2021 was the year of Getting It Done for DCI, our members, and our partners. We wanted to build off of the increased collaboration and partnerships developed throughout 2020 to make stuff happen! The year gave us a glimmer of normalcy from the past along with a settling into the new normal. The DCI team began to travel around the state again and some of our team members were even able to get their vaccines out on the road in our beloved San Luis Valley. We have loved getting back out to meet our new Zoom friends and reconnect with our old. We also continued to serve virtually and in hybrid ways. If the last few years taught us anything, it is that adaptability and resiliency are key in all of the ways we serve. We started the year with a plan to Get It Done in 2021 and we’re hoping to keep serving YOU in 2022.
Just because 2020 ended, we didn’t stop providing virtual resources to all of the communities around the state. DCI continued our weekly resource calls with three focuses on Capacity Building, Tactical Activation, and Building Inclusive Places. 2021 sessions had many levels of depth to take participants from concept to DOing. The road to Getting It Done included peer learning combined with local meetings and activation.
Part of our array of virtual training was a series called ‘Let’s Talk about Tax’. These discussions better fostered an understanding of taxes and how they impact community-building. This series not only helped our partners and communities understand different taxing structures but also empowered the communities to take this knowledge and recordings of these actual discussions back to their citizens. Local sessions could help them understand what taxes go to directly in their community and why it is important to support local. We are planning on hosting these local sessions in Morgan County in 2022!
Our in-depth and dynamic online programming continued with our week of San Luis Valley Small Town Love. In April 2021, DCI and Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) partnered to announce the SLV Creative Placemaking Challenge. This program connects a unique group of state-wide project partners who each bring a dynamic service or solution to community challenges. The 2021 SLV Challenge keynote featured the Colorado State Demographer, Elizabeth Garner and SLV Housing Coalition’s Dawn Melgares, sharing the State of the San Luis Valley and the 2021 SLV Housing Report. Following the kick off were four days of solution-based discussions focused on detailed ideas for one San Luis Valley community. Each day of the week highlighted one of the four SLV small towns, Antonito, Center, La Jara and San Luis, and yielded ideas to shape solutions for the future. Each town had a dedicated team of facilitators and guest speakers that focused on topics of Engagement, Design, Connectivity and Entrepreneurship. DCI partnered a special team of youth facilitators to work with the students who joined these discussions to build collaborative visions for their communities. With support from CHFA, DCI, and ModStreet, each of the four communities received a “parklet” (or a platform the size of a parking space) in June to program as an invitation for community engagement.
This year was our fifth year of the Challenge Program! We worked with some amazing past School of Public Affairs students to create the Challenge Program: In Review report. We have worked throughout the past 5 years to expand the benefits, partnerships, and resources for all of our Challenge Communities. We hope that through our work and this report we can expand on existing partnerships as well as form new ones with statewide universities, service providers, and other regions throughout the state. If you are interested in the Challenge program, contact Kylie Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later in the year, we were finally able to start hosting events in our member communities and share all of the great assets they have to offer. Some of the highlights were the Grand Junction and Loveland Downtown Toolbox Events. These events showcased the benefits of working in partnership with Downtown Development Authorities (DDA) and Business Improvement Districts (BID). These events included a dynamic learning and networking experience with tours of downtown projects led by local leadership in each town. In September, The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Historic and Scenic Byways Program and Downtown Colorado, Inc. initiated a process to activate and enhance coordination for partners along the Pawnee Pioneer Trails Byway in Northeast Colorado. The project focused on building teams, identifying assets, and expanding communication to build awareness and engagement of byways programming for locals and visitors. We loved getting to explore new communities and revisit old favorites through this process.
As always, we hoped to educate as much of the state as we could on the tools and partnerships that make special districts in Colorado some of the biggest DO-ers. In addition to Grand Junction and Loveland, we had two more major events that showcased case studies and projects. First, the Annual Southern Colorado (SOCO) Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Summit in Pueblo with over 40 attendees from all around Colorado. This year, the SOCO Summit focused on TIF and Housing. It was a dynamic networking and problem solving event to move redevelopment from planning to action. Presentations included: “Housing Diversity Models” and “Small Town Housing Case Studies”. Then we topped off the year with the Westside Metro Mobile Tour of special districts in Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Golden, and Arvada. This mobile tour got people off of Zoom and away from endless powerpoints to see actual projects done by a mix of financing tools in each of these places. A core theme of the day was that none of these projects and the incredible atmosphere of these districts would be possible without a mix of many partnerships.
Another aspect of returning to normal meant getting out and sharing ideas and tools at partners’ conferences. These sessions included: “Tax Increment Financing Toolbox for Colorado Communities” at Colorado Municipal League’s Special Conference, “Portraits of Pandemic Placemaking to Support Small Business” at Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s Saving Places, and “A Regulatory Toolbox for Small and Rural Communities” at American Planning Association Colorado Planning Conference. We hope that these sessions showcased the incredible projects and work that can happen using tools like Tax increment Finance, placemaking, and policy changes. Speaking of conferences, we are so excited to be holding our IN THE GAME conference in April 2022. Register now here!
We were incredibly heartened to see our membership grow drastically over the past two years. In 2021, we introduced VIP Membership types including Challenge Communities, Districts, and Urban Renewal Authority memberships. These memberships provide many benefits including one free IN THE GAME Registration, access to 15+ virtual workshops per year, and increased access to DCI’s guidance and network. In turn, these members’ supporthelps DCI to create a dynamic process that fosters long-term engagement, collaboration, and dialogue with Colorado's elected officials, community leaders, and state-wide entities.
