Denver is going to go big with a $937 million bond program — whoa, that is a lot of money

“People want to see projects that will benefit the entire city,” Mayor Michael Hancock said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at the 2017 State of the City address. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock unveiled a $937 million bond proposal Monday that takes Denver close to the limits of its ability to borrow money without raising taxes. This is a necessary investment, the mayor said, and he believes that voters will agree.

“This bond is an incredible opportunity to respond to the growth and demand we are seeing here in Denver and ensure we preserve and enhance this place we are all so proud to call home,” he said. “… The list represents a $937 million investment to protect, repair and improve our city so it can remain the home we are all proud of.”

Hancock also praised the community input into the ultimate project list.

“People want to see projects that will benefit the entire city,” he said. “They want us to fix and repair our existing infrastructure, facilities and assets, and they want the biggest portion of the funds to go towards one of our biggest needs: transportation and mobility. This package does all of that.”

The list is divided roughly evenly between new projects and deferred maintenance, and roughly half of the total list — $415 million — will go toward transportation and mobility.

“This list says, ‘Denver, we hear you,'” Council President Albus Brooks said.

You can see the full list here.

Earlier this year, at a City Council retreat, Councilman Paul Lopez said the bond needs to address long-neglected needs on the city’s west side.

“I’ll be campaigning on this bond issue one way or another, and I’d like to be campaigning in favor it,” he said back in January.

Monday, he said he was very pleased with the projects included in the bond list, particularly a recreation center in Westwood and the renovation of 13th Avenue to let Sun Valley residents reach Federal Boulevard more easily.

“We’ve been working for more than a decade to prepare for this,” he said of his community. “This happens with good community organizing. We turned out. We showed up.”

Denver City Council meets as a “committee of the whole” to discuss the proposed bond package on July 17 and July 24 and then will vote on the final form of the bond program in August.

The issue then goes to voters in November.

The program proposed by Hancock adds in nearly $200 million worth of projects that were cut by an advisory committee that whittled the list down to a more modest (“modest”) $749 million program.

The projects added back into the bond program by the Mayor’s Office include:

  • $5 million for the Arkins Court River North Promenade, a city priority as it works to develop neighborhood amenities in RiNo and transform north Denver;
  • $7 million for bike, pedestrian and accessibility improvements to the Alameda underpass just east of Santa Fe (the drainage issues that create the infamous “Alameda Falls” are the responsibility of the railroad, not the city, officials said);
  • Almost $5 million for renovations at the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and the Eugene Field Branch Library;
  • An additional $7 million for renovations to the Central Library, bringing the total to $38 million;
  • $25 million to replace the District 6 police building, 1566 Washington St.;
  • $15.6 million for an indoor pool in Green Valley Ranch;
  • $6.5 million for phases II and III at Paco Sanchez Park;
  • An additional $14 million for Colfax corridor improvements, bringing the total to $20 million;
  • $7 million for improvements on the Auraria campus to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to get around;
  • $3.7 million for High Line Canal connections;
  • $8.4 million for improvements to the intersection of Colorado and Buchtel boulevards;
  • and $5 million for multimodal improvements along Hamden.

Other major projects in the proposed bond program are:

  • $75 million for a new ambulatory care center at Denver Health;
  • Renovations to Smiley, Byers, Ross-Broadway, Athmar Park, Ross-University, Pauline Robinson, Ross Barnum and Schlessman Family branch libraries;
  • $4 million for improvements to the Greek Amphitheater in Civic Center Park;
  • $15 million for an indoor pool at Swansea Recreation Center;
  • $37.5 million for a Westwood Recreation Center, a priority in the recently adopted neighborhood plan for this neighborhood;
  • $8.6 million for reconstruction of the Eighth Avenue bridge over the Platte River;
  • $9.4 million for a pedestrian and bike bridge over the railroad crossing at 47th and York;
  • $12 million for multimodal improvements along Broadway, from Colfax to I-25;
  • $13 million for implementation of the 16th Street Mall Plan;
  • $17 million for pedestrian improvements in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea;
  • $23 million for reconstruction of Washington Street between 47th and 52nd Avenue;
  • $35.5 million for renovation of the Denver Art Museum’s north building;
  • $6.8 million for improvements at Red Rocks and the Buell Theatre;
  • $18 million for a Center for Science, Art and Education at the Denver Botanic Gardens;
  • and $20 million for phase I master plan implementation at the Denver Zoo, including a new animal hospital.

This story has been updated to include more detail about the funded projects.

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.