Short History of the Last Urban Renewal Project in Littleton-Riverfront

If you would rather read a few pages than read the lengthy Summary of the Littleton Riverfront Authority’s Meeting Minutes, then this is for you.  Doug Clark has written a short history of the LRA – take a look.  Thank you Doug!

The History of Littleton Riverfront Redevelopment

Introduction

The Littleton Riverfront Redevelopment started out with lofty urban renewal goals:

  • Transform a marginal and under-utilized area into an environment with 24 hour vitality and use which integrates residential, office and limited retail uses in a three dimensional mixture.1
  • Which will remedy the conditions of blight that impairs and arrests the sound economic growth of the City.
  • Funded by a financially attractive method utilizing tax increment or other financing.
  • Which has been validated by an independent financial analysis by a reputable firm showing adequate tax increment to cover debt service needs.
  • And will provide substantial monetary benefit to all taxing entities.
  • All without subsidization by the City.2Littleton City Council blighted the Riverfront Area and formed an urban renewal authority in 1980, delegating to that authority the task of redeveloping the Area. The authority was originally named the Littleton Riverfront Authority (LRA), but the name was later changed to Littleton Invests for Tomorrow (LIFT). We will use LIFT hereafter to avoid confusion.What actually happened in the redevelopment was very different than what was envisioned by the City Council and LIFT.
  • The “three dimensional mixture” of land uses never happened because the residential and office buildings were never built.
  • The “limited retail” was built but failed after only four years, leaving the shopping center vacant for nine years before it was converted into office uses.
  • The public costs of condemning the properties and relocating the tenants were originally estimated to be a maximum of $2 million,3 and to be “roll-over costs refunded at the resale of the property.” Instead those costs ballooned to more than $13 million, less than half of which was covered by the resale of property.4
  • The incremental tax revenue was never enough to fully service the scheduled payments for any of the three tax increment bond issues used to finance the costs, leaving multiple investors holding the bag on millions of dollars of Riverfront debt.
  • Contrary to idea of “no subsidies required by the City” the City provided multiple subsidies to LIFT, as well as loaning LIFT substantial amounts of money that were not repaid. LIFT currently owes the City of Littleton approximately $12 million.
  • The blight in the area, which was the whole reason for undertaking the redevelopment, was not remedied. LIFT’s consultant has recently concluded that blight currently exists in the Riverfront Area.5
  • The redevelopment did not provide substantial benefit to any taxing entity in the area. None of the taxing entities realized any increase in tax revenue for the first 25 years after the start of the redevelopment, and only minimal revenue increases in the last six years.The Riverfront Redevelopment project managed by LIFT turned out to be a complete failure.The Riverfront Redevelopment urban renewal project did not remedy blight and it did not provide any additional revenue for the city. It did however cost the City of Littleton $12 million, cost the investors who bought Riverfront bonds millions, and siphoned off tax dollars from Littleton Public Schools, South Suburban Parks and Recreation, and Arapahoe County.The Littleton City Council wants to repeat the same process, on the same property, with the same LIFT board.__________________________1. Presentation by Gale Christy to LIFT, January 1981.
    2. City Council Resolution # 64, September 15, 1981.
    3. LIFT minutes, May 11, 1981.
    4. $5M + $1M land sales to Writer Corp., $1.43M loans from City, $5.385M 1988 bonds, + various gifts of cash from the city. 5. Littleton Invests for Tomorrow, Draft Conditions Survey Findings, dated 22 May 2014, pages 48 – 62.

9/26/14                                                                                                                                                                                                        1

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