Just before the holiday break, Downtown Colorado, Inc. began its newest program: Tiny Towns. The Tiny Towns program convenes town leadership from communities with less than 1,000 population to provide resources and empower Colorado's tiniest towns towards success. There are 210 Tiny Towns in Colorado. While 53% of Colorado’s towns have less than 1,000 people, only 1.4% of Colorado’s residents live in Tiny Towns. The Tiny Towns in DCI’s first cohort convene monthly to brainstorm, network, and create solutions to the problems Colorado's Tiny Towns are facing alongside DCI's expertise and advising. The group of 9 Tiny Towns founding this new program includes Hinsdale County, Hugo, Kiowa County, New Raymer, Red Cliff, Saguache, San Luis, Victor, and Yampa.
We are not slowing down in 2022! We have added four new team members this year to help serve our members and communities as well as make us better as an organization so we can be our best for you! Currently we are working on a new website and customer relationship management system so look forward to many updates surrounding that. Please make sure all of your membership information is updated in our current system so we can make the transition as seamless as possible! Contact Kayla Jones at email@example.com with any questions.
We hope your 2022 is off to a great start! Despite the general ambivalence towards 2021, we were so lucky to be Getting It Done with you!
Just before the holiday break, Downtown Colorado, Inc. began its newest program: Tiny Towns. The Tiny Towns program convenes town leadership from communities with less than 1,000 population to provide resources and empower Colorado's tiniest towns towards success.
There are 210 Tiny Towns in Colorado. While 53% of Colorado’s towns have less than 1,000 people, only 1.4% of Colorado’s residents live in Tiny Towns.
The Tiny Towns in DCI’s first cohort convene monthly to brainstorm, network, and create solutions to the problems Colorado's Tiny Towns are facing alongside DCI's expertise and advising. The group of 9 Tiny Towns founding this new program includes Hinsdale County, Hugo, Kiowa County, New Raymer, Red Cliff, Saguache, San Luis, Victor, and Yampa.
Issues the Tiny Towns are Facing
Tiny Towns face challenges that are often unique and distinct from those of a typical town. In the first meeting, we discussed the challenges that Airbnbs can present in Tiny Towns. As Airbnbs become more prevalent in a community, they may take away business from local hotels and other places to stay. A benefit of Airbnbs, however, is that they bring more visitors to the town, in turn providing more foot traffic and economic stimulation for local businesses and storefronts.
Another issue the Tiny Towns are seeing is the challenge small businesses face when trying to open and maintain a storefront, especially in vacant spaces that already exist within the town. Storefronts can be very expensive to pay for and upkeep, especially if the business wants to move into a vacant space already within the town. If that space is run down, it may be up to the business itself to renovate the space in order to move in. Especially in smaller towns, this price can be highly significant for local businesses.
The legalization of marijuana has also made a major impact on small towns. Those who have legalized recreational dispensaries have seen a significant increase in revenue, up to about $5,000 monthly in taxes. These same towns have seen no additional crime as a result of selling marijuana in the towns. While selling marijuana is a great source of revenue in many small towns, it has been outlawed by local governments in other small towns, making it impossible for these towns to see the same benefits as those who have legalized selling marijuana in their towns.
Attracting the Right Storefront Businesses for Tiny Towns
Most Tiny Towns are learning which storefront businesses are right for a Tiny Town and how to attract these businesses. We heard from many Tiny Towns who highlighted businesses that are thriving in their small communities.
San Luis: R+R Market
R&R Market is the oldest continuously operated business in the State of Colorado, dating from its establishment in 1857 in the town of San Luis. The ground floor is the market and the upstairs includes rental units which were once part of a hotel. R&R Market still operates as a general store with groceries, hardware and other merchandise. It is owned and operated by Felix and Claudia Romero, who are descendants of the original owners and are now in their 70s. The Romero’s have 5 full time employees and support area farmers by selling local produce and meats. The site has received much state and national attention, including a 2017 feature article in the New York Times that highlighted the challenge of family business transitions in a struggling rural economy. In some ways there may be no more historic site in Colorado than the R&R market in San Luis.
Find more information about R&R Market here: http://coloradopreservation.org/2019-list-colorados-most-endangered-places/r-and-r-market/
Victor: Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works
The unique storefront business found in Victor is a historic broom shop! For over 30 years, Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works has dedicated themselves to keeping old-world craftsmanship and techniques alive. Using equipment and skills dating back to the 19th century, they manufacture history. From the finest handmade brooms, tinware and letterpress printing, to candles, handcrafted glass, jewelry and more, the Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works imparts passion and craftsmanship in everything they do. That’s why many period film and television productions have reached out to them to provide accurate and authentic items for their movie sets. Browse around the site or better yet, visit their 1900 storefront in the historic gold mining town of Victor, Colorado and enjoy your trip back in time.
Find more information about Victor Trading Co. & Manufacturing Works here: https://victortradingco.com/
Yampa: Bearpaw Bakery
Bearpaw Bakery is a new bakery in Yampa, CO that's been recently renovated. The menu includes cinnamon rolls, scones, muffins, and features Steamboat Coffee Roasters coffee. The bakery focuses on highlighting the town’s history and becoming an integral community gathering place for the people of Yampa.
Find more information about Bearpaw Bakery here: https://www.facebook.com/BearpawBakeryYampa
Thank you, Tiny Towns!
Our first meeting of the Tiny Towns was a roaring success! We are so excited to have 9 fabulous towns involved in the Tiny Towns effort so far. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the Tiny Towns cohort, please reach out to Morgan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because you know you love us!!
On December 7th, 2021, Downtown Colorado, Inc. joined a community of nonprofits across the state of Colorado in raising money for our organizations’ mission and programs.
This year, donations received to DCI will be used towards our Colorado Challenge Program. Since 2017, the Colorado Challenge Program has worked with a diverse mix of 34 Colorado communities to consider solutions around housing, small business support, tourism development, local engagement, brownfield clean-up, financing, + more. Your donations empower DCI to connect with these Colorado communities in creating solutions to daunting challenges.
To honor our fundraising efforts for Colorado Gives Day, DCI shared a special social media series called "Why DCI''. The series highlighted many of DCI’s programs and features of DCI that make the organization worth being involved in (other than the Challenge Program, of course). A summary of the series is outlined here.
