Nov 5, 2019
DENVER – Nearly two years to the date since voters approved the largest general obligation bond in Denver’s history, the $937 million Elevate Denver Bond Program, City Council today authorized a third debt issuance of $117.2 million for safety, connectivity, and community projects citywide. With this latest tranche of funds, the program has issued roughly 40 percent of the nearly billion-dollar investment into projects prioritized by the community during a year of public input and more than 4,000 comments from across Denver.
“Our residents are passionate about improving our neighborhood assets for everyone who enjoys Denver, from our parks and libraries, to bikeways and bridges. Elevate Denver is delivering on that vision,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “Projects funded through the third issuance of the bond will continue the momentum of providing all residents equitable access to community resources, cultural facilities, and multimodal transportation options that connect all corners of the city with these amenities and more.”
The Elevate Denver Bond Program is divided into a series of debt issuances and phased over the 10-year program. The first debt issuance in June 2018 authorized $193 million toward projects across the program’s seven purpose categories. In May 2019, an $82 million second issuance provided Denver Health and Hospital Authority and the cultural facilities their remaining voter-authorized funds to complete projects. To date, Denver Health and the cultural facilities have spent 70 percent of their Elevate Denver dollars.
The third issuance authorizes funds for more than 100 city-led projects, including $28 million to revitalize parks and bring health and wellness to neighborhoods across the city. Close to half of the third issuance is dedicated toward transportation and mobility to create more connections between neighborhoods, bus stops and rail stations, improve intersections, repave roads and sidewalks, enhance pedestrian safety along high-traffic corridors and expand the city’s bicycle infrastructure.
Of the nearly $50 million in transportation and mobility investments in the third issuance, $14.1 million will be used to repair some of the city’s most utilized bridges. According to the 2018 Denver Moves: Downtown study, more than 54,000 people travel into and out of the downtown area each day during peak hours, often over decades-old bridges. The 14th Avenue bridge over Cherry Creek, a more than 60-year-old-bridge, will receive construction funds to address deferred maintenance and better accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. The 25-year-old Park Avenue West bridge will also receive dollars for construction while the bridge along Speer Boulevard over the Platte River will receive funds for design for maintenance of the iconic teal arches and the bridge’s deck.
“The city maintains nearly $8.4 billion worth of capital assets,” said Denver’s Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon. “Delaying maintenance on those assets can increase our future costs and decrease the life of our infrastructure, so upkeep is crucial. Elevate Denver provides the necessary funds to address deferred maintenance.”
Denver’s roadway network will see an influx of $11.5 million through the third issuance for paving and curb improvements on arterial and collector streets. This work is done in coordination with multimodal improvements and bicycle route expansions. Throughout the bond program, $18 million will fund up to 50 miles of improved bikeways. In the third issuance, $6.4 million will go toward constructing the first round of high comfort bikeways designed in 2019 and fund design for the next batch of bikeways within neighborhoods. Another $4.5 million will go toward building out sidewalk infrastructure, filling sidewalk gaps, and improving pedestrian crossings citywide.
Whether it’s new bikeways, a renovated fire station, ADA-compliant ramps or improved playgrounds, Elevate Denver’s third debt issuance brings improvements to all corners of the city. In the far northeast, $2.6 million will fund preliminary design and Right-of-Way acquisition for the 56th Avenue reconstruction, a four-lane multimodal improvement project to improve safety and mobility and is anticipated to reduce car crashes by up to 65 percent. Meanwhile, in the far southwest, $200,000 will fund design for more functional and accessible parking at Harvey Park Recreation Center.
Big or small, all capital investments progress through a project lifecycle that includes community input at every phase, starting with development work like environmental analysis, concept plans, site studies and preliminary programming studies. Once a plan is in place, a project enters design. This phase of a project often includes activities like surveying, permitting, developing construction packages and acquiring property if necessary. Finally, as a project enters construction, teams renovate or demolish existing sites or break ground on new sites to construct or install improved infrastructure. Throughout all phases, teams work actively with the public to steer the project and solicit feedback. The third issuance funds projects within all phases of this lifecycle, including:
East Colfax Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Total Elevate Denver Funds: $55 million
Third Issuance Funds for Development and Preliminary Design: $2.5 million
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a federally required policy to study the potential environmental impact of capital developments. The third issuance completes the full funding of NEPA and preliminary design for the East Colfax BRT project. Colfax Avenue has the highest bus ridership of any corridor in the region. RTD’s 15/15L routes combined see seven million annual boardings and weekday ridership is expected to double by 2035. The East Colfax BRT will increase capacity and reliability by providing high-frequency, all-day service along one of Denver’s most traveled corridors. Further assessment, design, community input, and implementation planning will inform the project’s next steps, including potential phasing, a funding strategy, and timeline.
Westwood Recreation Center
Total Elevate Denver Funds: $37.5 million
Third Issuance Funds for Design and Property Acquisition: $10 million
The Westwood Recreation Center was one of the most advocated projects in Elevate Denver, and a total of $37.5 million was approved by voters for land acquisition, design and construction. This summer, the city took the first step toward delivering this project and purchased two land parcels for $5.4 million to serve as the home of the future Westwood Recreation Center. The footprint on Morrison Road offers roughly 126,000-square-feet for the new center. With $10 million issued for design and real estate acquisition, a robust community engagement process is set to kick off in the coming weeks to gather public input and direct the vision for the new space.
Denver Central Library
Total Elevate Denver Funds: $38 million
Third Issuance Funds for Construction: $11 million
The Denver Central Library is the epicenter of Denver Public Library operations. More than half of Elevate Denver’s $69.3 million for library systems will go toward the Denver Central Library. The project is quickly heading toward construction. Recently, the city shortlisted firms to serve as the Construction Management and General Contractor (CM/GC) for the project. This type of contractor procurement allows the project to move through early construction phases while providing cost estimates, and scheduling and planning assistance during the remainder of design. As the premier public library and research facility in Colorado, Denver Central Library is the most publicly accessible and visited civic building in Denver, hosting more than one million visitors each year. The renovation includes significant upgrades to enhance safety and security, conduct deferred maintenance, and reconfigure the building for modern library programs, services and resources. Renovations will occur throughout the 540,000-square-foot building to ensure the space remains a welcoming and state-of-the-art library for generations to come.
The Department of Finance will conduct a competitive sale and price the third issuance of bonds in the coming weeks. Pending market conditions, the bonds are expected to close by late-November. For more information, visit the Elevate Denver website.
In total, the Elevate Denver Bond program will fund more than 500 projects over ten years across the city’s 78 unique neighborhoods, improving parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, upgrading police and fire stations, and enhancing cultural centers as well as Denver Health and Hospital Authority – preserving and improving the assets that define Denver and make it a city that works for everyone, now and into the future.