 2015 legislation, that was passed in the last minutes of the last legislative session, has enough ambiguities in it (such as what constitutes a substantial change) that most legislators seem to agree that a clean-up bill will be needed to fix things when they reconvene in January. A State-appointed panel of experts is already studying what needs to be done. By May, there should be even more legislation in a bill that the Governor will be asked to sign.

Why does this matter to Arvada? It matters because the City may not be willing, or able, to establish new urban renewal areas until these issues are settled, something that could take years. And, even if they do, developers typically can only line up investors and loans for a construction project for a short period of time, such as six months. After that, they have to start over again with a new feasibility study and financial analysis.

So for those hoping to see any near-blighted area, such as the east side of Wadsworth Boulevard between 64th and 68th, being rebuilt to bring in a retail outlet such as Kohl’s or Macy’s, you are now likely to have a much longer wait.

CONSTRUCTION DEFECT LAWS
These are laws that didn’t pass in the last legislative session, even though the majority of legislators seemed to want to pass one. The current law does not make it economically feasible to build most owner-occupied multi-family homes. Why? Because underwriters believe that, in Colorado, there is nearly a 100% chance their developers will be sued for construction defects, and that the property will be tied up in litigation for years. For-rent apartments don’t have this problem, so that’s what just about all the new housing in central Arvada has been for years, and probably continue to be in the future.

And that’s not a good thing. Although apartments are certainly needed for a growing Arvada, affordable and available housing such as owner-occupied condominiums are just as important to meet Arvada’s housing needs.

This will be the fourth year that Denver-metro cities have been asking the Colorado General Assembly for legislative relief. And in the meantime, some cities are not waiting. Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Arvada and other cities have recently passed, or are about to pass, their own construction defects laws, bypassing the Colorado Legislature. But those measures may be mostly symbolic if liability insurers don’t lower their rates enough to make condo construction more affordable.

And so far, apparently concerned that the Legislature may try to vacate local defect ordinances later on, it doesn’t look like those insurers have yet lowered their rates. In the meantime, housing costs in the metro area have soared in the last couple of years. Here’s a link to a recent Denver Post article that explains just how much. Expect to hear more about this issue – both pro and con – in the coming year.

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_29343627/denver-renters-getting-younger-wealthier-overall-population-ages

RALSTON ROAD CONSTRUCTION
About $16 million is now in the City budget to slightly widen central Ralston Road’s outside through lanes (from 11 to 12 feet), substantially widen its center turn lane (from 8 to 12 feet), and to add full-sized sidewalks on each side between the Triangle shopping centers and Olde Town. But that money is sitting in a ten-year budget and it’s not clear if there will be any substantial work on the roadway in 2016. In the meantime, school kids walking (or skateboarding) down that section of Ralston are going to have to be extra careful to make sure they are not clipped by the mirrors on trucks using the road.

RRoadTypicalSectionFig8

But there is an alternate ped and bike route for schoolkids on 57th Avenue as mentioned above. Let’s hope the kids actually use it.

THE FUTURE OF THE CLRC
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community may not continue through the year – at least not in its current form. This is an issue our neighborhood association faces every year, but things are now a little different. We are now in our organization’s sixth year as neighborhood advocacy group. When we formed in 2010 as an independent neighborhood association, the major issues for those who attended our annual meetings were,

  • the need for local recreation (especially for youth) and the return of the Fisher Pool in what was to become Ralston Central Park,
  • to get community input on the plans to rebuild that park,
  • making central Ralston Road a safer corridor to walk along or to drive down,
  • to have the most blighted parts of the Triangle shopping centers rebuilt, and
  • the looming parking problems near Olde Town as the area developed,

All those issues have either been addressed, or are now being addressed by the City and our recreation district.

LogoAnd we seem to have accomplished a lot in five years. We organized or co-sponsored community meetings to deal with park construction issues, with the potential loss of the UC Health emergency room (aka, First Choice), with organizing to convince Apex that it is in the best interest of the city to support local recreation in this part of town. Our volunteers also put in a lot of hours on an extensive recreation needs survey that reached over 300 participants, and we were able petition the City for a small grant to present those results in a professional manner.

We also wanted to keep people informed about what was happening in central Arvada. In five years we have posted 325 CLRC articles and received 280 comments on our RalstonCommunity.org website. All of these are still available in our archives. We have also run a Facebook page that often contains shorter items of interest.

