Mayor Michael Hancock proudly announced a new fund Monday that will somehow generate revenue from the National Western Center and in some way invest it into the communities in north Denver.
Exactly how the newly announced Community Investment Fund will work still needs to be figured out. And it likely will be at least 2018 before the details start to get sorted out, according to the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center.
The executive director of the office, Kelly Leid, said the fund is “the first example of a direct benefit” the community is going to see from the redevelopment of the National Western Center, but he doesn’t have answers for how it’s going to be put in place.
“Part of getting to those answers really requires the communities’ whole involvement,” he said. “Hopefully this is one of many examples as we start to bring the campus on line of how we want to engage communities around the campus in a thoughtful way that gives them direct benefits from the National Western Center project.”
The Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center will likely help coordinate meetings to get input from the residents in Elyria, Swansea and Globeville in and near where the center is located. How and when people will be able to weigh in on how they’d like the fund to work is still unknown.
“The announcement does feel a little premature, however, we did that intentionally,” said Erika Reyes Martinez, spokeswoman for the office. “For us, we don’t want it cooked up and then to take it out to the community and say, ‘Hey this is a great benefit for you.’ It really has to be created by the community.”
The president of the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association, Drew Dutcher, said he and others want to shape what the fund looks like.
“It’s going to require us as a community to really step up and say what we want and what our needs are and not be drowned out by outside interests that stand across us or have an outside agenda,” Dutcher said.
The Office of the National Western Center is helping set up an organization, similar to ones that manage Coors Field and Mile High Stadium, to oversee operations and programs related to the campus.
That yet-to-be established authority consisting of representatives from the city and county, Colorado State University and The Western Stock Show Association will serve as the fiscal agent of the Community Investment Fund and will work with the community to establish how it works. The structure of the authority is expected to be finalized and approved by Denver City Council before the end of the year. And it’s likely the group won’t get up and running until after the 2018 National Western Stock Show in January.
One way it might work?
The Office of the National Western Center is already looking at ways the Community Investment Fund could work. One option is being dubbed the “round up” program.
Under the program, people who purchase food and beverages at the center would have the opportunity to round up their total to the nearest dollar amount with the extra cents going into the fund.
The city projects about $55,000 could be collected during the stock show and closer to a quarter of a million could be generated once the complex is transformed to a year-round destination and global hub for agriculture and innovation.
Dutcher points out that under the round up program, money for the Community Investment Fund would not technically be coming from the city.
“I’m worried it might turn out to be a pittance,” he said. “Remember there’s $3 billion to $4 billion getting spent in these neighborhoods and so far the neighborhoods have got nothing. This is a gesture by the city to try to show that they care and that they want to do something, but the city’s not doing it. They’re not chucking in a dime. This is all private money they get.”
With similar funds, money has been generated for laptops for schools, community land trust, public wifi in parks, community gardens and job skills training, Reyes Martinez said. “It will be up to the community.”
Dutcher said he’d like to see money go toward establishing a place where neighborhoods could shape projects in their areas.
“Our communities are getting transformed over night and we’re just bystanders. We’re just watching it,” he said. “Give us a hand in the planning and designing of our own neighborhoods.”
Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.