Nearly $13 million in federal funding for the reconstruction of Denver’s 16th Street Mall is in the offing as the result of an intergovernmental agreement between both the city and county of Denver, as well as the Regional Transportation District.
Area officials have for years wanted to substantially upgrade what is arguably one of the most popular pedestrian throughways in the West.
Launched in 1980 and designed by internationally acclaimed architect I.M. Pei, the tree-lined mall encompasses more than thirty historic structures built in the 1800s, and includes restaurants, pubs, shops, public seating, and entertainment venue spaces.
Reconstruction plans for the mall include widening its sidewalks for walkers and café seating, and, most importantly, realigning the path used by the RTD’s shuttle busses to the middle of the mall.
City documents have described the project as one that includes a “spatial reorganization and rebuilding of the transit way lanes and pedestrian spaces.”
The project will additionally include intersection improvements, lighting replacements, upgrades to traffic control and utility devices, and new signage.
The intergovernmental agreement, which was approved last month by the council’s Finance and Governance Committee, is expected to come before the council later this month.
Actual work on the 16th Street Mall is scheduled to begin sometime next year.
By Garry Boulard
In a significant trend, the Department of Labor is reporting that residential construction jobs were up by 83,200 in June.
That increase follows on an even more dramatic jump in May, which saw the creation of more than 224,200 new home building jobs.
According to a statement released by the National Association of Home Builders, residential construction employment now stands nationally at 2.8 million: “Broken down as 795,000 builders and 2.0 million residential specialty trade contractors.”
But because of the large decline in home building jobs during the month directly after the COVID-19 outbreak, the six-month average residential construction employment remains down by nearly 18,000.
Crunching the numbers for the entire last full year, just under 84,000 jobs in the home building and remodeling industries have been lost.
Overall, the unemployment rate for both residential builders as well as residential specialty trade contractors saw a decrease of nearly 3 percent in the last month to the current 12.0 percent.
In May, that rate stood at 15.2 percent.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the last time the home building sector saw double-digit unemployment was during the depths of the Great Recession in 2011, when the rate stood at more than 20 percent.
In an analysis of the new numbers by King Fu, director of forecasting and analysis for the NAHB, it was additionally noted that the “improving job situation is also a cause behind recent relative strength in housing demand.”
That demand has fueled a 17 percent late spring rise in home sales.
By Garry Boulard
Although the new fiscal year budget for the City of El Paso is expected to be roughly $70 million less than the current budget, funding for over a dozen park facility projects will remain in place.
That’s because the money is still coming from the unprecedentedly large $473 million Quality of Life bonds passed by El Paso voters in 2012.
In the nearly eight years since that election, those bonds have been used to pay for any number of recreational and cultural facility construction and renovation projects across the city.
Now, according to the proposed 2021 fiscal year budget, just over $26 million in Quality of Life bonds will go for long-planned park facility building and upgrade projects.
Listed in the new budget under the heading of “exceptional recreational, cultural and educational opportunities,” the projects include improvements to the Brisa del Este Park, the Crestmont Park, the Haddox Family Park, the North Skies Park, and the Pueblo Viejo Park.
The Newman Park is expected to see the construction of a large metal canopy; while the Joey Barazza and Vino Park Memorial will get a new modular play structure.
Work at the Eastside Regional Park will include the construction of a water oasis facility, new recreation center, and 50-meter pool.
Additional Qualify of Life bond projects planned for the upcoming fiscal year include library, museum, and zoo facility upgrades.
By Garry Boulard
The City of Denver has issued a Request for Qualifications for a project that could see the creation and building of a high-speed bus lane on one of its most popular throughways.
The always-busy Federal Boulevard, which runs north to south, has seen more than $29 million in reconstruction work in the last two years.
According to statistics compiled by the Regional Transportation District, buses on the route, which in places has the appearance of a highway, already serve around 10,000 passengers a day.
This means the city has to find a way to move thousands of people per hour in either a mixed traffic lane or dedicated transit lane.
The RFQ is specifically looking for engineering services for the design phase of what is being officially called the Federal Boulevard Transit Speed and Reliability Project.
