By Mike McKibbin
Time is constant and so is change. The City of Wheat Ridge recognizes that reality in its unofficial 2018 State of the City address by City Manager Patrick Goff.
Goff said his presentation is not an “official” State of the City address – usually given by mayors of surrounding municipalities – and he has used it as an outline of the city council’s directions for the current year.
One key issue Goff focused upon was the need to upgrade the “Repositioning Wheat Ridge, Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy,” a 50-page document that described the city’s early 2000s economic situation and recommended various steps to “regain its strength in the area and reinvent itself as a thriving, economically diverse community, with broad commercial and residential opportunities.”
The document needs to be updated, Goff stated, because a lot has changed since it was adopted in 2005.
“It’s still the overall direction we want to go, that hasn’t changed,” he said in an interview. “And we’re using the same firm (Winston Associates and several others). Just like before, we’ll have a lot of community discourse to gather public input over the next year.”
The update will cost the city around $218,000, Goff stated. A 20-member citizen steering committee is planned to be in place in July to help guide the process, he added.
Goff said the study was undertaken because the city wanted to know why it appeared to be “stagnating” compared to its neighboring municipalities. That included the need to regain its share of “strong households” it had lost over the past 25 years, the study noted.
“Those are the young, upwardly mobile families, the ones who invest in their communities and schools,” Goff said. “Wheat Ridge has been known as having a large senior population, and it’s not like we want to get rid of them. But we needed to diversify.”
The study noted Wheat Ridge used to be more balanced demographically.
“Residents across all family and income spectrums were attracted to and remained in the community,” according to the study. “However, since the 1980s, other communities have effectively out-competed Wheat Ridge in attracting families and higher income households from Wheat Ridge, resulting in these strong households either leaving Wheat Ridge or simply not being attracted to Wheat Ridge in the first place.”
That resulted in an “unbalanced community,” with at-risk households (lower income, single parents) the main housing demographic at the time. That imbalance affected the image, condition, economic health and competitiveness of Wheat Ridge when compared to the greater Denver metro region, the study noted.
“We had a lack of diverse housing types back then,” Goff said. “It was a lot of single-family, ranch homes. Not everyone wants that type of housing, so now we’re adding different types of housing. We now have townhomes, single-family, even what you might call mini-mansions. And we have several market-rate housing projects coming online soon.”
Also new to the revised document will be short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, and accessory dwelling units.
“We know there are about 70 or 80 of those in Wheat Ridge, but they’re not really regulated right now,” Goff stated. “So we want to make sure we have a handle on that, too.”
The next study will likely put more emphasis on the city’s retail sector as well, he said.
Goff added the city’s comprehensive plan references the neighborhood revitalization strategy, so an update to this plan could lead to an update of the comprehensive plan. The latter is about 8 or 9 years old, he said.
Goff also noted Wheat Ridge will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and having a revised strategy will help the city move forward into the next half-century.
High number of police calls, traffic issues require attention
Another city goal in Goff’s presentation was to develop an I-70/Kipling Street corridor strategy to address crime, aesthetics and redevelopment opportunities. That grew partly out of the high number of police calls for service in that area, where five lodging establishments are located next to an interstate highway and busy business street.
Goff cited 2015 statistics that found 3,909 citizen-initiated calls for service in the corridor, or nearly 13 percent of the total number of such calls city-wide that year.
“You have a lot of homeless issues because of the location and there has been a lot of drugs and prostitution in the past,” Goff added. “On top of that, transportation through that intersection is just terrible. It backs up during rush hour past 32nd and something needs to be done.”
The city is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation on a future reconstruction of that intersection, which could include the removal of some or all of the hotels and motels and redevelopment of the area.
The CDOT project web page noted a diverging diamond interchange configuration was the preferred alternative, similar to the U.S. Highway 36 and McCaslin Boulevard interchange in Louisville. Kipling Street will remain under the I-70 bridge. A final environmental assessment is scheduled for release to the public later this year.
“But neither the city nor CDOT can come up with (an estimated) $60 million to rebuild the interchange right away,” Goff said. “CDOT would have to buy those properties, too. We can’t just piecemeal development there because we don’t know for sure how the interchange will work.”