Talk about a lot of talking: More on Loretto Heights, and more

Loretto Heights Survey Screen Shot 2018-12-11 at 10.22.20 AM

You know how hard you need to work before you take the next week off? We’ve all been through that, and apparently Denver City Council has been through that, too, since there is no city council meeting this coming Monday.

The agenda last night was packed with important issues. Establishing a climate change office and a tax. That was postponed. Addressing the use for a tiny piece of land for a hotel at Chestnut Place and 29th Avenue that neighbors want to keep as open space. That was postponed, too. The urban development plan for East Colfax Avenue between Monaco and Yosemite. That was a full discussion and involved the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA).

And, finally, there was a lengthy discussion (and vote) on accepting the municipal district plan that will fund the work for infrastructure on the soon-to-be-community of homes and stores on the former Loretto Heights campus.

The city council meeting wrapped up after midnight, and all I wanted to see was the last item on the agenda: how to understand the workings of the municipal district needed to redevelop the campus. I bailed at 11 p.m., and finished watching the meeting this morning on the city’s  Channel 8.

The district – with so many ins and outs and nuances – was approved by the city council, though there were two No votes (Candi CdeBaca and Stacie Gilmore) and an Abstention or perhaps not there (Amanda Sandoval).

Westside Investment Partners Mark Witkiewicz spoke about the estimated costs for developing the 70-acre campus: $97 million is the overall estimate to make Loretto Heights a going concern, ready for homes and stores. He estimated that it would cost about $53.9 million to build roads, sidewalks, and other key infrastructure, and about $24 million for other improvements, supported with grants and historic tax credits. There were concerns that the interest on the bonds would continue to grow, since the owners of the future will be required to pay for that work, but Westside would rather not pony up the funds for the project. Westside does not develop housing, but the company does develop commercial properties.

Fast forward to this morning, and the Loretto Heights campus was again up for discussion, this time at the Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure committee of the city council. This time, though, the issue was to discuss the campus’ area plan, which has made recommendations for what should go where on that land, and what should not be part of the project.  The area plan pretty much sailed through the city’s Planning Board earlier this month.

What was interesting this morning was when the topic of preserving buildings on the campus was discussed. Some have been identified as important buildings to keep, including Pancratia Hall, the administration building, and the chapel (and a lot of people are pulling for the theater.)

Witkiewicz said that he was banking on tax credits and easements to help fund working with historic buildings. For example, Pancratia Hall, which has been earmarked for affordable housing will cost $22 million for preservation and adaptive reuse, and $42 million for the administration building, which also needs updating. He had one opinion on how tax credits would work with just an easement, rather than full designation; the city planning department planner who deals with preservation had a different opinion, but we’ll see how that goes.

Denverite reporter Donna Bryson conquered the late-night discussion of occasionally esoteric financial information about the municipal district. The link is below.

Below is a link to Colorado Politics, with my favorite quote: “This conversation tonight is easy. Colfax needs the support,” said Councilman Chris Herndon. “We cannot do enough to serve these people — people who’ve been neglected for a very long time.”

After all, a good part of the comments were concerns about people being pushed out of that area. Oh, well.

As for climate change bills postponed, here’s a link on that:

Finally, the postponement of voting on the future of that tiny piece of land at Chestnut Place and 29thAvenue will be back at the  September 23 city council meeting. The applicant asked for a postponement to have time to have more conversations with those who want to keep the open space.

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