East Colfax from Grant to Josephine set for major walkability upgrade

It would be a major renovation of sidewalks, signage and other amenities along East Colfax Avenue. The overall plan for the strip is much bigger.

An illustration of a possible rebuilding of pedestrian amenities on Colfax Avenue. (Colfax BID)
An illustration of a possible rebuilding of pedestrian amenities on Colfax Avenue. (Colfax BID)
An illustration of a possible rebuilding of pedestrian amenities on Colfax Avenue. (Colfax BID)

Update: The district voters approved the tax increase. As of Nov. 8, it stood at 34-17. There are several votes left to be counted, but not enough to change the outcome, according to Colfax BID officials.

Owners of businesses and commercial property along East Colfax Avenue are voting on whether to pay additional property taxes to complete a major renovation of sidewalks, signage and other amenities along the strip.

The vote would allow commercial property taxes to increase by up to 3.3 percent along a stretch of Colfax. The extra money would go to the Colfax Business Improvement District, potentially increasing its annual budget from about $400,000 to about $750,000.

If the increase is approved, Colfax BID could use the extra money to take on about $2.5 million in debt, according to its leadership. That money would largely be spent on an ambitious plan for streetscape improvements across 1.5 miles from Grant to Josephine streets.

Current plans include new lighting, signs, map kiosks, artistic crosswalks and expanded sidewalks where possible. Also on the wish-list are bike racks, trees and more.

The Colfax BID is a special city-affiliated organization that is allowed to collect extra property tax and spend it on projects. It’s governed by board members who own businesses and property within the district.

One property owner quoted in the Denver Business Journal alleged that the vote hadn’t been properly publicized. Locantore said that there had been numerous meetings about the streetscape funding plan, and ratepayers were notified of the potential for a tax increase through a mailing in June and several email announcements since then.

About 600 businesses and owners are eligible to vote.

Where would the money go?

The overall plan is expected to cost $10.5 million, according to Locantore. In addition to $2.5 million from the BID, it also could get $5 million from the bonds package that also goes to a vote on Tuesday. Locantore is also hoping to convince the city to chuck in a further $3 million.

He argues that this is an opportune time to spend more money on the avenue, considering that the city is gearing up to install bus rapid transit and other changes.

“By coordinating our streetscape improvements with the city’s investments, we can make our money stretch further,” Locantore wrote in an email. For example, he said, the BID could make some of its improvements alongside city projects, skipping the expense of digging up curbs and sidewalks twice.

Plans call for design to begin in the months ahead and for construction to run from 2018 through 2022, but that schedule could change with other city projects.

How does it affect me?

If the measure passes, the Colfax BID board then could decide whether to increase the district assessment to the new maximum.

At the current BID levy of 7.846 mills, property assessed at $100,000 would pay about $780 in extra property taxes to the BID per year. If the levy is increased to 11 mills, that extra tax bill would increase to $1,100.

Again, these assessments only apply to commercial properties, so they’re paid either by business owner or their landlords. The results of the vote should be available on Tuesday night.

Other sections of Colfax also could get millions for pedestrian upgrades if the citywide bonds package passes.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.