Election Results 2021: Englewood downtown authority scores a finance win

Voters had denied large sources of funding in 2020

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An effort to economically boost Englewood's CityCenter, its traditional Broadway downtown and the area around its cluster of hospitals and medical facilities took a step toward getting fully underway when voters in this year's election agreed to let a government development agency take on debt of up to $70 million.

In the 2020 election, property owners, downtown residents and business owners approved the creation of the Englewood Downtown Development Authority, or EDDA, a body that will attempt to attract more economic activity to the district. But voters in that election turned down some of the tax and debt ballot questions that would have funded the body.

But in this year's election, voters approved Ballot Issue 6D, authorizing the downtown development authority to incur debt of up to $70 million over a 30-year period.

Only residents, property owners and business owners in the downtown area could vote on the measure. In unofficial results as of Nov. 5, 68 had voted in favor, with 45 voting against.

Voters' approval of the measure will allow the downtown authority to enter into long-term financial obligations, including contracts on projects that take more than one year to complete, said Dan Poremba, Englewood's chief redevelopment officer.

In general, projects that the downtown authority could take on include plaza improvements along South Broadway downtown, bicycle lanes on what locals call Old Hampden Avenue, and residential or commercial development in the area adjacent to Santa Fe Drive on the east side at Floyd Avenue, among other items, according to the city's website.

The district — the area the downtown authority would work to revitalize — includes the following areas:

• The Englewood CityCenter shopping development, roughly from Santa Fe Drive to Elati Street.

• The South Broadway area between Elati and Sherman streets.

• The city's medical district, between Sherman and Lafayette streets. The district's north-south length varies, but it stretches as far as Kenyon Avenue in the southwest and Eastman Avenue on the north.

City officials hope the development authority will help fill vacant storefronts along the downtown Broadway corridor; pursue a hotel for business visitors, hospital patrons and community members in CityCenter; and add residential density to underused sites near Englewood's light rail station.

They also hope it will push for attainable housing and attract office employers to bring more daytime workers downtown to support local merchants and restaurants.

Here's a look at what the downtown authority has done so far, what it plans to do and how the new voter-approved funding plays into that.

Some financing already approved

Other projects the authority may carry out include a “street tree” program on Broadway, a mid-block pedestrian crossing between Floyd and Eastman avenues on Broadway, a parking structure east of Broadway near Old Hampden, and improvements to the greenway along Little Dry Creek, according to the city's website.

Voters' approval of measure 6D essentially “pre-approves” the downtown authority to use debt to finance large projects and improvements, said Hilarie Portell, executive director of the authority.

The downtown authority already had the ability to use a tool called “tax-increment financing.” That's a term for collecting higher levels of tax revenue spurred by added economic activity that the downtown authority's actions would drive, in theory. The tax-increment method doesn't involve a new tax or raising tax rates.

For example, if a new building is constructed in the district next year or sales-tax revenue increases, the added tax revenue would go to the development authority to be reinvested within the district.

Ballot Issue B in 2020 authorized the development authority's collection of tax-increment financing, according to the city website. It was approved by just one vote — 77 in favor to 76 against, according to election results last year.

Property tax ask not likely to return

One measure voters were asked for last year was a tax that would have been added to property tax currently assessed on properties in the downtown district. That tax measure — Ballot Issue D — failed with 92 “no” votes to 67 “yes” votes.

At this point, there are no plans to ask the voters in the downtown district to approve a “minor mill levy” to support the downtown authority's operations, Poremba said, using a term for a tax.

“At this time, it is anticipated that a portion of the tax-increment revenues previously authorized by city council — unanimously — will be adequate to support EDDA operations,” Poremba said. “These revenues are anticipated to flow through to the EDDA beginning in 2022.” 

In some cases, tax-increment funding may be considered to help support developments such as needed infrastructure improvements, Poremba said.

Another measure last year proposing to increase the city's debt with a maximum repayment cost of $216.5 million was defeated with 83 “no” votes to 74 “yes” votes. That was Ballot Issue C.

This year's Ballot Issue 6D carried a maximum repayment cost of $189 million, according to the measure's wording on the Arapahoe County elections results website.

The approval of 6D also provided voter “pre-authorization” of the possible future use of bonds, subject to future approvals by the downtown authority's board of leaders and the Englewood City Council, Poremba said. To use a bond is to issue a debt to investors that the city eventually would pay back with interest.

What authority has done so far

For much of 2021, the focus was on getting the downtown authority off the ground, said Poremba.

That included steps to get the body's seven-member board of leaders, approved by city council, in place, along with a contract with the body's executive director, Portell.

“Beyond these start-up steps, the EDDA was successful in securing a $150,000 (Colorado Department of Transportation) grant to improve the South Broadway paseos and connecting crosswalk,” Poremba said, referring to the plaza area downtown. “This work will start later this year or early in 2022.”

The downtown authority sponsored cleanup efforts on primary downtown streets, including street sweeping and trash pickup, Poremba said.

“The EDDA also implemented a well-received light pole banner program to help support downtown merchants and restaurants,” Poremba said.

Added Poremba: “The EDDA is working to partner with the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce on … steps to promote, market and improve downtown for our local downtown businesses and their customers.”

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