Rocky Mountain News
Group backs tax subsidy for cleanup at Gates site
By Alan Gathright
January 31, 2006
A coalition of labor, neighborhood and affordable-housing advocates threw their support Monday behind Denver's proposed $126 million tax subsidy for a developer to prepare the former Gates Rubber Co. site to become a $1 billion transit-oriented development showcase.
In exchange, the Campaign for Responsible Development said they won developer Cherokee Denver's commitment to ban big-box stores at the project and to ensure quality jobs, affordable housing, and community involvement in the environmental cleanup and infrastructure construction at the former rubber plant.
"We really need to build on this victory so that in future projects we have better quality job commitments for permanent employees," campaign co-chairwoman Linda Meric said at a news conference held by the 58-group alliance before the Denver City Council's first votes on the redevelopment project.
The developer has pledged to pay wages comparable to the private sector to 1,000 workers cleaning up site contamination, demolishing the old building and constructing new roads and bridges. But no such guarantees exist for the 7,300 construction workers who will build the development's retail shops, offices and high-rise housing or for the permanent employees who will work there.
The council's initial vote on four ordinances to launch the project wasn't all smooth sailing.
Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie urged colleagues to delay voting a week on the "massively complicated deals." She wanted more time to "clean up" city agreements that she warned might not guarantee long-term community benefits.
"These documents as we have them tonight provide lots of subsidy and little accountability," said MacKenzie, whose district includes the 50-acre project at Broadway and Interstate 25.
Council colleagues disagreed, saying there was plenty of time to clarify any questions by the time the panel holds public hearings on the redevelopment plan at 6 p.m. next Monday before the final vote.
The council then voted 12-1 - with MacKenzie the lone holdout - on the initial approval for each of the four ordinances.
The city plans to use tax-increment financing to kick-start the development, which will plow an estimated $85 million in increased city property and sales tax generated by the project over 25 years back into public improvements. Another $41 million in taxes will be produced by the future residents and merchants of the development through three special taxation districts.
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