Enough signatures have now been secured in opposition to a big development plan in Northwest El Paso to allow for a petition on the matter to be officially presented before the El Paso City Council.
Members of that council last month voted in favor of creating a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone that could lead to the possible construction of nearly 830,000 square feet of retail and office development, along with just under 9,500 individual housing units.
Tax revenue from the zone would be used to pay for such public infrastructure as sewer systems, sidewalks, and street lighting.
But opponents of the plan have contended that the land in question, which includes the Lost Dog Trailhead leading to the Franklin Mountains, an area enjoyed by bicyclists and joggers, should be left undeveloped.
Those opponents have now secured 168 signatures above the required 1,666 signatures needed to present a petition to the El Paso City Council.
That petition, asking to “preserve, in its natural state and in perpetuity” the city-owned property in question, is now scheduled to be formally offered and considered by El Paso City Council members in a public hearing on August 7.
If the new development becomes reality, according to earlier plans presented to the council, it could see the construction of a 5,000 square-foot aquatic facility, a 124-room hotel, a 7-acre park and amphitheater, and a 37,000 square foot athletic center.
By Garry Boulard
Developers across the country are responding to a market demand for more energy efficient features in apartments, according to a study released by the National Multifamily Housing Council.
The Washington-based council says a survey of some 270,000 renters shows 61 percent indicating they were either very interested, or somewhat interested, in renting apartments that had more green amenities.
In fact, respondents also said that they would be willing to pay higher rents of nearly $30 more a month to live in an apartment with those features.
The NMHC study additionally reports that the vast majority of new apartment construction today is seeing energy and water efficiency built into the product, while sustainability integration is also increasingly a part of apartment renovation projects.
Notes the magazine Building Design + Construction: “With the cost of incorporating many green features in apartment properties having dropped to be roughly comparable to conventional construction, landlords are meeting the wishes of the market.”
Many of these projects are receiving funding support through the Federal National Mortgage Association, otherwise known as Fannie Mae.
Last year Fannie Mae provided upwards of $27 million in financing for such apartment projects through its Green Rewards program.
Those loans run the gamut from short term rehabilitation projects to permanent financing for some properties.
By Garry Boulard
Some $120 million in bonds for capital construction and maintenance projects throughout Colorado will be put on the market in September.
The bonds were earlier approved by the Colorado State Legislature and will fund everything from the installation of new elevators at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo; to cooling systems repairs at half a dozen warehouses operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton announced plans to sell the bonds after some lawmakers criticized his office for not having put the bonds out to market sooner.
Representative Daneya Esgar, the co-chair of the legislature’s Capital Project Committee, sent an open letter to Stapleton on July 18, arguing that any delay in the funding will only make the projects more expensive due to the likelihood of increased materials costs.
Esgar urged that the bonds be sold as soon as possible “in order to make the best use of public funds and get these critical projects started rapidly.”
The bonds will also fund a flood mitigation project at the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, as well as cooling system improvements to a number of state university facilities, and new sanitation infrastructure at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.
By Garry Boulard
The rapidly-expanding Dutch Bros. Coffee chain has announced plans to build a new location in the central Arizona town of Payson.
Specific plans for when the new store will be built are not yet known, but the proposed 824 square-foot building will go up on an 8-acre site at 602 S. Beeline Highway.
The new Payson store represents a continuing Dutch Bros. expansion in Arizona, with some 20 stores currently in operation, including a new outlet opened in Chandler this month.
Launched in 1982 and headquartered in Grants Pass, Oregon, Dutch Bros. Coffee currently has more than 300 outlets in seven states, including Colorado and Nevada.
As recently as 2009, the chain had 150 outlets.
Listed by Forbes Magazine as a “Small Giants” company, meaning that its business plan calls for a more modest, revenue-driven expansion, Dutch Bros. Coffee currently posts annual revenues in excess of $350 million.
Offering a variety of lattes, mochas, breves, and smoothies, among other staples, Dutch Bros. Coffee outlets are drive-ups measuring anywhere from 200 to 1,000 square feet.
By Garry Boulard
Taking in a wide array of issues that include modernizing power grids and increasing the use of smart technologies, the National Governors Association has issued a roadmap to help states address their 21st century energy needs.
That roadmap is part of a larger combined report and initiative just issued by the NGA called Ahead of the Curve: Innovation Governors.
The report, released during the recent NGA summer meeting in Santa Fe, looks at the technology, cyber threat, and workforce training issues, among other topics, that the nation’s governors can be expected to face in coming decades.
The part of the initiative dealing strictly with energy issues notes that governors are going to be increasingly tasked with coming up with ways of building their states’ microgrids, enhancing energy storage, and modernizing both natural gas and coal use.
The initiative puts an emphasis on collaborative planning with interested parties and the use of incentives for industries that align with public policy goals.
