Denver council OKs River Mile’s taxing districts, paving way for project’s funding

A rendering of potential development envisioned as part of "The River Mile" in the Elitch Gardens area. (Courtesy Revesco Properties)

A rendering of potential development envisioned as part of "The River Mile" in the Elitch Gardens area. (Courtesy Revesco Properties)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

The massive River Mile project took a step forward on Monday as the City Council approved a bill establishing six metro districts developers hope will ensure funding for its eventual development.

The City Council unanimously passed a bill creating the six metro districts, voting 12-0. District 3 Councilman Paul D. López was not in attendance.

The River Mile plan would create a new downtown district on a 60-acre property around Elitch Garden.

Andrew Johnston, from the city’s Department of Finance, said Monday the six new districts include one responsible for management that will be responsible for overlooking improvements; four special taxing districts that are specifically designed to generate money to pay for infrastructure; and one regional district that will help pay for possible developments near the Platte River and nearby regional improvements. (This one will be optional for nearby property owners.)

The massive project could include 59-floor skyscrapers and housing for up to 15,000 people that wouldn’t but completed until 2040 (when city officials believe Denver’s population could reach nearly 900,000 people).

Developers Revesco Properties have previously said they would need $665 million or more in infrastructure to support the new district. So before they can build a new development, they would seek to pay for its infrastructure — for streets, water pipelines, parks and open spaces — by establishing a special taxing districts. This would secure a funding stream to pay for its infrastructure grid.

The city is still working out the kinks for an overall development agreement and infrastructure plan, which Councilwoman-at-large Deborah Ortega said she hopes takes into consideration surrounding communities.

Rhys Duggan, of Revesco, said the plan follows the downtown area’s plan, which includes ensuring more units for affordable housing. He added that he hasn’t had “detailed” conversation with community members about affordable housing options and jobs in the region, but the plans for River Mile do call for more affordable housing.

Council members only had a few questions about its development. Monday’s decision is the start of a longer process that will require additional approvals.