Why DCI: Peer Network
DCI empowers and connects its multidisciplinary members to interface, share ideas, and develop plans together. For communities looking to link with peers or small-scale consulting, the DCI network can plug you into a team that works for you. DCI connects communities across the state to help all communities thrive.
You can take advantage of DCI’s peer network at our numerous in-person and virtual events, including happy hours across the state and even our Holiday Party which we just celebrated on December 2nd at the DCI office.
Why DCI: Financing
Whether you’re a developer or a local government, it can be hard to finance projects for community districts and housing. DCI was created 40 years ago to support the creation and use of public-private partnerships and projects. If you need to finance a project, DCI is here to help.
You can take advantage of financing with DCI at our annual Southern Colorado Tax Increment Financing Summit. Examples of how we’ve helped with financing include involving Eagle as a Challenge Community to form their DDA, planning a Lafayette Urban Renewal board training, and our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Housing Strategy in Durango Report.
Why DCI: Expertise/Advising
Downtown projects are not a simple one-and-done. Whether you have multiple studies trying to implement a program or you’re not sure where to start, DCI offers beginner to advanced advisory services at the level you need. As a small team, members have direct access to DCI staff and gain the opportunity to have a personal connection with the DCI family.
Some of DCI’s industry experts include Katherine Correll - Downtown Colorado, Inc., Steve Art - City of Wheat Ridge, Troy Bernberg - Northland Securities, Justin Vause - Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), Jariah Walker - Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, Jeff Owsley - Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), Terri Takata-Smith - Downtown Boulder Partnership, Joe Hengstler - Olde Town Arvada, Andy Arnold - SEH, Maureen Phair - Arvada Urban Renewal Authority, Joe Minicozzi - Urban3, and many more.
Why DCI: Exposure
DCI hosts 20+ events per year in all regions of Colorado on multidisciplinary topics. If you have a story to tell, DCI has a platform for you. DCI sends bi-weekly newsletters highlighting partner events and features as well as amplifying good news through our social media platforms.
To provide opportunities for exposure, DCI’s dine-around model at our annual conference allows for speakers to connect with listeners in a discussion-style lunch session at a local restaurant. DCI also develops and shares press releases about successful member projects.
Why DCI: Access to Resources
DCI fosters a diverse network of public, private, and state agency partners. This community allows DCI the ability to link you in to the resources you need to get things done.
DCI has helped small communities write grants and implemented placemaking visions and planning needs. DCI also hosts monthly networking opportunities for URAs, BIDs, and DDAs.
On Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021, Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) and Colorado Municipal League (CML) hosted their 2nd annual Mobile Tour in the Westside Metro area. The tour visited Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Golden, and Arvada featuring special events and tours in each town.
We started off the tour at MindSpark, an educational and meeting facility in Lakewood. MindSpark programs deliver extraordinary professional learning experiences for educators, the community, and industry partners who then take their new skills back to the classroom and beyond.
MindSpark hosted our welcome ceremony where we heard from our moderator for the day, Troy Bernberg, Northland Securities; as well as event leaders Katherine Correll, Executive Director of DCI; and Meghan MacKillop, Colorado Municipal League.
After introductions and a big welcome to all attendees, guests heard from Adam Paul, the mayor of the City of Lakewood. The Mayor told funny stories and helped guests feel welcome and at home for the tour. Town leaders Robert Smith, Lakewood Reinvestment Authority; and Tom Quinn, Alameda Business Improvement District, shared next. We heard about many amazing projects going on downtown such as the development of the Belmar area in Lakewood. What used to be a shopping center has become the community-oriented hub of Downtown that brings people together, fosters community, and supports local businesses in Lakewood. Guests had the opportunity to walk from MindSpark to downtown Belmar to see the projects and area developments firsthand.
After leaving Lakewood, tour guests boarded the bus to head to Wheat Ridge. While on the bus, Steve Art, Board President of DCI and Director of the Wheat Ridge Urban Renewal Authority, discussed the projects and redevelopment happening in Wheat Ridge. We learned that Wheat Ridge does not have a traditional downtown core, so their URA (urban renewal authority) areas are spread out throughout the city. Wheat Ridge has 5 plan areas, and they are using TIF (tax increment financing) and other tax revenues to make projects happen such as a new hospital as well as creating more housing for Wheat Ridge residents.
Once arriving in Golden, we split up in two groups to go on tours with Steve Glueck and Robin Fleischmann who work for the City of Golden. We saw main street downtown, heard about the development of Golden’s URA, and even saw the brewery and distribution plant where Coors makes their beer!
We had a break for lunch at Pietra’s in Wheat Ridge, but the tour didn’t stop! DCI featured an amazing panel of speakers including representatives from each town we visited. Speakers included Mayor Marc Williams of Arvada, Joe Hengstler from the Olde Town Arvada BID, Robin Fleischmann with the City of Golden, Robert Smith from the Lakewood Reinvestment Authority, Tom Quinn from the Alameda Business Improvement District, and Steve Art with the Wheat Ridge Urban Renewal Authority. The speakers discussed how they have utilized urban renewal in their communities, the impact of public-private partnerships, understanding when and how to implement urban renewal, and the use of BIDs and DDAs alongside urban renewal as unique tools that can help a town thrive.
In Arvada, we took tours with town leaders Maureen Phair, Arvada URA, and Joe Hengstler, Olde Town Arvada BID. They showed us around Olde Town Arvada which featured their newly walkable downtown and the new restaurants and businesses inhabiting Olde Town Arvada’s Main Street. We saw highlights of the projects completed to make Olde Town Arvada more community-oriented and heard about the upcoming projects that will be happening in the future.
DCI & CML’s Second Annual Mobile Tour was a huge success! DCI would like to thank our sponsors: City of Wheat Ridge, City of Lakewood, City of Arvada, Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District, City of Golden, Colorado Municipal League (CML), and Regional Transportation District (RTD).