In issuing the report, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, chairman of the NGA, said the proposed roadmaps are intended to provide both governors and senior state policy officials with “ideas for how they can prepare their states for the ongoing technology disruption associated with a more connected and automated future.”
Sandoval added that the specific energy and transportation roadmaps also highlight “existing state efforts from across the country that can serve as examples for other governors to follow.”
The NGA serves as a collective voice of the nation’s governors, irrespective of the political parties they belong to, representing the states’ interests in Washington on any number of public policy issues.
By Garry Boulard
With a recent report indicating that one in five adults in Larimer County, Colorado is in need of some kind of behavioral health care services, a move is on to build a new facility that would house such services.
Two years ago, a joint project between Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins asked voters to approve a .25 cents sales tax, the proceeds of which would go to build a mental health and substance abuse center.
That proposal was voted down by a 52 to 48 percent margin.
Now an effort is on once again to bring the same question to voters, an effort fueled to some degree by the spring release of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Alliance of Larimer County report indicating that nearly 54,000 people in a county of more than 300,000 could have some form of mental illness.
To be jointly operated by Larimer County and Fort Collins, the proposed 60,000 square-foot center would most likely go up on a currently vacant 30-acre site near the intersection of South Taft Hill Road and Trilby Road, between Fort Collins and the city of Loveland.
It is thought that the facility would cost nearly $31 million to build, and upon completion, would have enough room to house 64 beds.
If approved by voters in November, the sales tax would be expected to generate between $15 and $16 million annually. Additional funding for both the construction of the facility and its operation would come from State of Colorado and federal sources.
The next step in the long-developing plan will see members of the Larimer County Board of Commissioners deciding whether to put the sales tax question on this fall’s ballot.
By Garry Boulard
For more than a decade, the City of Albuquerque has been trying to implement a plan that would see the redevelopment of the historic 27-acre downtown Albuquerque Railyards.
That site, with nearly two dozen structures built roughly a century ago still intact, has been imagined as a mixed-use project that would see the development of both residential and retail space.
After purchasing the site for around $8.5 million, in 2014 Albuquerque entered into a master development agreement with the Culver City, California-based Samitaur Constructs to redevelop the property.
City officials have since expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of the project.
Two points of contention between the city and Samitaur: according to published reports, the company has failed to both present an environmental remediation plan for the site, as well as identify a funding source for that plan.
Now, members of the Albuquerque Development Commission have declared that Samitaur has failed to exercise reasonable diligence with the project—the second year in a row the commission has made that determination.
A Samitaur official told commission members the company was still committed to the redevelopment project and has even considered putting up $1 million of its own money to pay for what is expected to be a $1.9 million remediation job.
What happens next may be determined by the Albuquerque City Council which, by law, can determine whether or not the city should opt out of its contract with Samitaur.
In business for more than three decades, Samitaur has won awards from such organizations as the Urban Land Institute and the American Institute of Architects for its design work.
By Garry Boulard
The most recent U.S. Labor Department numbers confirm the good news for the Grand Canyon State.
With a 10.2 percent increase between June of 2017 and June of this year, Arizona is now ranked number one nationally in new construction job growth.
The state, with an increase in both public and residential projects, has added 14,800 new construction jobs in the last year, pushing it, percentage-wise, ahead of significantly larger states like California, Texas, and Florida.
The rankings put New Mexico in eleventh place nationally, having added 2,800 new construction jobs from June of 2017 to June 2018 for a 6.2 percent gain; with Colorado holding the seventeenth slot, with 8,400 new jobs, and a 5.2 percent increase.
In terms of actual new jobs, California has added the most nationally with 39,800 in the last year; followed by Florida with 29,300; and Georgia with 16,100.
Overall, the vast majority of states have seen jumps in construction employment, but Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Carolina actually experienced industry job losses. In this category, South Carolina led the way with a 3.9 percent decline in construction employment.
Overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Current Employment Statistics Highlights, nonfarm employment nationally increased by 213,000 in June.
The document adds: “Professional and business services, manufacturing, and health care added jobs, while employment in retail trade declined.”
The BLS report also notes that “Construction employment continued an upward trend in June, with modest changes among the component industries. Employment changes in June follow a 6.7 percent rise in new home sales in May.”
By Garry Boulard
A push is underway in Colorado to put on this November’s ballot a question asking voters to expand the amount of space between new oil and gas development and such structures as houses, school, and hospitals.
Advocates of Initiative 97 won a preliminary victory this spring when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the language for the question was valid under state election law requirements.
But a group called Colorado Rising for Health and Safety, which is spearheading the effort, has since been tasked with trying to secure the signatures of just over 98,000 voters in order to actually get the initiative on the fall ballot.
