BY FREDA MIKLIN
At a GV city council study session on February 25, 2019, a committee chaired by Council Member Anne Ingebretsen and including Mayor Pro Tem George Lantz, Dave Bullock and Judy Hilton presented a plan to create a zoning overlay for commercial businesses on Arapahoe Road, east and west of I-25.
The type of development envisioned by the plan essentially mirrored what exists currently, “retail/restaurant/entertainment” west of I-25 and “hotel and big box retail closer to the interstate…” east of I-25.
What was new was a plan to give sales tax rebates to future developers as part of a “‘template agreement’ (to) offer economic incentives to those property owners rehabilitating or reconstructing existing buildings.” The template for tax rebates was public improvements that developers might contribute, which Ingebretsen’s committee described this way: “Whatever the (city) council decides is a benefit to the overall public realm and Greenwood Village image can be considered a ‘public improvement’ for purposes of reimbursement eligibility.”
The committee also presented another novel idea for consideration, that GV “budget a specific amount of funds to be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Qualifying façade or site improvement projects could thereby seek reimbursement for a certain amount of their project cost,” though there was concern that, for example, “a rebate of $50,000 may not be enough incentive for a $250,000 façade enhancement.”
The plan stated that the city should consider investing in public improvements in the area, but included no specific plans to do so. After discussion by the entire city council, the plan and the accompanying proposed ordinance were tabled. The committee went back to the drawing board.
On May 6, Ingebretsen, Lantz, Bullock, and Hilton presented a revised overlay district to be named the Arapahoe Entertainment District. The new location was Arapahoe Road only west of South Yosemite Street, presently zoned Mixed Commercial.
Ingebretsen said, “In addition to investments that we may be willing to make as a city, we want to create incentives for landowners to also invest in their properties…Turns out we already have…a sales tax rebate program that fits this entertainment district almost to a T.”
Fellow district two council member Dave Kerber said, “There are 21 places to eat and 12 places to get drunk (in GV on Arapahoe Road west of South Yosemite Street). It is an entertainment district now.” He went on, “I don’t see any use (in the proposed overlay zoning) that can’t be done now, under the current ordinance…We have a pretty successful strip shopping mall there right now.”
Buxton Customer Analytics describes sales tax rebates as a “development tool used.by municipalities…to attract and retain businesses or provide infrastructure for a development project.”
In recent years, Arapahoe Road in Greenwood Village has seen significant redevelopment, built without giving developers sales tax rebates or funds to cover the cost of site improvements on their private property. Examples are REI, Chuy’s Restaurant, and Torchy’s Tacos. The rebuilt and rebranded Cinnebarre Greenwood Plaza is about to open (in place of the old Greenwood Theatre) and Molly’s Spirits is in the process of taking over the space formerly occupied by Incredible Wine and Spirits at 8557 E. Arapahoe Road. Presently in the review process in GV’s planning department is a proposal to convert the 4.2-acre sight at 7939 E. Arapahoe Road to “repurpose the existing 54,350 square foot building as a destination entertainment venue.” Even McDonald’s at 6686 S. Yosemite Court is being demolished and completely rebuilt. None of these developments, completed or in-process, required or requested rezoning, city funds, or sales tax rebates.
The only time sales tax rebates were used in recent history in Greenwood Village was to support specific public improvements needed to build the Landmark development. In order to get the Landmark Towers and retail area development done, in 2005 the city came to an agreement with the developer to rebate 50 percent of enhanced sales taxes from the new retail area to offset the developer’s cost to 1) build the underground parking garage for the movie theatre, restaurants, and shopping area; 2) extend Greenwood Plaza Boulevard from Roslyn Street to Syracuse Street; and 3) reconfigure and/or reconstruct Quebec Street, East Berry Avenue, Syracuse and Roslyn Streets. Those rebates were for a term of 20 years ending in September 2027 or when a maximum of $16,983,720 had been paid. That arrangement is still in place. The total amount paid to date under that agreement is $4,874,730.