Englewood advocates are aiming to bring offices, homes and stores near transit and bike paths, along with more customers living and working downtown, new and improved public spaces for community use …
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Englewood advocates are aiming to bring offices, homes and stores near transit and bike paths, along with more customers living and working downtown, new and improved public spaces for community use and more in a draft plan for Englewood’s core.
The draft version of the Downtown Matters Plan, released on June 15, details city leaders’ vision of the future of downtown Englewood — an area bordered by South Santa Fe Drive to the west, Kenyon Avenue to the south, South Lafayette Street to the east and Eastman Avenue to the north.
The goal of the plan is to create an economic development tool to rebuild and reposition downtown Englewood and encourage private investment.
Englewood City Council kicked off the first steps of the Downtown Matters Plan by approving an ordinance on June 15 to create and fund a downtown development authority, a key component to the plan.
Downtown development authorities are described in the plan as being quasi-public agencies that provide both organization and financing for redevelopment projects that focus on the downtown’s vitality and attractiveness. They are funded through tax increment financing funds that are produced by the anticipated increase in sales and property taxes in a downtown district and through financial contributions from businesses.
In order for Englewood’s downtown development authority to become a reality, commercial property owners and business owners in the downtown area will vote in November on Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights related finance questions regarding whether to authorize the downtown development authority to utilize sales and property tax increments, impose a mill levy of up to five mills and issue debt.
Amy Gallegos has owned the optometrist center Eye Logic at 123 W. Hampden Ave. for 15 years. She previously sat on the board for the Alliance for Commerce in Englewood, a group that links the city and Englewood businesses by working to improve communication, enhance the image of business districts and providing input on issues of economic impact.
Gallegos is part of a steering committee that is responsible for providing regular updates to Englewood City Council about the Downtown Matters Plan.
She said she has never seen the kind of energy and enthusiasm among Englewood advocates toward the plan and welcomed the idea of forming a downtown development authority.
“I think it’s imperative if we’re trying to move forward as a unit,” said Gallegos. “If we want to pull through and be a community to ourselves and draw people in, I think the (downtown development authority) is the best possible option.”
Gallegos stressed the importance of bringing affordable housing to the city because she said residents who work for an Englewood business don’t live in the city anymore because of cost of living.
RENTCafe, an apartment search website, estimates that the average rent for an apartment in Englewood is $1,616.
One of the goals of the Englewood Downtown Plan is to explore ways to attract new housing that is attainable for downtown employees and business owners. The plan envisions the downtown development authority being able to provide gap financing for residential or commercial development.
“I am hopeful that (talks about affordable housing) don’t get lost. If we’re not taking care of the (employees) who are getting us there, (the plan) won’t be successful,” said Gallegos.
The Downtown Matters Plan contains short-term priority goals to help support existing Englewood businesses who were impacted by the pandemic. Among those goals are:
• Providing information and access to local, state and federal assistance to businesses,
• Helping businesses adapt to evolving health restrictions,
• And carrying out marketing and promotional efforts to promote local business and draw residents to downtown Englewood as public health confidence grows.
“Small businesses have been particularly affected by the current crisis. The Downtown Matters Plan is an important part of our strategy to recover and move toward long-term prosperity for our business community and our city as a whole,” said Englewood City Manager Shawn Lewis in a statement.
The Downtown Matters Plan says that the proposed downtown development authority could help fill vacant storefronts with uses like pop-up art galleries, pop-up retail concepts and office space.
The South Broadway area will soon be home to the office of Core Consultants, a firm that offers engineering, natural resources, land surveying, permitting and development services. It plans to leave its Littleton office and bring its 65 employees to Englewood in late August or early September, said Blake Calvert, president and CEO of the firm.
Calvert, who is on the steering committee for the Downtown Matters Plan, said Core Consultants outgrew its Littleton office. But despite that, the firm wanted to stay near the suburbs and felt the South Broadway area gave its employees a chance to work in a walkable community.
“From day one, our business model was whenever we need any kind of vendor, restaurant services for client luncheons or any kind of services we need for our business — we turn to our neighborhood. We’re a small business, and we’re here to support all of our neighbors too,” said Calvert.
The Downtown Matters Plan aims to improve mobility and transportation throughout the city. One of the strategies it wants to carry out to achieve that goal is to complete an east and west bicycle and pedestrian priority corridor between Englewood Station and the city’s medical districts where Craig Hospital and Swedish Medical Center reside. The corridor would focus on Old Hampden, Englewood Parkway, Floyd Avenue and Girard Avenue.
Other ambitions of the Downtown Matters Plan include goals to make design and safety improvements to existing public spaces and to create new public spaces within downtown Englewood. One of those improvements could be renovations to the existing creek and plaza area at Broadway and Hampden.
The public can read the draft of the Downtown Matters Plan until July 15 by visiting englewoodco.gov/downtownmatters. The final version of the plan is expected to be released by the end of July.
“I think we’re on the cusp of something really unique being created and a unique foundation being created,” said Calvert.
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