Rocky Mountain News
Gates plan gets boost
City Council OKs tax subsidies to pay for roads, parks at site
By Lou Kilzer
February 7, 2006
A billion-dollar plan to develop a 50-acre site in the heart of Denver got a critical boost Monday when the City Council unanimously approved $126 million of tax subsidies for roads, parks and other infrastructure. Cherokee Denver plans to build 2,400 housing units and 1.8 million square feet of commercial space at the site of the old Gates Rubber factory at Broadway and I-25.The bulk of the public funds will come through tax-increment financing in which bonds sold to build the public infrastructure are repaid by new taxes generated by the project. A smaller amount - some $41 million - would come through special taxing districts to be established as part of the plan.
More than 30 people signed up to speak at a public hearing Monday - with only two speaking against the project. Neighborhood leaders, people from small businesses, labor officials and advocates for the poor packed the council chambers to overflowing to voice support for the plan. It's been several years in the birthing, but even the resident council skeptic - Kathleen MacKenzie - signed on. MacKenzie had earlier said she feared the project could be something of a Trojan horse. Councilman Charlie Brown, however, said the development was really a "Secretariat." In the end, MacKenzie said the project was a windfall for her district.
Labor was encouraged because the developer has agreed to pay prevailing wages for building the public parts of the project. And low-income residents supported the set- aside of units that can be sold or rented to low-wage earners.
Part of the infrastructure cost will come in environmental remediation for the contaminated factory site. Other money will be spent for parks, art and streets.
Councilwoman Marcia Johnson said that without the subsidies, developing the site could be difficult. And since the money will come from added taxes the project develops, the city will "never lose a dime." One speaker questioned whether enough effort had been put into preserving the plant's historic structures. Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said she felt it was more an eyesore than something needing preservation. "It's all right with me if they're not retained," she said.