The project, which would be federally funded, will also include environmental planning, prioritizing improvements along the Federal Boulevard, and submitting an environmental review document in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The RFQ has an electronic submission deadline of August 7.
By Garry Boulard
An effort established under the auspices of this spring’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 economic shutdown has resulted in the issuance of more than five million loans with a total dollar value of $521 billion.
The Payroll Protection Program, as administered by the Small Business Administration, was specifically designed to not just help smaller businesses across the country maintain their payrolls, but also to help them stay open for business.
According to new statistics just released by the Treasury Department, the average loan size under the PPP has worked out to around $107,000, with the vast majority of businesses approved for a loan within weeks of the program’s launching.
Some 85 percent of Arizona’s small businesses applying for help were approved; while the approval rate for Colorado businesses stood at 83 percent.
New Mexico businesses saw a slightly lower approval rate at 77 percent.
Overall, states in the Plains region of the country and the West had the highest business application approval rates, ranging from New Mexico’s 77 percent to South Dakota’s 93 percent.
The actual PPP dollar amount has worked out to $8.6 billion for businesses in Arizona; $10.4 billion for Colorado businesses; and $2.2 billion for businesses in the Land of Enchantment.
More specifically, money coming into what are officially defined as Historically Underutilized Business Zones, or areas with pockets of poverty and lower economic development, saw $2.2 billion for Arizona, $2.6 billion for Colorado, and $800 million for New Mexico.
Nationally, businesses in the healthcare and social assistance sector received $67.3 billion in loans; followed by scientific and technical services at $66.4 billion, and the construction industry at $64.6 billion.
Initially budgeted at $349 billion, the Payroll Protection Program was authorized in April to lend another $310 billion to small businesses.
As of the last day of June, the program still has available around $132 billion in loan support for small business applicants.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the PPP is “providing much-needed relief to millions of American small businesses, supporting more than 51 million jobs and over 80 percent of all small business employees who are the drivers of economic growth in our country.”
Mnuchin added that the average loan size of $100,000 demonstrates that the program is “serving the smallest of businesses.”
By Garry Boulard
For nearly 50 years the Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix has held the record, at 483 feet in height, as the tallest building in all of Arizona.
Now a proposal to build a mixed-use twin tower, with one of the towers rising to 540 feet, threatens to eclipse that record.
Geoffrey Jacobs, a partner in the Scottsdale-based Aspirant Development, has announced plans to put up the twin tower project in the 300 block of North Second Avenue, on a site that currently serves as a parking lot for a local YMCA.
The taller structure would house a hotel and residential units, as well as a restaurant and lounge. The smaller tower, at 359 feet in height, will feature both office and retail space.
The project, with the internationally known firm of Solomon Cordwell Buenz serving as its architect, requires city approval, particularly because the proposed taller tower is 15 feet higher than what is currently allowed in Phoenix.
Called the Astra, the project would go up several blocks away from a downtown nucleus of high-rises mostly built in a two-decade period between 1972 and 1991.
Preliminary plans for the Astra are set to go before the city’s Central City Village Planning Committee, which is tasked with reviewing proposed downtown Phoenix development projects, next month.
By Garry Boulard
Over six hundred buildings in El Paso’s El Segundo Barrio neighborhood may now eligible for upgrading and preservation funding, as a result of a new ruling defining the boundaries of the Segundo Barrio National Historic District.
Members of the El Paso County Commission have voted unanimously to officially designate an area running from South Cotton Street on the east side, to South Santa Fe Street on the west side, as comprising two boundaries of the district.
Paisano Drive on the north side and the Border Highway on the south side make up the rest of the district’s boundaries.
Within those borders exist any number of historic one-, two-, and three-story commercial and residential structures built in the early 20th century and before.
The commission vote follows on the heels of a report earlier submitted to the county by the Austin-based preservation consulting company HHM & Associates laying out the recommended contours of the district.
