By Mike McKibbin
In November 2016, Wheat Ridge voters approved ballot measure 2E, called “Investing 4 the Future,” a half-cent city sales tax increase to pay for projects to improve transportation infrastructure, create economic development opportunities and help attract more residents. The tax hike went into effect Jan. 1, 2017, and is to end in 2029.
The city earmarked $33 million of that revenue for four projects: Anderson Park ($4 million); transportation infrastructure for the Clear Creek Crossing project ($10 million); widening of a section of Wadsworth Boulevard ($7 million city match for a $45 million to $60 million project); and public infrastructure and amenities at the G Line Wheat Ridge-Ward light rail station ($12 million).
City Manager Patrick Goff provided an update on the four projects in his recent unofficial State of the City presentation and an interview.
Plans call for outdoor pool locker room renovations; building renovations to replace a leaking roof, reconfigure space for more fitness and wellness classes; replace the baseball field with a multi-purpose sports field that will also host festivals; reconstruct and improve the soccer field; upgrade the park pavilion and small shelter. Additional needs are parking lot repaving and waterline replacement. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall with completion by May 2019 for the buildings and July 2019 for the park.
Clear Creek Crossing
2E funds will finance construction of westbound I-70 hook ramps for the Clear Creek Crossing project, removal of the 32nd Avenue off-ramp and a new street connection to 32nd Avenue. Goff said first phase contracts have been signed and work was to begin in early or mid-July.
A project subdivision plat has been approved and a public financing proposal to help the project proceed was to be presented to City Council on July 9, he added. That would include a $15 million bond issue through the Longs Peak Metropolitan District, a share of the city’s lodging, admissions and other tax revenue, and a $5 million bank loan through the Wheat Ridge Urban Renewal Authority with property tax increment financing.
“We think it will be a good investment because the city will get a significant amount of money when the project opens,” Goff stated.
The mixed-use project between 32nd Avenue and Highway 58 is to include multi-family residences, retail stores, entertainment facilities, restaurants, hotels, a large anchor store and a 35-acre office complex. A trail system will provide connections to the Clear Creek Trail.
In April 2016, the city began an environmental assessment and access management review to widen Wadsworth Boulevard between 35th Avenue and I-70 to six lanes. The major components are to widen the street; provide better bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities (two-way cycle track, continuous sidewalks, landscaping and improved Regional Transportation District facilities); manage driveway access to the street and provide enhanced amenity zones along the corridor, particularly between West 38th and West 44th avenues.
Goff noted a handful of historic properties had to be taken into consideration in the project design. The environmental assessment is to be finished by summer 2019, right-of-way acquisition will last through spring 2020 and construction would happen between mid-July 2020 and 2022.
Wheat Ridge-Ward Station
With 2E funding, the city will address traffic growth and encourage redevelopment and economic development surrounding the G Line station at 52nd Avenue and Ward Road: Reconstruction of the adjacent streets (Ridge Road, 52nd Avenue, Tabor Street); a traffic signal at the Ward and Ridge roads intersection; a pedestrian bridge over the rail tracks, pedestrian access improvements and other public amenities.
Goff said RTD and Denver Transit Partners, the company hired by RTD to develop and operate the G and A light rail lines, expected to receive Federal Railroad Administration approval to begin a 21-day testing period on the G line. Testing will ensure the rail crossings along the line function correctly. No opening date for passenger service between Wheat Ridge and Union Station in downtown Denver has been set, Goff added.
Goff’s presentation also included updates on several projects not receiving 2E funds:
The Jolly Rancher New Towns project still needs city approval, Goff said in the interview, but is progressing. It could include around 200 townhomes, live-work units, 6,000 square feet of commercial space and more than two acres of open space.
Financing is being sought by the developers of the TRAX at Ward project, Goff said, with the possibility of some remaining 2E funds involved. The project could include 221 market-rate apartment units.
The Hance Ranch Townhomes project has been scaled back slightly to 63 townhomes, but is “ready to go,” Goff said.
A Starbucks coffee shop is open in the Applewood Shopping Center and work on a Hacienda Colorado restaurant is to begin at the end of this summer, Goff added.
Four stores are planned for the former Walmart site at 38th Avenue and Wadsworth as the Corners at Wheat Ridge project, Goff said. Those include a Lucky’s Market, which could be open around the middle of August, he added. More than $6 million in city TIF money helped the project proceed.
The West End 38 project now features a new Vectra Bank building, with the old bank building and other structures set for demolition, Goff noted. The project could also include 150 units of multi-family housing and 8,000 square feet of retail space. The city used $2.4 million in TIF money to help the project.
The renovation of the Fruitdale School building, 10803 W. 44th Ave., now called Fruitdale School Lofts, was a $6 million project. The city loaned nearly $2.6 million, the city housing authority loaned $570,000 and the city was repaid $1.5 million. Other funding sources were developer equity, a Citywide Banks loan, federal and state tax credits, federal funds through Jefferson County Community Development, Xcel Energy solar power production credits and a state historic fund grant. The Temple Buell-designed building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has 16 mixed-income, loft-style rental housing units.
The $4.1 million renovation of Prospect Park is funded by grants, open space tax and the Great Outdoors Colorado program through the Colorado Lottery. Goff said new football and baseball fields are complete, work on pickleball courts was underway and new playground equipment was to be installed.
The new Swiss Flower & Gift Cottage, 9840 W. 44th Ave., is close to completion, Goff said, with an eventual 19,800 square feet of retail and maker space. The city approved approximately $650,000 in TIF funding for the new building, with $500,000 of that directly associated with public improvements to and around a four-lot, two-acre subdivision with a large detention pond.