Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Walmart debate should make presidential debate look like chit-chat

The presidential debate won't be at University of Denver until tomorrow night, but the great debate is already raging in Denver: Does a Walmart belong in the development going in the former University of Colorado property at Ninth and Colorado? And if it does, should it benefit from tax-increment financing?

Ten days ago, Denver City Council president Mary Beth Susman and Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, whose districts both border the area, revealed that they were opposed to the deal. In the wake of that announcement, the Colorado Boulevard Healthcare District meeting on October 4 where the project would have been discussed -- opponents had asked for a place at the podium -- was canceled. The next meeting is slated for November 1.

And the developer went back to the drawing board, announcing this:

Denver, CO -- September 21, 2012 -- The developer of the site on the former University of Colorado Health Sciences Center campus announced today that he is evaluating financial restructuring of the site.

The current General Development Plan approved by the Denver Planning Commission and the Colorado Boulevard Health District neighborhood organization has been presented to hundreds of neighbors at nearly a dozen public meetings over the last several months. It provides for a new urban town center of green space, restored historical buildings and a diverse mix of large format stores and local retailers. The plan has also spurred neighborhood concerns over the inclusion of a next generation Walmart store as one of the anchor retailers.

"We have a number of options available to reconfigure the financial structure and composition of the development plan," said Jeff Fuqua, CEO of Fuqua Development. "The current design plan gives the neighbors and the whole city of Denver a vibrant retail and community gathering space that will generate millions in sales tax revenues, and as such we want to build that plan."

The options for restructuring include finding a more creative and innovative financial structure. Fuqua's basic commitment to a vibrant, community-centered and financially viable development plan remains and the company fully intends to proceed with the development.

"From the beginning we have taken the input of neighbors and community leaders seriously and worked to build a development that the entire city can be proud of," said Fuqua. "Our commitment has been to build a new-urban development that is not only the best in metro Denver but among the best in the nation. That is our plan moving forward and we welcome the opportunity to continue collaborating with City Council, Mayor Hancock and the community to make it happen."

Meanwhile, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union took five Walmart workers to Wall Street yesterday, where they talked with analysts about problems they saw at the company, including low wages and unsafe conditions.

And the debate continues....

What's on the University of Colorado property now? Many buildings, including two by renowned architect Ed White that might have deserved landmark status. Read about it in "Wake-Up Call: And the rest is history ."