To learn more about Downtown Colorado, Inc. or the West Metro Mobile Tour, please reach out to DCI’s Relations Manager, Morgan Pierce, at email@example.com.
Colorado has a generous Historic Preservation Tax Credit program to encourage and support the historic preservation projects in communities all over the state. In this session you will learn about the tax credit application process and what is needed for a successful application. A walk through of how the tax credits are calculated and sold will be given. We will discuss the types of improvements that can be made and the requirements for property owners and tenants to qualify for the tax credit. We will help you to plan for using the Colorado State Historic Tax Credits the best way possible for your project!
Speakers: Ariel Steele, Tax Credit Connection, Inc. & Joe Saldibar, History Colorado
Last Thursday, DCI welcomed Ariel Steele from Tax Credit Connection, Inc. and Joe Saldibar from History Colorado to speak at our event, “Colorado’s Historic Preservation Commercial Tax Credits 201." Joe and Ariel shared with the audience what tax credits are, who’s qualified for them, and how to apply.
What is the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program?
The Historic Preservation Tax Credit program provides a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax owed to the government for rehabilitation projects in Colorado communities. “Rehabilitation” in this context simply means making spaces useful again. Think: restoring, repairing, and keeping properties in service or bringing them back into service. Tax credits aren’t used for preservation projects but instead for projects that rehabilitate and repurpose previously unused buildings in Colorado. Tax credits can be applied to any size of project in structures that are Colorado properties, at least 50 years old, have local, state, or national landmarking, and are not owned by the government.
Individuals, non-profit organizations, limited liability companies (LLCs), general partnerships (GPs), limited partnerships (LPs), and S and C corporations are all eligible for rehabilitation tax credits, while governments are not. Tax credits are not just for big projects - they can also be used for small-scale endeavors. In fact, of the $44 million in tax credits distributed to projects since the program’s foundation in 2015, $16 million have been used for small projects (defined as projects costing less than $2 million).
There are two main types of tax credits: federal and state. Federal tax credits are used for commercial projects only, while state tax credits can be used for commercial or residential projects. Commercial projects must be income-producing compared to residential projects which create affordable housing in the heart of Colorado communities. Examples of income-producing commercial projects include house museums that charge an admission fee or churches that rent out their space for weddings or events.
Tax credits can be used directly for rehabilitation projects, but they can also be sold for cash if the project does not need all the credits it was initially approved for. Projects can also keep their excess tax credits to use against their tax bill. This unique program creates local affordable housing and repurposes historic buildings to be put back into use in communities across Colorado.
What Are the Impacts of Tax Credits?
The tax credit program is unique in that it enables locals within Colorado communities to rehabilitate the areas and buildings they know and love. In addition, the program directly reduces the amount of tax owed to the government, allowing for revitalization projects to happen that otherwise may not have.
Since July 2015, owners have invested more than $300 million in project costs. That’s enough to cover a 7-acre field in a blanket of $1 bills! Applicants have received or are eligible to receive $44 million in state historic tax credits since the program started. $44 million in $1 bills would be 15,767 feet high, towering over Mount Elbert!
The best way to see the impact of tax credits is to explore projects that have already taken advantage of the generous program. Below are some examples of projects that have been completed with the help of the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program.
Tammen Hall — Denver
Tammen Hall in Denver used to house nurses that worked at the local hospital in dormitories. Thanks to the tax credit program, the building was repurposed to create 264 new affordable and market-rate housing units, including 49 units of affordable senior housing.
Stanley Marketplace — Aurora
Stanley Marketplace in Aurora was repurposed to create over 1,300 new full-time jobs. The renovated properties house offices, service organizations, retail, professional and management organizations, and more. Over $64.5 million in new payroll have been created as a result of the revitalization of the building. Stanley Marketplace is now home to over 200 workers and small business owners!
Museum of Friends — Walsenburg
The Museum of Friends in Walsenburg is located in what was once the 1910 Roof & Dick building. What used to house national chain stores such as J.C. Penney and Ben Franklin is now home to a beautiful contemporary art museum in Southern Colorado.
How to Apply for Tax Credits
To apply, applicants must first create an account with the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT). There are three applications to submit in total. The first is a short Qualifying Questionnaire that determines a building’s eligibility for tax credits. The second application is a Reservation Application that outlines the project’s Rehabilitation Plan. This application has a fee and lays out the plans and budget for the rehabilitation project. This application is submitted before starting the project and requires period progress reports as the project advances. Lastly is the Issuance Application for Tax Credit. This application also requires a fee and confirms the project’s eligibility for tax credits upon completion.
DCI would like to thank Ariel Steele and Joseph Saldibar for sharing their insights on Colorado's Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. Hearing their expertise and learning more about this generous, unique program for Colorado communities was a pleasure.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Morgan Pierce, Relations Manager AmeriCorps VISTA, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Ariel Steele, Tax Credit Connection, Inc.
Ariel Steele helps landowners preserve their land and gain financial rewards through conservation easement income tax credits in Colorado and New Mexico.
Ariel became the owner of Tax Credit Connection, Inc., in 2005 where she has built expertise in several transferable tax credit programs including environmental remediation (brownfields) credits and historic preservation credits.
Ariel makes presentations throughout Colorado and New Mexico on topics ranging from the state and federal tax benefits when donating a conservation easement, how to avoid conservation easement audits, and the environmental remediation and historic preservation tax credit programs.
Joseph Saldibar, History Colorado
Mr. Saldibar has worked for History Colorado since January 2000. He oversees the state and federal historic tax credit programs for History Colorado, and conducts reviews of federally-funded projects under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. He holds a Masters in Historic Preservation from Ball State University and a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Colorado-Denver.
