A study conducted by the City of Denver found what Denver residents have been noticing for several years – Denver is hostile to retail development. And, it’s costing Denver tax revenues. Here at The Peak, we have to wonder what role Denver’s Democratic leadership – from Federico Pena and Wellington Webb to now-Governor John Hickenlooper and current Mayor Michael Hancock – may have played in this inhospitable atmosphere.
The Denver Business Journal‘s editor, Neil Westergaard, who highlighted the $150,000 study, noted:
“Every mayor since the 1980s has wrung his hands about the lack of Denver retail, especially downtown. But very little comes of it, besides raw fingers.”
Recent high-profiles failures to bring new retail to Denver have included the WalMart debacle, which would have redeveloped the former University of Colorado Hospital campus at 9th and Colorado into a city-flavored WalMart, let’s not forget that groups also chased away the King Soopers that was slated to put a city market at the location, and who could forget the Ikea that wasn’t in Denver.
Westergaard blames these failures on the following:
1) Some elected officials simply don’t want more retail development. In fact, when King Soopers was trying to complete its deal, Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb told the Denver Post:
“Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said the council is unlikely to approve a proposal for $21 million in city-sponsored tax-increment financing without more detail on exactly how the project will be built out. Robb said she would like to see more housing than has been proposed by Fuqua.”
2) The policies put in place by the Hickenlooper and Hancock administrations, like overly-aggressive parking enforcement, discourage retail shopping. According to CBS4, Denver’s parking fine revenue has soared 76% from $15.7 million in 2006 to $27.7 million in 2011.
3) The outsized control that neighborhood groups have over development plans. Here’s how Westergaard described it:
“Neighborhood organizations in Denver are so powerful, they often stop projects cold even after they survive the rigors of city zoning review, which is no picnic. When neighborhood groups don’t get what they want, they get a sympathetic lawyer to file a Rule 106 motion and it’s tied up for years because of crowded court dockets.”
All of these failures point to the lack of leadership found in Denver’s City Hall. And, the problem isn’t just a lack of choice when it comes to shopping. These retail establishments bring needed tax revenue, jobs, and convenience for Denverites. So, when Governor Hickenlooper and Mayor Hancock start pontificating about how they’ve helped improve the local economy, let’s set the record straight.