The Central Leadville Urban Renewal Plan was adopted on June 18 after over two years of preparation. The plan’s adoption will allow the Leadville Urban Renewal Authority to start accepting proposals for urban renewal projects in the plan area.
LURA projects will use tax increment financing to revitalize blighted areas of Leadville’s urban core through historic building restoration, improvements to public infrastructure, utilities upkeep and more. The financing mechanism diverts increases in property tax revenues from a base rate, within the plan area, into a URA fund which will then be used to subsidize renewal projects.
The City of Leadville first set its sights on establishing an urban renewal authority in 2016 when John Lichtenegger bought the property along U.S. 24 that will soon become the Railyard at Leadville.
In 2017, the city’s URA consultant Ricker Cunningham completed a survey of conditions within the drafted planned area. The area’s boundaries include 330 acres and 372 legal parcels along Harrison Avenue between Elm and Monroe St. to the south and Tenth St. to the north. The Railyard property, which was annexed to the city in 2017, is also included.
Ricker Cunningham’s survey found that 11 of 11 total possible blight factors, as defined in state statute, were present within the area’s boundaries at varying degrees of intensity. Conditions of blight include deteriorated and/or unsafe structures, inadequate street layout, lack of public utilities and more.
LURA also worked to craft tax-increment financing-shareback intergovernmental agreements with Lake County’s other taxing entities in 2017 and 2018. The IGAs outline the percentage of incremental property-tax revenue generated within the URA plan area that each special district will allow LURA to retain.
The City of Leadville and Colorado Mountain College agreed to allow LURA to retain 100 percent of incremental property tax revenues generated within the URA plan area. St. Vincent Hospital will retain 25 percent, the Leadville Sanitation District will retain 15 percent, Lake County School District will retain 10 percent, and Lake County will retain a one-percent administrative fee.
Several locals voiced concerns over LURA’s power of eminent domain at the City Council hearing on June 18. Steve Prestash attempted to remove his clothes in protest of the plan, and Bob Homiak wanted to know if property owners would be notified if their property was classified as blighted.
City Council proceeded to add language to the adoption resolution stating that the authority shall not initiate eminent-domain proceedings against single-family residential property in the plan area absent a written request by the property owner. LURA could technically still attempt to acquire blighted commercial properties through legal process, but according to Mayor Greg Labbe the authority does not plan to do so.
“We aren’t looking to do anything with your home,” Labbe told the Herald.
The authority is finalizing an application form and will soon start accepting proposals for revitalization projects. Projects must align with the City of Leadville Comprehensive Plan and LURA’s goals, some of which include preservation and maintenance of historic structures, streetscape beautification, pedestrian connectivity, diversification of housing types, secured parking areas and more.
City Council will authorize and oversee LURA’s administration of the plan and prioritization of projects.
There are several downtown property owners, Labbe said, who could benefit from tax-increment financing.
Gavin Jacobs needs to stabilize the back wall of 500/504 Harrison Avenue, while City on a Hill Coffee owner Adam Schuknecht and his business partners could use help financing 311/313 Harrison Avenue’s renovation. Lichtenegger has also expressed interest in applying for TIF funding from LURA.
“People don’t understand how precarious the situation along Harrison Avenue is,” Labbe said.