Many of these articles dealt with upcoming City, Apex, and urban renewal meetings, and the reasons citizens might want to attend these gatherings and give input to their organizers. We think we did more than a little to increase public participation in these meetings. Some of our most popular postings were on construction updates for projects in central Arvada.

However, our most popular postings were, sadly, for candidate profiles for those running for elected office. The CLRC does not endorse candidates for elected office, and we were not set up for campaign coverage – nor did we want to be. That was not our purpose. Still, the available information on candidates running for Council, the Apex board, for the fire protection district board and even the Colorado legislative races is pretty meager as the newsprint industry overall continues to decline. Over this time, we did personal interviews, put together questionnaires covering local issues, and provided comprehensive links to all the candidates’ web pages.

That meant that we had a lot of viewers who were not really interested CLRC members and friends, but who just wanted to find out more about the candidates.   And that’s not a bad thing if the demand for information is there. That all reached a peak in early November when the CLRC racked up about 15,000 views during the time voters had their mail-in ballots for the City Council election. That’s a lot for a City that typically gets about 35,000 voters in an election. We think we normally get only about 200 readers for each article we post that is not election related.

So, unless some new issues poke their heads up, it’s looking increasingly likely that, after May, the CLRC will have done the job it was set up to do over five years ago. The decision on what to do with the CLRC will not be made unilaterally, but instead by interested steering committee members, and headed up by our association President, T.O. Owens. If, before then, you have thoughts on what the CLRC should become, write to him or phone him with your ideas.

T.O. Owens, CLRC President
t.o.owens@gmail.com
303-927-8888

For those interested in reading our application (from two years ago) to become a City-recognized neighborhood group which better defines our coverage area, our purpose, and our key issues in much more detail, here’s a link you can click on to read the entire application.

ArvadaRegistration

And, again, have a Happy New Year!

WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.

You can read all of our articles on our main website at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at

CLRC
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004

303-423-9875
jpkiljan@yahoo.com

January 8, 2016

 

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2 Responses to Looking Forward to 2016 in Central Arvada

  1. Stan Dyer says:

    I appreciate the enthusiastic, optimistic report, especially in spite of all the real risks involved, and the history of costly failure on top of costly failure by the AURA, ( i.e., Brooklyns, anything on the northwest corner of Olde Wadsworth and Grandview Avenue, and Arvada Plaza, itself, to name a few), and it is admirable that some people remain so “gung ho,” and devoted to “rolling the dice with little more than hope, anticipation, and well wishes to fuel their fire, (It’s easier to gamble when one is gambling with other people’s money, huh?). I, for one, certainly hope you are right, but, to me, all of Arvada has fallen so far down the black hole, it seems that the solution is still a long way off, and will take a lot more than fancy talk, some poorly timed, poorly conceived projects, and the optimistic manipulaton of figures. It’s kind of like the disease once allowed to fester in Arvada Plaza has infected the entire city with the present administration attempting to cover the “wounds” with very expensive, and poorly constructed “Band-Aids” purchased with taxpayer dollars.

    I am happy some citizens, like you, stay on board the ship like loyal fans of a weak sports team, but others, like me, have long since moved on. The truth is this isn’t a sports team, and this isn’t a game. This is real life, and these are real taxpayers dollars being laid down on this demonic roulette wheel.

    In 2016, I am looking forward to the connection of the Gold Line so I can walk to Olde Town, (braving the cloud of smokers violating the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act), and easily ride the smokeless train Downtown to a larger, better variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options on wide, open sidewalks free of tobacco smoke, cigarette butts, and garbage. Yeah, I know there exist people in this city who believe the Gold Line will bring people to live here, that people will come to a hotel here, and that, with little to offer to attract anyone with money in their pockets, there will be a sudden, large influx of young, urban dollars boosting the local economy. Again, I hope you are all right, and that the infrastructure in place can handle it all, even though it cannot even handle what exists now. It just seems to me it would have been better to have built the cart first before trying to attach a horse. I will be happy enough if even half of what is proposed is even half successful, and that, for once, the taxpayers money isn’t pissed away to line the pockets of people who do not even live here. The good citizens of Arvada, with all of their hope and patience, certainly deserve something better this time than another “con,” another failure, and another empty promise. I hope that you are finally right this time, and that the people get what they have waited for; that they get what they really deserve.

  2. charles buscemi says:

    Im a new resident to town and found this very, very useful. Lot to digest but excellent place for me to start. Thanks!

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