Denver City Council OKs Ballpark Improvement District for Election | Westword

City Council Approves Ballpark Improvement District Proposal for November Election

Only property owners in the Ballpark neighborhood will vote on the district plan in November.
If approved, a property tax is expected to generate $1.3 million for the Ballpark GID in its first year
If approved, a property tax is expected to generate $1.3 million for the Ballpark GID in its first year Sarah McGill
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Denver City Council has approved the creation of a Ballpark General Improvement District (GID) for the neighborhood around Coors Field, paving the way for residents and property owners in the area to vote on the proposal this November.

Business owners in the area feel that the Ballpark neighborhood gets lost in downtown discussions because of its location between the Lower Downtown and RiNo neighborhoods.

If approved in the November election, the new GID would collect a special tax from businesses and residents between 20th Street to the west, Wewatta and Blake streets to the north, and an alley behind Welton Street to the south. The eastern boundary would extend to 26th Street in some parts and only to Park Avenue West in others.

The idea of a GID in the Ballpark District started in 2017, but attempts to bring it to fruition have been stalled. However, proponents feel like it is finally about to be a reality.

“This initiative has the potential to build lasting partnerships between all community stakeholders in a way that has never been achieved before,” Chris Payne of Riverside Investment Development and one of those pushing for the GID said before council voted on Monday, July 8.

Mayor Mike Johnston’s House1000 and All In Mile High initiatives to combat homelessness and increase safety in Denver have helped the area, according to Payne, but the GID would ensure that support outlasts a mayoral term.

“The primary objectives of the GID are creating a collective voice for the neighborhood, supporting community members, strengthening the local economy, providing a comprehensive maintenance plan and defining and establishing a sense of place in the neighborhood that doesn't currently exist,” Payne said.

Candice Pineda, owner of Mexico City Restaurant & Lounge, was emotional on Monday night, choking up while asking councilmembers to vote yes.

“The challenges that we face today are both really simple but also really complex,” Pineda said. “We want to keep our community safe, clean and fun for our patrons, for our employees and for, of course, the wonderful residents of Ballpark.”

The Colorado Rockies would be part of an eleven-member district advisory board, which plans to focus mainly on safety and homelessness issues. Representatives from City Council District 9, the city Department of Transportation & Infrastructure, owners of local businesses and residents would also be on the board.

Kevin Kahn, chief customer officer and vice president of ballpark operations for the Rockies, told the council that the franchise is thrilled for the GID to become a reality.

All who spoke before council on July 8 were in favor, but one written comment from citizen Thomas Rowe questioned the tax increase.

“People are living on fixed incomes and dealing with ridiculous inflation such that they can barely get by,” Rowe wrote. “Why would you implement something where a lien could be put in place against people's homes in which if they can't afford your tax increase they could actually lose those homes and livelihood?”

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless also sent a letter to council with questions about the GID, councilmember Shontel Lewis said; CCH wanted to know if the GID will provide dedicated homeless outreach and what impact it might have on sweeps of those living on the streets in the area.
click to enlarge Woman speaks at microphone during city council hearing
Former Denver mayoral candidate and former executive director of the River North Arts District (RiNo) Jamie Giellis is helping lead the charge for a general improvement district for the Ballpark neighborhood.
Denver 8 TV
Jamie Giellis, former Denver mayoral candidate and former executive director of the River North Arts District who is now consulting for the Ballpark neighborhood, was at the meeting. According to Giellis, before the GID can perform services related to safety, security or homelessness, it would have to create an intergovernmental agreement with the city to negotiate the terms of those services and which third-party operators would be involved. CCH would be included in those discussions, she added.

Giellis told a council committee in June that the GID plans to contract with Block by Block, an organization out of Kentucky, which would hire local staff as community ambassadors and train them to move homeless residents by telling them about the housing and jobs programs in Denver.

“This service delivery team isn't going to be in the business of doing large-scale sweeping and things like that,” Giellis reiterated on July 8. "The city has done a great job, really, making an impact on so many of the encampments in the area — and the goal now is to ensure that as opposed to those getting big or dangerous or creating situations for those within the camps that are not safe, that we're proactively working with people to get them to services or get them assistance.”

The Ballpark GID plans to collect revenue with a tax of $5 for every $1,000 of assessed value for every commercial and residential property in the district's boundaries, but there would be higher rates for commercial properties than residences. According to Giellis, the owner of a home valued at $500,000 would expect to pay an annual GID tax bill of around $200, while the owner of a commercial property valued at the same amount would pay around $700 per year.

The tax is expected to generate $1.3 million for the Ballpark GID in its first year. The first-year budget proposal includes $750,000 for security, homeless navigation and community ambassadors, $300,000 for landscaping, cleaning and infrastructure projects, and a one-time $85,000 cost to organize the GID.

There are four local maintenance districts currently overlapping the boundaries of the Ballpark GID that would eventually be dissolved, with the GID taking complete charge of the maintenance responsibilities in the district.

Though councilmember Sarah Parady expressed concerns about outsourcing security work to agencies with less city oversight, all councilmembers except Lewis voted to approve the district.

“This is a small step,” councilmember Darrell Watson, who represents the GID area, said at the meeting. “Lots more work to be done, but this is a great big step for this neighborhood, and I can see the emotion in many of you because I know the decades-long work that you've done.”

The Ballpark GID and its special tax will go in front of Ballpark District property owners and residents in the November 5 election.

This article was updated on July 11 to fix an error stating that only property owners could vote on the Ballpark General Improvement District.
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