UPDATE, Wednesday, Sept. 18: THEY’RE GOING TO KEEP TALKING ABOUT THE GRAVEL PIT.
An RTD board committee on Tuesday voted down a plan to sublease a vacant lot at the corner of Broadway and Colfax for use by a possible new museum.
The National Medal of Honor Museum, which is considering building a $150 million facility across Lincoln Street, wants the lot to build a park. They initially offered RTD $1 a year for the lot that RTD holds a 55-year lease on. After the RTD board turned up its collective nose last month, the city of Denver said it just might cover the $123,000 RTD spends on the lot annually.
But that wasn’t enough to win the support needed. Just seven of the 14 board members present voted to approve the sublease to the city.
That came even after board chair Doug Tisdale pleaded with other board members to vote yes.
“What we have is a very expensive, non-producing gravel pit. Let’s make it something nice,” he said.
“We can’t build a new headquarters there. We don’t have enough room,” Tisdale said. “The alternative uses just don’t work. Besides which, we don’t have the money to do anything. The very first thing I asked when I saw that gravel pit was, ‘Can’t we at least put sod on it and make it look presentable? And I was told, ‘no, we don’t have the money for it.’ ”
Other board members said they were hesitant to let go such a prime piece of downtown real estate.
RTD opened the adjacent Civic Center Station just a few years ago, but staff now say the empty lot next door is not needed for any transit-related uses.
Director Angie Rivera-Malpiede said RTD should consider putting it out for a bid to developers for affordable housing, or a community garden. Director Natalie Menten suggested hosting food trucks or building storage to house electric scooters.
Director Kate Williams said the proposal “didn’t sound like a great deal,” noting that RTD should be able to do more than break even on the property.
“If the city and county of Denver really is our partner, why don’t they partner with us to do a park? Because there’s a lot of green space around there. And when I go there now I think, ‘One more park, we’ll have one more group of homeless people on it.’ Which is what [Civic Center] Park looks like now, adjacent to the library. I don’t think it’s going to be a beautiful entrance to their museum, if it looks like what most of the green space looks like around there now,” she said.
Williams also said the idea of a museum for Medal of Honor recipients did not impress her.
“I don’t know how many national Medal of Honor winners there are that they need a museum,” she said.
“Three thousand, five hundred and twenty,” Tisdale replied just before the committee took its vote (The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation puts that number at 3,500). “That’s how many Congressional Medal of Honor winners there have been.”
The Medal of Honor is typically awarded by the president of the United States and is the highest award given to members of the U.S. Military.
The vote leaves the project in limbo; museum officials have said they want to make a decision on the Denver site in early October. RTD’s Financial Administration & Audit Committee, which deliberated Tuesday, isn’t scheduled to meet again until mid-October.