On July 8th DCI held a discussion with Nermina Mujkanović, from the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau; on her own refugee experience and raising awareness on the refugee experience as a whole. She gave valuable insight on the many challenges and triumphs of being a refugee to further understand how to improve the refugee experience.
Nermina started the conversation by discussing her refugee journey from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United States. Nermina was 8 when her family got approved for resettlement. She recounted how the process took 4-5 years, and how getting the option of resettlement is based on pure luck. She explained how most refugees are never granted the option of resettlement. Nermina and her family ultimately resettled in St. Louis, MO, where they faced the many challenges that come when moving to a new country. Challenges like learning English, becoming familiar with American culture, and her parents being unable to pursue their dream careers because the degrees they obtained in Bosnia can’t be transferred over into the United States. All of these challenges affected her family in different ways, but for Nermina it made her feel like she was living in two different worlds. She was able to channel those challenges into greatness by graduating from college and becoming the Director of Constituent Services for Congresswoman Diana DeGette.
Nermina also communicated the various misconceptions and challenges refugees are facing today including, but not limited to:
Refugee Statues Misunderstood
Refugee Skills/Degrees Under-Utilized
Lack of English Skills is Not An Indication of Intelligence
Need of Strong Support Systems
Barriers of Integration
Tapping Into Existing Resources
Creating New Resources/Partnerships
Understanding All Refugees Don’t Look the Same or Share the Same Experiences
You can contact Nermina here and learn more about her experience here.
Nermina came to the U.S. as a child and was resettled in St. Louis, MO, with her immediate family. In 2010, she moved to Denver where she earned her B.A. in international studies and a minor in political science at the University of Denver.
Nermina’s professional experience is centered on providing access and support to marginalized communities in the U.S. Specifically, her experience has included undergraduate international student recruitment, legal aide to refugees, and her current position as Director of Constituent Services for a Member of Congress. In this position, she oversees all casework for the office and specifically manages issues related to immigration and housing.
Outside her professional work, Nermina serves as a Board member of Rocky Mountain Welcome Center, Board President of Stories Without Borders, and Steering Committee Member for the Colorado Refugee Speakers Bureau.
On May 27th, 2021 DCI hosted a discussion about an updated action framework for Colorado downtowns presented by Brad Segal, Founder and President of Progressive Urban Management Associates. Brad discussed several assumptions that have been examined to create his revamped economic recovery framework which include an anticipated acceleration of economic recovery, positive underlying trends, surges in entrepreneurship, equity and racial justice as core values moving forward, sluggish office recovery, and continued challenges with increased housing costs and labor shortages. He outlined 10 tips for navigating economic recovery that incorporated learnings from the past year along with guidance going into 2022.
Tip 1: Focus on Storefront Economy: It will be important to revive storefronts and support property and small business owners during this transition. This also includes ensuring that local governments are prepared to be swift on permitting and streamlining regulations.
Tip 2: Connecting Local Talent to Local Opportunities: Since labor shortages are imminent it is important to create workforce connections between academic institutions and local businesses.
Tip 3: Make Pandemic- Inspired Outdoor Experiments Permanent: We have learned some lessons from these temporary spaces that were created during the pandemic restrictions. Brian predicts that most outdoor adaptations will become permanent fixtures within the public space.
Tip 4: Face the Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Challenge Head-On: The pandemic highlighted further inequities in our society and it has given us an opportunity to create a more inclusive economy. This can be accomplished through diversifying your board and promoting diversity in property and business ownership.
Tip 5: Consider a New Generation of Events: The pandemic provided us with a year of experimentation and finding news ways of bringing people together and celebrating their down towns. Testing out new concepts and going big with local art and music culture should be among the list of priorities.
Tip 6: Get Creative with Office Space: Anticipate a hybrid work model going forward as well as a more creative use of space and new office designs.
Tip 7: Advocate for Solutions to Social Challenges: The housing crisis in Colorado will require a cooperation between all sectors to answer some of the challenges we have been facing with regards to our unhoused population. This can be in the form of more housing options, mental health services, and direct funding.
Tip 8: Go Green: The pandemic has accelerated activism to combat climate change. Economies should embrace green and sustainability practices and development.
Tip 9: Manage the Message: Improve the narrative surrounding downtowns and promote new businesses, events, and public space reuse. Survey the community to gather information on perceptions to create an intentional message.
Tip 10: Update your Organizational Business Model: Adapt to new realities and find ways to reinvent your organizations by aligning with the new normal.
The overall message that Brad shared was one of unprecedented opportunity for economic recovery and growth in the future. DCI has a companion publication that is accessible to members with more detailed information on today’s presentation. Stay tuned!
On May 6th DCI welcomed Ben Levenger, President of Downtown Redevelopment Services, an organization that helps main streets in small communities create efficient plans and redevelopment projects for their downtown areas. Ben has worked on projects in 32 states over the past 5 years and has prepared over 100 downtown plans and strategic catalyst projects. He shared his strategies and best practices for proactively marketing downtowns and elevating underutilized and vacant properties to their best use.
What is a vacant property? Ben answers this question by emphasizing the importance of establishing the correct terminology so you can educate stakeholders and the public in a way that is inoffensive and trust building. This includes differentiating between categories of vacant properties as either underutilized or blighted. Underutilized buildings offer limited commercial or civic use but are still functional. Blighted buildings are those that are not salvageable. Both types of vacant properties have a negative impact on the surrounding community by reducing property values, damaging civic pride, discouraging business development, and deterring tourism. When factoring in lost wages, utilities, and taxes, vacant buildings cost the local economy a staggering estimated $214,000 annually.
Highest and Best Use
Ben outlines a multiple step process that can be implemented to determine the best use for buildings in downtown areas. The first step is to develop an Existing Conditions Analysis which will create a baseline for what is happening and why it is happening. He explains that it identifies the “who, what, when, where, and why” of the community. The second step is conducting a SWOT analysis. During this stage you identify functional infrastructure and unique assets that will emphasize the personality of the community and boost tourism. The third step is a GAP market analysis which illuminates business needs and services that are being underserved within the community. Ben explained that this type of analysis can be summarized by simply asking the question “what do you leave town to go get?”. The information gathered during the first two steps will assist with determining the right businesses and services for each community.
