Littleton’s downtown could see major overhauls in the coming months and years after voters decided to create a new governing body and funding mechanism for the area.
Voters overwhelmingly supported forming a Downtown Development Authority, or DDA. According to the unofficial results, the measure was passed by more than 64% of voters, along with approval for self-sustained funding and a raise in property taxes.
“I’m very excited,” said Patrick Driscoll, councilmember for Littleton’s District 1 — which represents much of the downtown area. “This is the time to start changing the downtown landscape to what the owners want and the citizens.”
Littleton now joins a host of other metro area and Front Range cities that have embraced DDAs, including Englewood and Golden. Community leaders have said they hope the DDA will fastrack crucial projects for Littleton’s downtown, such as snow removal and landscaping as well as marketing campaigns and events.
Downtown Littleton business owners had pitched the DDA as a rejuvenation of the area most recently during an Oct. 24 forum meant to rally support for the project.
"We need to breathe a new life into the downtown area," said David Law, who owns the Miller & Law law firm on Littleton Boulevard at Prescott Street. “The DDA is the mechanism that is going to allow that to transpire."
During the October meeting, business owners floated using the DDA to operate and pay for centralized internet, private security, block parties and more centralized trash removal. Driscoll said he is especially excited for the “clean up” of downtown, which could include burying all overhead wiring.
But most of those projects likely won’t begin until next year at the earliest. City council must first appoint a nine to 11-person board and hire a part-time staff.
Driscoll is poised to have a seat on the new oversight board as a council representative. He said he expects a final decision on the board’s makeup by early December.
Funding must also be established and Driscoll said the city may have to fund some initial start-up costs for the DDA.
Voters approved two financing mechanisms to pay for the DDA. The first, known as tax increment financing, or TIF, allows the DDA to allocate a portion of money generated each year by the downtown area's sales and property taxes to various projects. This model would be self-sustaining, meaning it would not see any new tax increases for businesses or residents. The second was a roughly 3% raise on downtown-area property taxes.
Driscoll said he is pleased to see both financing measures pass, avoiding a messier situation in neighboring Englewood when voters approved a DDA board in 2020 but no tax hikes to finance it. Englewood voters in 2021 did approve for the DDA to take on millions in debt to fund projects.
“I’m glad people listened and realized we had to have some funding to do the things we needed to do,” Driscoll said, “but it will be several years before we see how much this will affect the downtown.”
According to Pat Dunahay, a resident and business leader who led a committee to explore the potential for a DDA, the city will need to give the board between $400,000 and $500,000 to cover initial costs.
Dunahay said he is optimistic about getting the DDA off the ground.
“I don’t think getting funding will be difficult,” he said. “I really feel like we already have so many great candidates that want to be on this volunteer board that I know it’s going to be successful.”
Though city leaders celebrated the DDAs passage they said voter turnout should have been higher. As of Nov. 10, election results showed between 220 and 230 people voted for the three DDA questions.
“I’m really surprised at the low vote count,’ Dunahay said. “We anticipated that we would be looking at 450 ballots cast, we’re not even half of that.”
The reasons vary according to those who championed the vote. The pool of eligible voters for those questions was already smaller compared to those who voted on city-wide initiatives.
Only residents, business owners and representatives for entities inside the designated area for the DDA were eligible to vote on the three measures to form it. The established area is also the boundary for which the DDA will have governing and spending authority.
The boundary includes all of Main Street and Alamo Avenue, Church Avenue and the Arapahoe Community College campus to the south and some undeveloped space near the South Platte River to the west and some of Littleton Boulevard to the east. It extends north and includes some of West Berry Avenue, Prince Street and Rio Grande Street, including the Arapahoe County government building.
Dunahay said between 800 and 1,000 were allowed to vote on the measure. However, he blamed the archaic language of some questions, such as tax financing, and said it could have led to low turnout.
“I think the voters say ‘I can’t understand this so I can’t vote for it,’” he said.
DDA voters were required to request ballots separate from the city and county-wide ballot which Driscoll said could have also created a barrier for turnout.
“It’s unfortunate, but I’m always shocked by how low it is when council members are running for election,” Driscoll said.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.