Economic Development Newsletter

August 2017

Ballot Question 300

Last month, a Jefferson County District Court invalidated an amendment to Wheat Ridge’s City Charter, which had required the city to gain voter approval for any development receiving more than $2.5 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF is a public financing method that allows municipalities to divert future property tax revenue increases from a defined area or district toward an economic development project or public improvement project in the community.

TIF has been an essential development tool for the City. Using TIF, Renewal Wheat Ridge was responsible for the Kipling Ridge Shopping Center featuring Sprouts Farmers Market and a 64-bed senior memory care and long-term care facility. The URA assisted in expanding Wheat Ridge Cyclery, one of the nation’s premier bicycle shops. Using TIF, Renewal Wheat Ridge continues to clean up underground contaminants at the corner of 38th and Yukon Court. TIF was a key factor in converting the old car dealership at the corner of 38th and Wadsworth has been demolished and construction has begun on a new shopping center serving the citizens of Wheat Ridge. TIF is being used to assist smaller locally owned businesses such as Swiss Flower and Gift Cottage and the expansion of their store on 44th Avenue at Jellison and the creation of almost 20,000 sq. ft. of new retail and maker-space. TIF is being used throughout the community to assist in infrastructure and public improvements. TIF is using local tax dollars that could have been spent outside of Wheat Ridge, here, locally in our community.

Approved by voters in 2015, Ballot Question 300 was retroactive to March 1, 2016 and also required any TIF agreement to be ratified by Wheat Ridge’s City Council at regularly scheduled public hearings. The amendment had placed several developments that had already received TIF funding or planned on applying for TIF funds in limbo, including the Wheat Ridge Corners project at 38th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.

The Court, however, ruled that Ballot Question 300 was in conflict with state statute and overturned the initiative as a result. Specifically, the court found that Ballot Question 300 required additional procedures for approval of tax increment financing that was not required by the state’s Urban Renewal Law. The Court found that those additional approvals restricted the City’s Urban Renewal Authority’s power to enter into contracts, execute instruments, and take a broad variety of actions in furtherance of the goals of an urban renewal plan. Further, the Court ruled that the amendment “materially impedes” the state’s interest in combatting urban blight.

The Colorado Municipal League, which had been closely following the issue, noted in its communications that that the Court was concerned about the risk of a ripple effect, “in which developers, seeking a receptive community in which to invest, might relocate a planned project from one community to another, thus triggering additional restrictions.”

The Court did allow to stand the portion of Ballot Question 300, which required that an urban renewal plan be adopted in a public hearing before the City Council, because that requirement is consistent with a requirement that already exists in the state’s Urban Renewal Law.

The Wheat Ridge City Council voted against appealing the ruling at its last meeting, citing the time, cost of an appeal and the potential impact on development. Renewal Wheat Ridge purchased the defunct Stage Stop Antique store and surrounding properties. Removed hazardous materials. Prepared the site for the construction of the Town Center Apartments.

TIF has been an essential development tool for the City. Using TIF, Renewal Wheat Ridge was responsible for the Kipling Ridge Shopping Center featuring Sprouts Farmers Market and a 64-bed senior memory care and long-term care facility. The URA assisted in expanding Wheat Ridge Cyclery, one of the nation’s premier bicycle shops. Using TIF, Renewal Wheat Ridge continues to clean up underground contaminants at the corner of 38th and Yukon Court. TIF was a key factor in converting the old car dealership at the corner of 38th and Wadsworth has been demolished and construction has begun on a new shopping center serving the citizens of Wheat Ridge. TIF is being used to assist smaller locally owned businesses such as Swiss Flower and Gift Cottage and the expansion of their store on 44th Avenue at Jellison and the creation of almost 20,000 sq. ft. of new retail and maker-space. TIF is being used throughout the community to assist in infrastructure and public improvements. TIF is using local tax dollars that could have been spent outside of Wheat Ridge, here, locally in our community.

New Apartments Open in Wheat Ridge

Wheat Ridge renters will soon have a lot more options from which to choose. The Fruitdale School Lofts, located in the Kipling Heights area of Wheat Ridge, is breathing new life into the 44th Avenue corridor while preserving the historic character of the Fruitdale Elementary School, which was designed by renowned architect Temple Buell.