Two years ago a similar effort also made it past the state supreme court, only to fail for a lack of signatures.
To be on the safe side, advocates of Initiative 97 say they hope to produce as many as 145,000 signatures before a mandated deadline of August 6.
As proposed, the initiative would increase the current 500-foot buffer zone that is now required between oil and gas development and any residential structure to 2,500 feet. The zone for school and hospitals, now at 1,000 feet, would also be increased to 2,500 feet.
Colorado Rising officials, contending that toxic emissions from fracking can lead to birth defects and cancer, have also noted that there have been more than a dozen oil and gas development related explosions in Colorado in just the last year alone.
Opponents of the measure, officially organized as a group called Protect Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, argue that the initiative, if passed, would mean that up to 85 percent of non-federal land would no longer be open for oil and gas development in the state.
Protect Colorado also argues that such a restriction on the amount of available land for drilling would ultimately deprive Colorado cities and towns of up to $1 billion in tax revenue they currently receive from the oil and gas industry.
Instead of expanding the buffer zone, some oil and gas industry representatives have called in the past for shortening it to 350 feet.
By Garry Boulard
It probably surprised no one in the summer of 2017 when the Colorado Department of Transportation announced it had selected Kiewit Meridiam Partners for the massive reconstruction of I-70 in Denver.
The company, noted then-CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt, had “demonstrated that they can meet this challenge while minimizing impacts to those who travel, work, and live along I-70.”
“The ability to address the needs and concerns of the communities most impacted by the upcoming construction also played a key role in the selection,” Bhatt continued, additionally noting that Kiewit Meridiam had committed to reducing by at least one season the work schedule for the project.
The I-70 project is set to see the reconstruction of a 10-mile stretch of highway between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road, a stretch that carries around 200,000 vehicles daily. The project will also include the addition of a new express lane going in each direction.
If that’s not enough, Kiewit Meridiam is additionally tasked with removing a viaduct built in 1964, lowering the interstate between Brighton and Colorado Boulevards, and, uniquely, creating a park that will measure some 4 acres inside the portion of the lowered interstate.
In making the big I-70 announcement, CDOT officials made a point of chronicling Kiewit’s record of achievement in the state, a record that can be traced to the almost frenetic construction of Fort Carson, some 8 miles north of Colorado Springs, during the early months of World War II.
That project saw barracks and officer’s quarters gong up on a quickened pace unimaginable today, with the construction of a new structure “every 20 minutes until 2,500 were up,” noted writer Robert Hoig in 1962.
Kiewit, founded in Omaha in 1884, has now had a presence in Colorado for more than seven decades. And that presence, says spokesman Tom Janssen, “has allowed us to build a strong relationship and employee base in a variety of markets.”
“Though our general policy is to ‘go where the work is,’” continues Janssen, “our experience with a variety of projects in Colorado helps our work in the state be especially successful.”
Focusing on infrastructure building, as well as oil and gas industry construction and public projects, the original Kiewit company did not significantly involve itself in road, highway, and bridge work until the advent of the Interstate Highway System in 1956.
Over time, notes author C. Carl Pegels, “Kiewit built more lane miles of the interstate highway system than any other contractor.”
In his 2011 book Prominent Dutch American Entrepreneurs, Pegels traced the origin of the company founded by brothers Andrew and Peter Kiewit, observing that over time it evolved into “one of the largest infrastructure companies in the United States, and probably also in the world.”
Pegels added that Andrew and Peter Kiewit “would never have expected that their original venture, a building contracting firm, would eventually grow into the Kiewit Corporation of today.”
Among the more prominent projects Kiewit has spearheaded in Colorado is the eastbound lane of the twin-bore Eisenhower Tunnel through the Colorado Rockies, the Interstate Highway System’s longest mountain tunnel; the redevelopment of the Denver Union Station; and the I-25 Transportation Expansion Project.
Otherwise known as T-Rex, that $1.6 billion expansion project widened interstate routes in metro Denver by as much as seven lanes in each direction, and added 19 miles of light rail track.
T-Rex is thought to be one of the most successful upgrades projects in U.S. transportation history, and was completed well under budget and ahead of schedule in 2006.
A portion of that project, the new I-225 interchange, was lauded by Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn, who is now a member of the Denver City Council, writing that driving though it had become “a breeze, untangled of the dangerous merges thanks to a flyover, a ‘braided’ ramp, and a tunnel that moves traffic conflicts and keeps merging to a minimum.”
Kiewit’s continued and future working investment in Colorado, says Janssen, is to some degree predicated on the state’s approach to seeing things through to completion.
“Colorado leadership has a long and somewhat unique history of setting priorities, working to get broad concurrence, and then executing on the vision,” says Janssen, adding that Kiewitt remains particularly attracted to a state that has a reputation for “just getting things done.”
By Garry Boulard
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