Urban renewal is a process specifically authorized under the Colorado Urban Renewal Law to assist Denver and other local governments throughout the state in revitalizing their communities.

In Denver, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority uses redevelopment to address sites within communities that once served productive uses but have deteriorated, are underutilized or vacant and need assistance to become viable again. To accomplish urban renewal, DURA forms partnerships with private entities and uses tax increment financing (TIF), a tool available only to redevelopment agencies, to breathe new life into those areas. As a result, the entire community benefits from the creation of new housing, retail, jobs and tax revenues.

Urban renewal can be a catalyst for revitalization efforts for a deteriorating shopping center, an environmentally contaminated site or an industrial area that is no longer in operation. Redevelopment plans are created with input from the area affected and adopted so they can respond to a neighborhood’s unique needs and vision.

Urban renewal enables communities like Denver to grow inward, not just outward. It enhances and expands local businesses, renovates declining housing stock and improves public infrastructure systems and facilities. Urban renewal also helps encourage new housing and businesses to locate within already developed areas. It helps reduce crime and long commutes, promotes affordable housing and preserves the environment.

In Denver, urban renewal and redevelopment continue to:

  • Stimulate private investment by using new public revenues created by the redevelopment;
  • Attract news jobs and businesses;
  • Create more housing, much of it affordable;
  • Reduce crime;
  • Build or improve roads, utilities and public facilities;
  • Revitalize obsolete or vacated large facilities such as hospitals, military bases and airports;
  • Preserve and create open space;
  • Transform hazardous waste sites (called brownfields) into productive uses;
  • Build schools;
  • Preserve historic buildings;
  • Boost property values;
  • Reduce air pollution and traffic; and
  • Provide needed retail and other services in underserved areas.
  • Denver Urban Renewal Authority

The Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) is an urban renewal authority that serves as the redevelopment agency in Denver. The Colorado Urban Renewal Law governs DURA and all of the state’s urban renewal authorities.  Through December 31, 2015, DURA was governed by an 11-member board of commissioners, appointed by the Mayor of Denver and confirmed by the Denver City Council for staggered five-year terms. Effective January 1, 2016, the board composition increased by two commissioners, one being an elected board member of Denver Public Schools and one being a board member of one of the special districts that levies a property tax within Denver.

DURA’s mission is the elimination and prevention of blighted areas through creative redevelopment. Before the authority may get involved in a project, the area first must be found to be blighted. A blighted area means an area which, in its present condition and use, has substantially and adversely affected or slowed the reasonable growth of the community, hindered the provision of decent housing, or constitutes a social liability to the community, and therefore is detrimental to the well-being of the citizens. The Colorado Urban Renewal Law (C.R.S. 31-25-101) delineates the requirements for determining blight, and if blight is not found, DURA does not get involved.

To accomplish its mission, the authority works in close partnership with the Mayor, City Council, and a variety of public entities as well as downtown and neighborhood groups.  DURA redevelopment plans and use of TIF must be approved by City Council.

Factors to Determine Blight

State statute requires that, for an area to be considered blighted, it must not only contain a certain minimum number of undesirable conditions, or factors to determine blight, but it must be shown that the presence of those factors in the area substantially and negatively impacts the surrounding areas and community as a whole, preventing feasible private redevelopment.  There are 11 factors of blight identified in the law, and four of them must be found to be hindering redevelopment efforts for an area to be declared an urban renewal area, unless there is no objection by the property owner(s) and tenants, in which case only one factor of blight hindering redevelopment efforts must be present. If eminent domain is used, although rare, five factors of blight must be found to hinder redevelopment for an area to be declared an urban renewal area. The following factors are used to determine if an area is blighted:

  • Slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;
  • Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout;
  • Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness.
  • Unsanitary or unsafe conditions;
  • Deterioration of site or other improvements on the site.
  • Unusual topography;
  • Defective or unusual conditions of title rendering the title unmarketable;
  • The existence of conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes;
  • Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration, defective design, physical construction, or faulty or inadequate facilities;
  • Environmental contamination of buildings or property; or
  • Inadequate public improvements or utilities.
  • DURA must determine how much area will be included in an urban renewal area, but it is required by state law to draw the boundaries of the area as narrowly as possible to achieve the objectives of the redevelopment plan.

Blight is a legal term used solely for the purpose of determining whether a neighborhood or commercial area can qualify for redevelopment through urban renewal. Not every home or building in an urban renewal area is considered blighted.  Some areas that qualify for redevelopment may have well-maintained homes or businesses interspersed among deteriorating structures and other conditions of blight. If a property is included in an urban renewal area, it means TIF may be used in the area to stimulate redevelopment.

Partners and Community Resources

DURA realizes that it takes a variety of other groups and organizations in order to complete a successful urban renewal project.    In addition to engaging with the community to discuss the urban renewal area and redevelopment objectives, DURA also draws on  financial and community resources including the city’s Community Planning and Development Agency, the Office of Economic Development, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, as well as federal agencies,  private foundations, private developers, banks and other business organizations.

Every redevelopment project undertaken by DURA is reviewed by the Denver Planning Board to determine whether it complies with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.