Big plans near, neigh­bors brace for con­struc­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Tom McGhee

Den­ver’s an­nual love af­fair with the old West be­gins this week­end with the open­ing of a Na­tional Western Stock Show steeped in tra­di­tion, and cel­e­brat­ing an up­com­ing re­newal.

But res­i­dents in sur­round­ing ar­eas could face daunt­ing traf­fic and other prob­lems as Na­tional Western and other con­struc­tion projects, un­der­way and loom­ing, come to­gether dur­ing the next few years.

“It will be a night­mare. But when it is over and done, it is go­ing to be awesome,” said David Olet­ski, pres­i­dent of Globeville Civic Part­ners.

Den­ver vot­ers gave the NWSS a rea­son to cheer in Novem­ber when they ap­proved ballot mea­sure 2C, per­ma­nently ex­tend­ing an ex­ist­ing 1.75 per­cent lodger’s tax and rental car tax to pay off $476 mil­lion in bor­row­ing for the first two phases of in­fra­struc­ture and projects at the Na­tional Western Cen­ter.

Vot­ers “have solved the prob­lem of a de­cay­ing com­plex for 100 years,” said Paul An­drews, Na­tional Western pres­i­dent and CEO. “This has been a tremen­dous year for

the fu­ture of the Na­tional Western Stock Show.”

The project is ex­pected to cost $856 mil­lion, and the state will pro­vide $250 mil­lion, money that will help Colorado State Univer­sity ex­pand its ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams on the site, forming an in­no­va­tion hub.

Over the next decade, the stock show, CSU, the city and county of Den­ver, and other part­ners will con­vert an ob­so­lete stockyard into a ma­jor year-round en­ter­tain­ment and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­ity.

CSU will help build the Front Range’s rep­u­ta­tion as the “Sil­i­con Val­ley of agri­cul­ture,” said Jo­ce­lyn Hit­tle, di­rec­tor of Den­ver pro­gram de­vel­op­ment for the CSU sys­tem.

Con­nect­ing points

The plan will mesh with the de­vel­op­ment of new RTD FasTracks North Metro Line, ex­pected to open in 2018, and re­con­struc­tion of In­ter­state 70 in the area, a project ex­pected to be­gin in 2017.

The fu­ture of­fers tan­ta­liz­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties and se­ri­ous con­cerns for the stockyard’s neigh­bors in the Globeville and Elyria Swansea neigh­bor­hoods, said Judy Mon­tero, for­mer City Coun­cil Dis­trict 9 rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Nearby res­i­dents oc­cupy ar­eas where some of Den­ver’s last af­ford­able hous­ing is clus­tered.

In the long term, Mon­tero said, res­i­dents are con­cerned that op­por­tu­ni­ties opened up by light-rail ser­vice and im­prove­ments to the high­way could be off­set by gen­tri­fi­ca­tion.

Light rail, which is planned to run east to Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, will open op­por­tu­ni­ties for res­i­dents, she said. “Imag­ine if you were to get a train to your gig at the air­port and get to work,” Mon­tero said.

The plan for I-70 presently fa­vored by city of­fi­cials would run the artery be­low ground and re­move the mas­sive steel and con­crete over­head high­way even as the Na­tional Western im- prove­ments bring much­needed em­ploy­ment.

But will bet­ter-heeled new­com­ers snatch up prop­er­ties as trans­porta­tion im­proves, making neigh­bor­hoods more de­sir­able in a hot hous­ing mar­ket?

“Are peo­ple go­ing to be able to stay in the neigh­bor­hood?” Mon­tero said.

Peo­ple are con­cerned that while work is un­der­way, es­pe­cially that for I-70, it will en­dan­ger res­i­dents, and lock up streets, Olet­ski said.

Even now, he said, he sees trucks that aren’t per­mit­ted on the neigh­bor­hood’s streets rolling through the neigh­bor­hoods to avoid in­ter­state traf­fic.

Will busi­nesses close to the high­way con­struc­tion zone be able to sur­vive as streets are torn up and traf­fic is rerouted? Mon­tero asked.

“How will (busi­nesses) con­tinue to op­er­ate dur­ing con­struc­tion? How will (the Colorado Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion) work with them to see that their busi­nesses stay open and vi­able?”

The stock show “will co­or­di­nate with CDOT and RTD to see what we can do to min­i­mize the im­pact” on lo­cal streets, An­der­son said.

Show prepa­ra­tions

At­ten­dees at this year’s show will see lit­tle dif­fer­ence from past years in traf­fic, An­der­son said.

Most con­struc­tion on the rail line is com­plete or on hold un­til af­ter the event, said Karen Woods, the stock show’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing. Some ad­just­ments have been made to stag­ing ar­eas in places where RTD has run track through the yards, she said.

In 2017, how­ever, Na­tional Western will build new roads.

“The com­muter line will mean chang­ing the way ex­hibitors come in and out,” said An­der­son.

Once the rail line is run­ning, it will help the show at­tract visi­tors and will “be a great as­set to the area for peo­ple to take that new rail line,” An­der­son said.

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