Every urban renewal project in which DURA gets involved, by its nature, is difficult. If a proposed project did not have problems—financial, physical, or market driven—the private sector would be able to accomplish the redevelopment on its own and there would be no need for DURA assistance.
DURA becomes aware of potential projects in a number of ways. Projects may be brought to the authority’s attention by city leaders, neighborhood groups or developers, among others. Sometimes, as was the case with the revitalization of Denver’s downtown, redevelopment is part of a city policy directive.
Once DURA has a proposed project before it, the authority follows a structured process to take a redevelopment effort from concept to reality.
The first step is to conduct a conditions (blight) study. This task is generally performed by consultants skilled in conducting these studies. A conditions study has a two-fold purpose—to determine whether DURA can become involved in a project and to help establish the boundaries of the urban renewal area. Often the boundaries used for the study become the boundaries for the urban renewal area, but the final area also may be smaller than the area used for the study. In no circumstance may the urban renewal area boundaries be set outside the boundaries of the conditions study area.
If blight is found, according to the specific criteria outlined in state statute, the next step is creation of a redevelopment plan. This plan provides a legal framework for implementing redevelopment activities in a project area. The redevelopment plan may also authorize the use of tax increment financing (TIF). This plan is approved at public meetings by both the DURA Board of Commissioners and the Denver City Council.
Most redevelopment plans are subject to a design review process, frequently in conjunction with the Planning Office and other city staff. The purpose of the review is to make sure that any proposed redevelopment project fits appropriately into the surrounding area and with any overall city planning objectives, as articulated in Denver Comprehensive Plan 2000, Blueprint Denver and neighborhood plans.
Once City Council has approved the redevelopment plan, DURA negotiates a redevelopment agreement with the developer. This document includes a detailed description of the project, the budget, how the tax increment financing will be used, and a performance schedule, among other things.
There are several points at which the public can have input into the redevelopment process. People who reside in, own property in, or have a business in a neighborhood have the biggest stake in a redevelopment project. For that reason, a developer may seek neighborhood input on a project even before coming to DURA for assistance.
Once DURA has been asked to get involved in a redevelopment effort, it engages with the community to discuss the urban renewal area and the redevelopment plan objectives.
When a redevelopment plan reaches City Council for approval, the public has another formal opportunity to comment on the plan. The state Urban Renewal Law requires a public hearing on every plan before City Council takes action, and that public notice be given not less than 30 days before the hearing in a general circulation newspaper. All property owners, residents and owners of business concerns in the proposed urban renewal area must receive written notice of the public hearing.