Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Walmart Debate Comes to INC

Dave Felice, Greater Park Hill neighborhood, introduced new business at the recent August Inter Neighborhood Cooperation/INC delegate meeting by making a motion for INC to stand with the residents from surrounding neighborhoods in opposing a proposed Walmart store at the University Hospital site development at 8th and Colorado Blvd. It resulted in one of the liveliest conversations among attendees we’ve had since the food producing animals/FPA ordinance discussion!
BackgroundFuqua Development LLC, has plans for the 28-acre site at Eighth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, including some 40 retailers, a 325-unit apartment complex by Alliance Residential LLC, a parking garage and a restaurant row along 8th Avenue. Project costs are estimated to be $150 million. The outcome is to be determined in November by City Council.
Per Dave Felice and an article in the Denver Business Journal, Fuqua wants to bring in a smaller, more urban-oriented Walmart store, to be located at East 11th Avenue and Albion. Dave indicated most of the neighborhoods are against Walmart coming in. As example, we learned that Congress Park did a survey which found 90% of the respondents were against Walmart coming into this development.
The proposed store format would have most of the parking underground and a 119,000 square-foot, two-story store. Fuqua representatives say Walmart was the only store to respond they could commit to the purportedly constrained structure available. The area has been determined to be a blighted area therefore Urban Renewal will also allocate funding for this site.
Primary IssuesNeighbors are concerned with Walmart’s business practices and the size/nature of the store in that it might shut down other retailers. Neighbors also have expressed a strong objection to the proposal that a tax-increment financing (TIF) district would be formed with the help of Denver’s Urban Renewal Authority (DURA). Neighbors feel that taxes shouldn’t go to support private businesses such as Walmart. DURA says the cost of demolishing the existing buildings and creating the necessary infrastructure improvements would be too prohibitive for any developer to make a return on an investment. DURA outlined a plan to rebate sales and property tax to the developer for some of the cost of the infrastructure improvements and indicated the developer would take 100% of the risk since the rebates came only in the form of taxes generated by development.
Bradley Zeig, INC Executive Committee member, indicated Walmart has nothing to do with this (TIF) decision, rather that this is a landlord-tenant relationship. He further stated that TIF’s are being used to demolish buildings and restore 16 blocks of public streets, including putting back all of the sanitary system, sewers, and infra-structure, and if these things under the TIF are not done, they won’t get Walmart or any other to come to this development.
Resulting MotionMichael Henry, Chair INC Zoning & Planning committee, asked Dave to withdraw his motion to have INC support surrounding neighborhoods against these developer plans and instead to send this matter to committee and give INC adequate opportunity to hear both sides of this issue before asking INC to take a position. Dave agreed and made a motion to have INC engage in a full bipartisan examination of the controversy through the Zoning & Planning/ZAPCommittee which will then present the position no later than the October delegate meeting. The motion passed unanimously.
RESULT OF AUGUST 25 ZAP MEETING: The following is excerpted from ZAP Committee Minutes of August 25 as it relates to this topic:
The committee discussed how Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation can best be involved in the ongoing discussions/controversies about the redevelopment of the 28-acre former campus of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at East 9th Avenue and Colorado Blvd., including the issue of Walmart as a tenant. The committee will send questionnaires to all registered neighborhood organizations (RNO Presidents) in the vicinity of the campus to determine if and how the RNOs are doing their decision-making on the issue. INC will then consider if it will take its own position to convey to City Council, which is presently expected to vote in approximately November 2012 whether to authorize the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to allow tax-increment financing to enable the redevelopment of the entire site. Michael Henry indicated that part of the purpose of this exercise will be to encourage neighborhood groups to have informed and fair processes to take their positions, including information from all sides of the issue.”
Inter Neighborhood Cooperation


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