Denverites eagerly indulged in Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s State of the City Address at the Hiawatha Davis Jr. Recreation Center July 10.
Before Hancock took the stage, encouraging words were said by Councilman Albus Brooks. The nonprofit organization Up with People serenaded the national anthem and 2017 Thomas Jefferson High School Graduate Yonis Noor gave the Pledge of Allegiance.
Hancock tackled three key areas that currently impact Denver: affordable housing, transportation and new city projects.
Affordable Housing for All
The first item of discussion on Hancock’s list was affordable housing–a major concern for most Denverites.
“My sister, Carlyne, just moved back home from the east. She was amazed to find Denver housing prices were out of her reach,” Hancock said to the crowd. “We have helped drive the creation of 3,000 affordable homes over the past four years–a total we thought would take us five. Nearly 1,000 more are under construction and over 1,500 on top of that will get started over the next year. But many residents need an affordable option today, not a year from now.
“I am excited to announce that we will pilot a new partnership to open 400 existing, vacant apartments to low and moderate-income residents struggling to find an affordable place to live,” Hancock continues. “We have apartments sitting vacant because there’s a gap between what it costs and what people can afford. Working together with the Denver Housing Authority, employers and apartment building owners, we aim to fill that gap.”
Hancock explained that he wants to pull money from the $150 million Affordable Housing Plan, which will crank out 6,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years. He also wants to submit a 2018 budget proposal to the City Council in September, focusing on anti-displacement and affordability measures to support families and small businesses. The budget will also contain proposals on transportation and health care costs.
Transportation in Different Modes
The next priority on Hancock’s list was transportation and moving more people more safely and efficiently though Denver.
“I know many of us relish the days when it took 15 minutes to drive anywhere in Denver. But 15 minutes now takes 30 or longer,” Hancock said. “The quality of our streets is deteriorating. We don’t have enough mobility options and our roads are not as safe as they used to be.
“Today, I’m announcing a new Mobility Action Plan. This plan will serve as a clarion call for a future that offers mobility freedom for all by supporting the choices we know our residents want to make,” Hancock continued. “It will accelerate the policies and projects necessary between now and 2030 to move more people more efficiently and safely. Today, 73 percent of Denver commuters drive to and from work in cars by themselves. By 2030, our goal is 50 percent, with 30 percent of our commuters biking, walking or taking transit.”
The goal for the new Mobility Action Plan is to help support the next generation of commuters who believe in various ways of getting around Denver. By 2030, the plan is expected to take traffic fatalities to zero, increase commuters walking and/or bicycling to 15 percent and have commuters taking transit to 15 percent. Sidewalk repair, upgraded intersections and crosswalks and a Bus Rapid Transit along Denver’s busiest streets are other benefits from this new plan.
Hancock also mentioned two pilot projects he’s planned for this summer. First, with the help of RTD, 1,500 high school students will get free bus passes. Next, in partnership with DaVita, weeklong biking safety classes will be offered to middle-school students at the Hiawatha, Montbello, La Alma and St. Charles recreation centers. Free mountain bikes and helmets will be given to 100 kids.
Taking on New Building Projects for Denver
Hancock gave insight on new building projects in Denver.
First, the Carla Madison Recreation Center, in honor of Councilwoman Carla Madison who died of cancer in 2011, will open in Central Denver this fall. It will include lap and leisure pools, a weight area, a cardio area, fitness and multi-purpose rooms, a dog park and more. This rec center will be the biggest rec center in Denver.
Second, The National Western Center is creating a community investment fund that is currently estimated at $200,000 a year. Investments will be governed by the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods, who will use the money for community improvements and programming support. The funds will come from operating and other revenue from the center.
Third, the Colorado Convention Center will get a facelift. A $233 million expansion and renovation plan is in the works. The plan will upgrade 120,000 square feet of existing space and add 250,000 square feet of new rooftop, exhibit and event spaces along with an outdoor terrace with mountain vistas.
“By upgrading the Colorado Convention Center, we will maintain one of Denver’s most important industries: tourism,” Hancock said to the excited Denverites. “Richard Scharf and VISIT Denver have been phenomenal partners not only on this, but in their continued pursuit to bring new and bigger conventions to Denver.”
Lastly, Hancock aims to redesign DIA’s Great Hall. The main goal of this redesign is to extend the capacity of the terminal from 50 million passengers to more than 80 million per year. The TSA will increase in capacity by an estimated 50-70 percent. The whole facility from escalators and elevators to restrooms will be updated and 26 new airline gates will be added.
“I’m certain the state of our city is strong because you, the people of Denver, are strong. Your determination has powered our progress and empowered each other while preserving the uniqueness of our neighborhoods,” Hancock said. “That is what makes us the best city in America–the great city that a great mayor, Federico Pena, challenged us to imagine all those years ago.
“There’s a quote engraved on the side of the Webb Building downtown: ‘What is the city but the people?’ The people of Denver are what make Denver a great city,” Hancock continued. “Your aspirations, your civic patriotism. That’s what has propelled the city to new possibilities. A city by and for the people who call it home is our guiding light. Without you, there is no city.”
To read Mayor Hancock’s full speech, click here
This article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of the Denver Urban Spectrum