Denver to Invest Over $500 Million to Restore Downtown Vibrancy

Published on May 09, 2024

A group of people, including Mayor Mike Johnston, stands outside on a gloomy day. The mayor is at a podium giving a press conference with the others at his side.

Mayor Mike Johnston today announced a transformative new investment to restore vibrancy and expand economic opportunity throughout Downtown Denver. Delivering on the promise of building a more accessible and prosperous downtown, Denver will invest more than $500 million over the next decade to accelerate economic growth in the heart of Denver.

“This is a major step toward restoring downtown and building a more vibrant Denver,” said Mayor Mike Johnston. “This transformative investment will spur growth and redevelopment throughout the urban core while expanding economic opportunity across the city. Working alongside residents and businesses, we will restore downtown and prove that even our toughest challenges can be solved when we work together.” 

Downtown Denver has been slower to recover from the pandemic than some other parts of the city. Like other urban cores across the country, Downtown Denver has seen lower foot traffic, more businesses closing, and a lack of new housing development since the shift to remote work. The new funding stream announced today will help unlock more housing options, open more public spaces that are welcoming and accessible to all, and attract world-class businesses where people want to shop and work.

Map of downtown Denver highlighting the proposed DDA area around Union Station

The new investment will be funded by the “Downtown Development Authority” (DDA). The DDA is a state statute that allows municipalities to fund downtown economic development projects by collecting a portion of the incremental taxes generated within the central business district. Denver’s existing DDA was established in 2008 and allows the city to generate revenue from a portion of the property and sales taxes collected in the area of Union Station and Market Street Station. This arrangement has previously helped deliver more than $400 million to support transportation projects at Union Station to better serve residents and attract new visitors and businesses. However, the existing DDA is currently limited to this project.

In 2024, Mayor Johnston will work to update and expand the existing DDA. This will include working with local communities and businesses to craft a shared vision for a more vibrant downtown. These consultations will help inform a formal Plan of Development, which Johnston will submit for City Council approval. Through this work, the DDA will be able to deliver transformative public investments throughout the downtown core, which it cannot do today. In total, expanding the use of Denver’s DDA is expected to make more than $500 million available for investment within the proposed expansion area downtown(PDF, 1MB). The earliest funding would be available is 2025.

Mayor Johnston has made revitalizing downtown a central part of his agenda. In his first six months as mayor, Johnston led a successful initiative to permanently close 10 street encampments in and around downtown and move indoors 1,000 people experiencing homelessness. The Denver Post editorial board praised the effort, saying that “the transformation downtown is palpable.” In 2024, Johnston is doubling down on this success with a push to provide housing and services to another 1,000 people. Johnston also announced the new Clean and Safe Downtown program to ensure the central business district remains a safe and inviting place for visitors and residents alike. As part of broader economic development efforts, Johnston also recently joined leaders from across the city to inaugurate the Colorado Convention Center expansion — a major redevelopment effort that is anticipated to generate an additional $85 million in annual economic impact.

>> Webpage on the expansion and proposed use of Denver’s DDA: denvergov.org/DDA

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