During the inaugural State of the City breakfast April 19, Arvada Mayor Marc Williams discussed the exciting times the city is experiencing right now.
Williams touched on a variety of topics — from the economy and development to the Gold Line and other transportation projects, water restrictions and Amendment 64.
The event was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Arvada Rotary,
“I am very excited about the city of Arvada and the prospects that are facing us in the short term and the long term,” Williams said. “We have a lot on our plates, and you’ve got a city council and a city staff that are inspired by that. There is truly a sense of optimism, of energy and a recognition that as we grow this city, it just creates better opportunities for all of us.”
Williams said the city, just like the state of Colorado and the nation, continues to recover from tough economic times.
“When you look at what is happening in our city, over the last year we’ve had a drop in unemployment by 1.5 percent,” he said. “That equates to approximately 1,000 additional jobs for our neighbors, who are now working again.”
Its estimated the new jobs bring $45 million of wages to the city.
Commercial vacancy rates are down also, he said.
“Look at Olde Town Arvada,” he said. “Those of us who have been here 30-plus years know what that part of town has been through and how we used to see empty store fronts, places that were deserted, or open part time at best. Now you look at that place and it has a vacancy rate of one percent in Olde Town.”
The key to such success is partnership, Williams said, including partnerships with Arvada Economic Development, Arvada Urban Renewal Authority and the Chamber of Commerce.
Though the city has current successes, there is still a lot of work to be done and opportunities available for the city, the mayor said.
One of the major upcoming opportunities for the city is the opening of RTD’s FasTracks Gold Line in 2016.
“One of the issues, responsibilities and opportunities that is entailed with that is going to be dealing with parking issues in the Olde Town area,” Williams said.
“The city council has made a strong commitment to addressing that. We’ll be doing at least one parking structure on the south side of the tracks and perhaps one on the north side of the tracks as well.”
The city is also focusing on other transportation projects, such as repairing and maintaining roads in the city, and the progress being made with the Jefferson Parkway.
With the Gold Line comes the opportunity for transit-oriented development, or TOD, Williams said.
Future TOD projects include a mixed-use project on a 10-acre site south of the RTD tracks that will be “an economic engine for our region,” Williams said, hotels and Park Place apartments, and a five-story apartment complex on the edge of Olde Town on Teller Street.
“Some folks are concerned we are going to destroy the character of Olde Town by bringing in new development like this project,” Williams said.
“I would submit to you that those of us that have been around a long time and have seen what Olde Town was and what it is today certainly recognize that we’re not going to destroy it. We love the charm, we love the character of Olde Town and you certainly have the commitment of this city council to maintain it.”
Williams also mentioned other development projects coming up in the city of Arvada, including a possible 60,000 square-foot expansion of Red Rocks Community College for physician’s assistant and nursing training, the build-out of Candelas with both residential and commercial development, and perhaps even a hospital, and the redevelopment of the Arvada Triangle, including the Arvada Plaza.
“That area, which I’ve driven by for 30 years, has gotten tired,” he said. “Shopping centers go through cycles and there comes a time for rebirth.”
The mayor and city council cannot discuss the potential developer, Walmart, until public hearings are held and residents have a chance to give their input on the record, Williams said.
The mayor also addressed water restrictions.
“According to the Denver Water board, we are going to be under drought conditions this year and that means we’re all going to have to tighten our belts a little bit for how we’re going to deal with that situation,” he said.
Residents and the city are restricted to two days of watering per week. The city is also encouraging residents to reduce their water usage by 20 percent, just as they intend to do through reduced watering.
“One of the sad aspects, besides browner lawns, is won’t be able to use the fountains in Olde Town Square by the library,” he said. “We’re very disappointed about that, but it’s just not responsible to have that kind of evaporation going on when we’re in this situation and the requirements of our contract with Denver Water requires us not to have that fountain running.”
A “more interesting” issue the city council is going to have to deal with, Williams said, is Amendment 64 and the legalization of marijuana.
In the past, Arvada city council made the decision to not allow the growth or sale of medical marijuana in city limits, and council will soon need to make a decision about recreational marijuana.
“I don’t know what our council is going to do at this point,” Williams said. “But there is going to be an opportunity for all of you to be heard as to whether you want retail operations and grow facilities in our city…that’s a discussion we’re going to have to have, and it’s going to be an interesting discussion. We’re certainly looking for your input and thoughts.”