The Segundo Barrio is one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso, with roots reaching back to the 1830s. The neighborhood saw a particular uptick in its population during the decade of the Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920 when hundreds of people left Mexico and moved into the area.
City officials say most of the Segundo Barrio’s architecturally significant structures are in need of rehabilitation and upgrading.
By Garry Boulard
The Federal Reserve has just announced that a program announced earlier this spring intended to help businesses withstand the COVID-19 economic shutdown is now fully operational.
In a press release issued by the Fed, it is noted that financial institutions across the country hoping to participate in the Main Street Lending Program, “may now submit qualifying loans for the Fed to purchase.”
The Fed additionally announced that it is committed to buying up to “95 percent of each loan submitted.”
The program, which offers around $600 billion for small and medium-sized businesses, is intended to provide support not currently available in the Paycheck Protection Program.
The PPP offers forgivable loans for businesses with five hundred or less employees, while the Main Street Lending Program is available for companies with up to 15,000 employees.
Businesses making as much as $5 billion in annual revenue are also eligible for Main Street loans that can range in size from $250,000 to $300 million.
According to reports, the banking industry’s response to the program, since it was first aired two months ago, has so far been underwhelming. Out of nearly 11,000 federally insured banks and credit unions nationally, only around 300 such institutions have submitted the required paperwork to be a part of the program.
Speaking last month before the Senate Banking Committee, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that some financial institutions have been less than enthusiastic about the program, particularly given that its terms have changed several times during the development phase.
Trying to make sense out of some of the confusing stipulations, some companies have even wondered whether, in the end, they will be eligible for help under the program.
But, said Powell: “As we have been since the very beginning, we are very open to learning and adapting.”
Powell added that aspects of the Main Street Lending Program may be changed in the near-term future in order to more specifically address the economic needs of companies and businesses.
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced to build out roughly a quarter million square feet of new facility space within the boundaries of a 105-acre technology park in Fort Collins.
The Harmony Technology Park, located at 4750 Technology Parkway near the intersection of Lady Moon Drive and East Harmony Road, was launched in 2008 as a site for new office, industrial, and commercial space.
The owner and developer of the park is MAVDevelopment, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based firm that has spearheaded mixed-use sites and technology parks throughout Michigan and Colorado.
Although the City of Fort Collins initially approved a property tax, whose revenues would go for the construction of street and utility infrastructure at the site, construction at the park in the immediate years after its launching was delayed by the onset of the Great Recession.
In the years since, however, the park has proven a popular destination for any number of companies, seeing up to $80 million in new construction in just 2017 alone.
The Harmony Technology Park, located roughly 8 miles to the southeast of downtown Fort Collins, is also the home to what is called the Harmony Commons, a community-like section of land featuring a hotel, brew pub, and restaurants.
Now plans are underway for the expansion of a facility housing the WilMarc medical supplies company, whose address is 3420 Precision Drive. The company wants to add 100,000 square feet to its current footprint in the park.
The park may also soon see the construction of an 81,000 square foot building that will be used for medical offices, while another structure, at 51,000 square feet, will house warehouse and light industrial space.
Plans for the three new building projects at the park are currently being reviewed by the City of Fort Collins. An exact construction schedule for any of the projects has not yet been announced.
By Garry Boulard
The City of Phoenix has issued a Request for Proposals for a unique program that is expected to see the construction of around 160 wrought iron gates in various alleyways around the city.
The Gated Alley Program was launched two years ago with the building of an initial six gates in the Royal Palm neighborhood on the north side of the city.
In a move to prevent vandalism and the dumping of trash in alleyways, city officials determined such spaces could best be protected with 6-foot high wrought iron gates that would be installed at both ends of the corridors.
Now, in a program administered by the city’s Neighborhood Services Department, at least 80 alleyways are expected to see the construction of new gates.
Those gates will have a minimum of 45 inches between horizontal bars, with no bars in between that could be used as toeholds or handholds for climbing.
The gates will also lack meshing or screens to discourage graffiti.
Some $400,000 in funding for the gate construction initiative was earlier secured by the city through a Neighborhood Block Watch grant program.
By Garry Boulard
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