It is also important to thoroughly understand the legislative and regulatory landscape. Ben explained that “red tape” doesn’t typically deter developers as long as there is a clearly outlined process and all the necessary materials are readily available. This includes up to date zoning maps, development codes, and design guidelines. Using a delineated approach will also serve to build trust since developers and property owners are concerned with minimizing risks associated with each project. A Property Assessment and Inventory should also be included to detail the conditions of the properties, ownership, and pending plans. This will foster working connections with residents and assist them with actualizing each step of future projects. Finally, KPI’s can be used to measure impact and collect key statistics about the community, such as the number of jobs being created and retained, which civic spaces are being activated, and the exact amount of space being underutilized.
How to market the right style of development
Ben explains that development is not just about profitability and the goal should be to create civic minded building scenarios that are impactful to the community and make it a better place to live. This vision can be realized through using the correct marketing tools to make the development process as efficient as possible. Ben recommends using Developer Due Diligence Reports to condense the data that has been collected throughout the course of the project to a palatable single page summary. Proformas should also be used for vacant properties to create a plan for the best way to utilize the space. These reports save an average of 6-9 months off the development acquisition process. Developer packages are another effective marketing tool that can be used to solicit specific services. These are typically around 5-8 pages in length and include data visualization to deliver the information in a more appealing way. Lastly, organization and accountability are key to making your marketing strategy successful, so utilizing a SPOC (single point of contact), flowcharts, and timelines will add the structure necessary to narrow the attention to each specific goal.
Thursday, April 22nd DCI welcomed Ilana Preuss, founder and CEO of Recast City, LLC to discuss the positive impact that bringing small-scale manufacturing businesses to the forefront can have on local economies. Recast City, LLC works with local leaders to create great places that build energy, increase the number of good paying jobs, fill local store fronts, and make people proud of their communities. The organization provides timely advisement and resources for the economic development sector and the many challenges and opportunities the pandemic has presented over the past year. Ilana points out that this is a great time to flip the economic development model, do it better, and balance present day realities and long-term plans.
There is no doubt that many smaller cities and counties are recovering from an unprecedented challenging time when many businesses have closed, unemployment rates are still well above average, income equality is at an all time high, and working age adult populations are declining. However, this is a transformational moment where there is an opportunity to build stronger, more inclusive communities that bring people together. Ilana points out the economic development model has not evolved since the 80’s, which no longer serves the best interests of our modern communities. Currently, the same real estate model is being used across the country and only serves to homogenize our infrastructure and downtown areas which in turn lowers real estate value. Additionally, economies are primarily investing in ground floor retail and doing little to address the racial wealth gap that is perpetuated with this traditional model.
Investing in a Better Way
Investing is key to economic strength. To harness this strength Ilana proposes that we challenge the traditional economic development model by utilizing available space differently and making the economy more supportive to jobs and businesses outside of the technology sector, which typically receive the most investment. Ideally, downtown areas should represent the personality of each city and county so development should strive to make it easier for everyone to participate in shaping their local economies. Unique destination store fronts, infrastructure, and streetscapes cultivate longevity, and social connections are the key to economic resiliency. Invest in the place, the people that live within each community, and create an ecosystem to support and scale the investment.
Small-scale manufacturing is essential to accomplishing this vision. This is defined as the type of businesses that produce some type of tangible good that can be replicated or packaged. As Ilana so cleverly refers to them as “hot sauce, handbags, hardware,” it is the type of business that draws foot traffic to a place and gives us a reason to gather. The general categories that small-scale manufacturing includes are the artisan/maker businesses, small batch production, production at scale, makerspace, and shared kitchen/shared woodshop. There are many benefits to embracing small-scale manufacturing. It helps to create more equitable business communities that include people of all different ages, genders, races, and religions. They help build storefronts and modern businesses where retail and production occur in the same space. These types of businesses also increase the property value in the surrounding area and generate many kinds of revenue sources making them nimble. In turn, this attracts more business owners to the area because of the culture and resources.
Take Action: Find the Hidden Economic Engine in Your Community
Ilana shared five action items that can be implemented to get started on reshaping our local economies and embracing small-scale manufacturing including:
Create affordable space of all different sizes to support a diversity of small businesses.
Fill the gap in assistance with local initiatives by offering small business assistance in multiple languages. Ask faith organizations and neighborhood leaders to share info with their networks, and provide grants to business service providers, especially those focusing on under-represented populations.
Tap into the power of local anchors such as schools and local governments. Encourage them to buy local as an investment tool.
Prep policies including zoning and business licenses. Simplify the process for starting a new business and helping it to thrive.
Build community pride through programming and low barriers to entry.
Want to learn more? Recast City, LLC has put together a free toolkit with further resources at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/RecastTornado . Ilana is also releasing her first book in June 2021 through Island Press called Recast Your City: How to Save Your Downtown with Small-Scale Manufacturing so make sure to check it out and pre-order using this link!
Original Post on the SEH Website
In Colorado, you can find amazing projects that exist because the community formed an urban renewal authority (URA).
The historic Denver Tramway Powerhouse was reimagined as a flagship outdoor retail store. The City of Pueblo formed a public-private partnership with one of the world’s largest steel producers. And the City of Montrose built a recreation center and reeled in a big fly-fishing manufacturer.
Across the state, communities large and small are leveraging URAs in creative and powerful ways. But what exactly is a URA? Would a URA benefit your community? Where should you begin? We answer these questions and more below.
Why does your community need a URA?