Each of the 16 one or two-bedroom units is unique and include such historic interior features as huge operable windows, high ceilings and chalkboards. The community is also 80 percent solar powered and features two electric car charging stations in the parking lot. With the ribbon cutting held this month, the lofts are now available for rent, with five reserved as affordable housing.

Fruitdale

In the coming months, developers will break ground on two new apartment projects in Wheat Ridge that will add nearly 400 new market-rate units near the corner of 38th and Wadsworth. Another 200 units are proposed for the Transit-Oriented Development site at RTD’s G Line commuter rail station at Ward Road.

The new multifamily projects will help update Wheat Ridge’s rental housing stock and will allow the city to better compete against neighboring communities, which have been adding apartments at a rapid rate.

“New apartment communities are very much in-demand,” explained Wheat Ridge Economic Development Manager Steve Art. “Having new product will allow us to diversify our offerings and attract new residents.”

The Corners at Wheat Ridge project at 38th and Wadsworth Blvd. just broke ground and will include market-rate apartments offering such in-demand amenities as a resort style pool and fitness center and community gathering areas. The units will also be a stone’s throw from Lucky’s Market, as well as 40,000 square feet of other shops and restaurants, and a pocket park. Lucky’s Market is planned to open next summer and the apartments should be ready for delivery in early 2019.

Wazee Partners, meanwhile, plans to build 160 rental units at its West End 38 development at 38th Avenue and Upham Street. The project will feature nearly 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space along 38th Avenue for smaller “Main Street” type storefronts, with outdoor amenities and apartments on the upper floors. Construction on those apartments will likely start next spring.

The City is currently working with the property owners along the Wheat Ridge · Ward Station for the construction of approximately 230 units with high-end amenities for its residents. The apartments will parallel the commuter rail tracks along Tabor Street. No anticipated project date has been set.

Locally Grown Company Expands in Wheat Ridge

Swiss Flower and Gift Cottage Owner Heidi Haas-Sheard was destined to become an entrepreneur. She grew up in the house located right behind the shop on 44th Avenue and spent much of her childhood helping her parents run the store, which they launched in 1969 as Swiss Flower Shoppe. The business has evolved and changed over the years, growing from a small retail shop and greenhouse to eventually include a bridal shop, where her mom also rented out tuxedos.

Heidi bought the shop from her sister 27 years ago, expanding the business from 1,200 square feet to 5,000-square feet and adding an array of new items, including jewelry, clothing, furniture, art, home décor – “basically anything that makes you happy,” says Haas-Sheard. “This shop is who I am. It wouldn’t be the same to move this somewhere else. This is my identity.”


Profile

Now Heidi and her husband Russ are about to launch the next chapter in Swiss Flower’s long history. By next spring, she hopes to open a two-story, 6,600-square foot retail building in the lot next door, to house her expanding business. Renewal Wheat Ridge is providing more than $767,000 in tax-increment financing (TIF) to help cover infrastructure improvements at the site. “The ability to qualify for Tax Increment Financing was essential to do the project. “ Says Haas-Sheard. “It’s thrilling to know a little business like Swiss can develop something that can have a lasting mark on 44th Avenue. Renewal Wheat Ridge staff helped us understand the TIF application process and made recommendations about how to proceed.”

“This is the exact type of redevelopment that urban renewal is seeking in Wheat Ridge.”  Said Tim Rogers, the Chair of the Urban Renewal Authority.  “It’s a locally owned small business that is taking a blighted parcel of land and creating a new vibrant retail and artist’s colony.  This just shows the wide-scope of participation that urban renewal can do to help projects such as this move forward.”

“I know it would be so much easier to do nothing, but I just like to create.  Haas-Sheard continued, “I just wouldn’t know what to do other than make more of what I have. There is so much potential for having a space where you can really spread out and allow the customers to be able to see more” of it in a sense.  Their plans include a second phase that will add another 6,000-square-feet in office and retail space to accommodate artists, architects and other craft-makers and a third phase, would expand the project by more than 7,000-square feet.

Located at 9840 West 44th Avenue, Swiss Flower offers a full line of floral services and the areas most unique gift shopping experiences.  The new facility will complement the current retail store and will allow expansion of offerings to include furniture and large items.  To learn more about Swiss Flower and Gift Cottage, contact them at 303-424-7421.  To learn more about Urban Renewal log onto the City’s website at www.ci.wheatridge.co.us.