Watch a video at the end of this blog
A lot of lauding and applauding filled a banquet room in the Hyatt Regency Denver this morning, as more than “650 of the busiest” business leaders in the area gathered for the 56th annual meeting of the Downtown Denver Partnership.
“It’s good to gather here once a year to review all of the exciting things that happened, in the past year. You sometimes lose that perspective when you are so involved in your day-to-day activities,” said John Shaw, president of the Loveland-based McWhinney development company, who has opened an office in downtown.
Shaw and others attending the event also received a glimpse of downtown Denver’s future.
Tami Door, President and CEO of the Partnership, addressed a number of initiatives to continue to make downtown an even more vibrant community, touching on improvements to the 16th Street Mall, the fledgling Arapahoe Square, and a host of housing and retail initiatives.
And Gov. John Hickenlooper even coined a new phrase for downtown’s future. Hickenlooper, a big fan of Richard Florida’s “Creative Class,” concept to provide the necessary urban fabric to attract the best and the brightest, took the notion in a different direction with what he called “creative anarchy.”
Hickenlooper joked that he could never use the word “anarchy” and “downtown” in the same sentence when he was mayor. But he said that what he described as anarchy, actually leads to more collaboration.
Hickenlooper quoted novelist, commentator and all-around deep thinker Mark Halprin to give gravitas to the creative anarchy concept: “A tranquil city of good laws, fine architecture, and clean streets is like a classroom of obedient dullards, or a field of gelded bulls – whereas a city of anarchy is a city of promise.”
Hanock high on downtown
A strong downtown, he said, will strengthen suburbs, and the great suburbs means an even greater downtown. The same is true for Colorado’s mountain communities, he added.
Incoming Mayor Michael Hancock said that he has had the privilege of traveling the world, and he believes that Denver has the best downtown anywhere, although some may call that hyperbole.
Hancock said he looks forward to working with the Partnership on all of the various projects on its plate.
Hancock ticked off a list, including Arapahoe Square, Union Station, the 16th Street Mall, the ongoing effort to turn 14th Street into an Ambassador Street, and the growth of the theater district. The city also must continue to deal with the homeless issue, he added.
These efforts will pay off in helping the city deal with a fragile economy, he said.
“Push the lever, if you will, and it will create jobs,” Hancock said. “It is time to keep the momentum going and have the most vibrant and vital downtown in the world!”
Acting Mayor Bill Vidal, meanwhile, noted that this could very well be his last public appearance, before turning over the reins to Hancock next week.
Vidal, with his usual good humor, provided some light moments.
Vidal noted that he is phasing out the famed “Barnes Dance,” that allowed people to cross downtown green traffic lights on the diagonal, in order to make the crossings more pedestrian and bike friendly.
Now, pedestrians waiting for the lights to change, watch as the timer ticks down, moving side to side, with a sprinter’s mentality to cross the street at the most opportune moment.
“My staff said we should call it the Vidal cha-cha,” he quipped.
As an engineer by training, he also takes great pride to infrastructure projects, such as the 14th Street improvement.
“I love the smell of concrete in the morning,” he said.
Door, the Parntership’s President and CEO, meanwhile, outlined some of the key objectives and priorities of the Partnership.
Among other things, Door announced:
- The first phase of the 16th Street Mall renovation will begin in the early fall, as transit lanes and sidewalks between Court and Tremont places are restored, as well as the planting of new trees, furnishings and lighting.
- A major planning process, similar to the 14th Street initiative, will take place on Curtis Street, which serves as the gateway to the Arapahoe Square – an area that has the potential to be downtown’s largest mixed-use development. The Partnership is identifying “catalytic projects” to spur development there, after succcessfully advocating the City Council to designate it as an Urban Renewal Area.
- The Partnership is committed to finding a site and funding sources to bring a Public Market to downtown. “So if you have any extra money you want to contribute to it, or have some land you want to donate, talk to us,” she said.
- The Partnership is working off of a list of almost 300 prospective retailers to bring to downtown next year. Such efforts pay off, she noted, as the Parntership helped bring H&M to the Denver Pavilions. Also, the Partnership will launch its first exclusively Downtown Denver mobile application next year, which will promote shopping, dining and other attractions.
- In the next month, the Partnership will roll out a new an dimrpoved outdoor vending program called “Marketplace on the 16th Street Mall.”
- The Partnershp will continue outreach to he largest employer in downtown, contacing more than 30 of them next year and rrange meeting with the Mayor’s and Governor’s offices. To grow the number of start-ups in downtown, the DPP will create a Downtown business incubator with Plug and Play Colorado, The Energy house and the Auraria Higher Education Center.
Door also announced that Southwest Airlines will again sponsor the ice skating rink in Skyline Park.
The Partnership also plans to launch a new event – Make Music Denver – on June 21, 2012, which will include organized and impromptu music performances throughout downtown. This event began in Paris and has spread throughout cities worldwide.
Meanwhile, internally, the Partnership announced the new leadership on three boards.
At Downtown Denver Partnership Inc.:
- Chair: Ferd Belz, Real Estate Generations LLC.
- Chair-elect: Cole Finegan, Hogan Lovells US LLP.
- Treasurer: Travis Webb, BKE CPAs and Advisors.
- Secretary: Meg VanderLaan, MWH Global.
Downtown Denver Inc.:
- Chair: Cole Finegan
- Vice Chair: David Kenney, the Kenney Group
- Secretary: Ralph Pace, US Bank
Denver Civic Venures Inc.:
- Chair: Elbra Wedgeworth, Denver Health and former City Councilwoman.
- Vice Chair: Joe Vostrejct,s Larimer Square.
- Secretary: Trinidad Rodriguez, George K. Baum Co.
Volunteer of the Year Awards went to:
- Kathy Holmes, Holmes Communications.
- Richard Marshall, Nolte Vertical Five.
- Laura Love-Aden, GroundFloor Media.
The President’s Award went to Southwest Airlines. Denver is the fastest growing city in Southwest’s 40-year history.
The Honorary Partner Award went to Bob Flynn, principal of Crestone Partners, for providing strong leadership with the Downtown Denver Partnership for at least 10 years.
Door noted that Flynn was a member of the committee that first hired her in 2005, although she assured the audience that is not why he is getting the award.
Flynn, for his part, said that probably was probably the single most important contribution he has ever made to the Partnership.
Watch a video at this Downtown Denver Partnership Link
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