Currently, 62 Colorado towns and cities have an urban renewal authority – a number that is growing each year. Let’s talk about your Colorado community. Does it lack affordable housing? Does cost prevent your town from upgrading a specific water line or extending a sewer line? Does your city need higher paying jobs but struggle to attract private investment, industry growth and entrepreneurism? If any of these descriptions apply, then you should think about forming an urban renewal authority (URA). In Colorado, a URA must be formed first, before renewal projects and activities can begin. Consider it a creative redevelopment tool that can help break the gridlock that can occur with development.
Do you need to extend infrastructure? Preserve open space? Revitalize a historic property? A URA may be your answer.
A URA Can Help Your Community:
What exactly is a URA?
A URA is a local organization that your Colorado community must form before starting an urban renewal project. Legally referred to as a “statutory body,” a URA’s singular purpose is to prevent and eliminate blight in your community.
What does a URA do?
A URA provides an opportunity for your town or city to target investment, public improvements and new development. It helps remove factors that are known to stand in the way of sound development. Under Colorado state statute, a URA is authorized to borrow money, issue bonds, and accept grants from public and private sources. Tax incremental financing, or TIF, is the most common way that a URA can help fund an urban renewal project.
Wait…is urban renewal really a good thing?
Yes! Urban renewal is a great resource for Colorado’s communities, but it had what some might consider a rocky start. The concept’s negative connotations stem from the 1950s, when the federal government initiated large-scale urban renewal programs such as the Interstate highway system and the Federal Housing Administration’s public housing projects. The upside was economic growth and opportunity, but the downside was questionable development patterns in our cities and towns. Although Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law was adopted during this time and bears the same name, urban renewal today is very different than how it was conceived 70 years ago.
So urban renewal is good for Colorado?
Today, urban renewal in Colorado is a community-led initiative. Unlike the top-down, heavy handed, bureaucratic approach that defined urban renewal planning in the past, Colorado’s URAs today are powered at the local level. It is where the planning process and the development process can work together to enact community change. Through a URA a community’s plans and visions – such as comprehensive plans, multimodal plans and housing plans – can influence the development process to produce the goals laid out in those living documents. We could say that URAs are where the rubber meets the road.
What if your community is really small?
URAs can be especially powerful in small communities. A small town may not have the budget to pay for large infrastructure improvements. It may be experiencing stymied growth. Or it may need to attract a certain type of development, such as affordable housing.
Urban renewal can provide smaller Colorado communities with a competitive way to attract new development. It’s a local vehicle for transformative public-private partnerships.Andy Arnold, SEH regional planner
Can URAs help municipalities and developers work together?
Public-private partnership is the name of the game. Formed by local petition, a URA is made up of a board of elected officials from the municipality, the county, the school district and other local taxing bodies. Its charge is to adopt plans for alleviating blight and targeting redevelopment in a community. What sets a URA apart from other planning processes? It takes the public’s vision and adds incentives to attract private developers. A URA is authorized to issue grants, bonds, loans and other financial mechanisms to help produce public improvements and redevelopment. These incentives allow the public to partner with a developer to make the project more feasible – and to shape the project to better meet community needs.
A successful URA is fully backed by:
Where do you start if you want to form a URA?
The most important steps in forming a URA are organizing public participation, communicating with taxing entities and identifying blight.
1. Start with a public outreach campaign
Develop and implement a public outreach campaign to help educate the community about the benefits of a URA while identifying local concerns and issues that can inform the URA’s vision. Because a URA is a local planning body, its projects and activities must align with your community’s needs and desires. The public outreach campaign is an opportunity to understand the public’s concerns about the future of their community, such as:
By holding events such as meetings, presentations and workshops, you can provide a platform for these issues and communicate how a URA can address these worries. Productive dialog provides momentum to form a URA and helps cultivate a clear and supported vision.
It’s also a good idea to ask organizations that participate in the public outreach campaign to draft letters of support for the URA’s formation. Although not required by Colorado’s urban renewal law, these letters can chronicle each organization’s goals for the URA and provide a city council or town board with the confidence to vote yes to form a URA.
2. Petition elected officials to form a URA
After kicking off the public outreach campaign, it’s time to petition elected officials to form a URA. At least 25 registered electors must file a petition with the municipal clerk stating that there is a need to form a URA. Once this petition is filed, your town’s governing body will hold a public meeting to discuss the need to form the authority, consider its implications and vote on its formation.
3. Before the vote, commission a conditions survey
Before a vote can take place, your town must determine that certain conditions called “blighting factors” exist within areas of the community to warrant a URA. A conditions survey will provide the framework to research and analyze the presence of blighting factors.
These photos represent some factors that may constitute blight under Colorado's Urban Renewal Law.
The conditions survey can vary in scope – these are two common starting points:
Either type of conditions survey is acceptable, but a communitywide, general conditions survey is best to determine the need for a URA while also informing the URA of possible locations for future renewal projects. A holistic analysis such as this requires more work up front, but your URA will be more informed and more strategic regarding future urban renewal projects.
The City of Durango elected to do a City-wide Conditions Survey to find areas that qualify for urban renewal.
4. Now it’s time for the vote
After the petition and conditions survey is complete, your town’s governing body will vote on the URA’s formation. Assuming the vote passes, the next step is to form the URA’s board of commissioners. Typically, the governing body designates itself to the URA board. It’s also recommended that board members or staff of other major taxing bodies, such as the local school district and the county, as well as the county assessor, be invited to serve as board members. The composition of the board is contingent on local circumstances, however, and should reflect your community’s preferences.
The City of Durango formed their urban renewal authority in May 2020 and named it the Durango Renewal Partnership.
5. Identify your first urban renewal project
Once your town forms a URA and designates a board of commissioners, the exciting work can begin. Revisit your conditions survey along with the issues raised during the public outreach campaign to determine an appropriate area to start your first urban renewal project. Also consider any adopted planning documents, such as your municipality’s comprehensive plan or sub-area plans. And if a developer or business is already looking to redevelop within the community, the URA should evaluate the proposal to see if it is appropriate for an urban renewal project.
6. Next, 3 reports are needed
Once the URA board of commissioners has settled on a specific area for the urban renewal project, it’s time to complete three reports.
Urban renewal plan
Start with the most important of these: the urban renewal plan. The urban renewal plan outlines the vision for the project area, defines its boundaries, and describes proposed actions and incentives that will be used within the project area.
The conditions survey supplements the urban renewal plan. Now that you have a specific plan in place, you may need to update the previous conditions survey to reflect the specific project area, which is a straightforward task if a comprehensive conditions survey was completed during the formation process. The conditions survey will clearly demarcate the boundaries of the proposed project area and analyze the blighting factors present in that area.
An impact report is the second document that supplements the urban renewal plan. If the URA anticipates using tax increment financing (TIF) within its project area – and TIF is the predominant incentive a URA can offer – then an impact report is required by Colorado law. Much like the conditions survey, the impact report should take a holistic look at potential impacts of the urban renewal project. The impact report will do the following:
The impact report should forecast tax revenue for each taxing body within the project area. Your URA can use these forecasts in its negotiations with these taxing bodies – such as the local school district – to determine the percentage of incremental revenue that will flow to the URA instead of the taxing bodies. These negotiations are known as “TIF agreements,” and they are instrumental for incentivizing urban renewal projects.
Beyond tax revenues, the impact report will evaluate potential impacts on infrastructure and municipal services that would affect local taxing bodies. Some examples of impacts that could result from development:
The impact report looks beyond negative impacts to identify positive impacts as well. When done right, an impact report can be your URA’s roadmap for redeveloping the project area. It can highlight properties that will generate large amounts of incremental tax revenue. It can help the URA board of commissioners strategically use incentives during negotiations with potential developers.
RELATED CONTENT: City of Durango’s first urban renewal authority lets residents guide community redevelopment, offers incentives to developers
SEH assists towns and cities with a wide range of urban renewal needs, such as forming a URA or just trying to get a renewal project off the ground. Our team partners with communities to develop and implement URA-focused public outreach campaigns, urban renewal plans, conditions surveys and impact reports. Urban renewal in Colorado affects both sides of the public/private spectrum, and our experience as a trusted advisor to both municipalities and developers helps us provide the data, reports and guidance needed for long-term success.
Andy Arnold is a regional planner focused on the public and private sectors to ensure that development is politically, financially and equitably feasible. His work spans the community development spectrum, with a strong emphasis on community URAs and other financial tools to extend public infrastructure and encourage development with significant community benefits. CONTACT ANDY
Daniel Botich is dedicated to helping communities grow and businesses expand. He specializes in urban renewal authorities, land-use planning, economic development planning, capital improvement planning and the designation of financial incentive instruments and documents. CONTACT DANIEL
Your community in Colorado has formed an urban renewal authority (URA). What’s next?
Start a project:
Draft the project’s urban renewal plan:
Work with your assessor:
Always start working the next project:
Interested in learning even more about URAs? We invite you to read on.
How does a URA differ from “economic development” in Colorado?
Eliminating blight is a URA’s purpose as defined by Colorado law [C.R.S. 31-25-102]. A common misconception regarding URAs is that they’re all about economic development. This is incorrect. Now, if eliminating blighting factors manifests redevelopment that proves to be sound economic development, all the better.
So, what is “blight” and how do we define it in 21st century Colorado?
In 1958, when Colorado’s Urban Renewal Act was adopted as law, slums and blight were prevalent throughout America’s cities. The federal government responded by spearheading urban renewal projects. Today, the language of the Urban Renewal Law may still reflect this history by defining “blight” in strong terms, but its definition of the statutory factors that constitute blight are more in line with the contemporary realities facing local governments in Colorado.
The Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103) states that to form a URA, certain conditions or “blighting factors” must exist. State statute defines 11 factors for blight (see sidebar), and if four or more factors are found in an area of the municipality, the area may be declared “blighted.”
Conditions or blighting factors as defined by Colorado’s Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-103)*:
* C.R.S. 31-25-103(2) lists a twelfth condition, which applies only with unanimous agreement among affected property owners that their properties can be included in a URA. In this rare occurrence, only one blighting factor from the list of 11 needs to be identified to declare the area blighted.
Keep in mind that the word “blighted” may not sit well with property owners within a proposed urban renewal area. But the presence of a blighting condition does not mean a specific property is blighted. The purpose of a URA is to identify areas of the community that have certain conditions that prevent sound development. These conditions can be natural features (such as steep topography) or exist in the public domain (such as dangerous street networks or poor pedestrian access). Whatever the case may be, it’s important to make clear to property owners that a URA’s intention is to reverse the further decline of an area through both public and private investment – and this will benefit all property owners.
How do URAs aid public-private partnerships?
A URA is a powerful example of a public-private partnership (P3) done right. By bringing together a developer’s plans, a town’s needs and public support, a locally led URA is an effective vehicle for implementing P3s within your community.
Developers can benefit from the soft power of a URA. Developers with a great project – such as a mixed-use building that could provide workforce housing to the community – can work with a URA to make the project a reality because the project has a better chance of being approved quickly and efficiently. After all, a URA’s purpose is to alleviate conditions that can stall sound development. A URA, therefore, lowers a developer’s risk in a project, which makes that project even more possible.
A URA can also incentivize development that yields major benefits for the community, especially if TIF is involved. TIF could help fund the project’s public improvements, such as roadway improvements or stormwater drainage, and make the project financially feasible. TIF can help close funding gaps for a developer, assuming the developer meets certain public interest conditions (such as more residential units that are affordable, public facility access or higher quality construction). A URA provides public equity for private investment – the public is a partner in the development and has a voice in the project’s design and overall purpose. A URA can also supplement TIF by issuing grants and loans for developments within its designated project areas.
Infrastructure Renewal, Community Development and Project Funding