Kyle Eason, Speechwriter
I wrote this speech in the days following Mayor Michael B. Hancock's dramatic runoff victory in July of 2011. The Mayor delivered the speech at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Downtown Denver Partnership on July 13, 2011 to a crowd of over 600 of Denver's most prominent business leaders at the Hyatt Regency at the Colorado Convention Center.
[Mayor-elect Michael B. Hancock]
Good morning and Thank you very much for your invitation to speak at the Annual Meeting of the Downtown Denver Partnership. It’s always a pleasure to speak with such an esteemed gathering of so many of Denver’s prominent business and civic leaders.
Our meeting today is particularly meaningful for me.
In the days following my election, I have been listening to business leaders from every walk of life and every region surrounding the City of Denver, and I am encouraged by what I hear.
Business leaders are ready for a fresh vision and for new ideas. With your help, we can do this together.
One of the primary focuses of my administration will be to champion the growth of Denver’s economy and to create jobs. Clearly, this is easier said than done. It’s organizations like the Downtown Denver Partnership, however, that reassure me that we will not travel this road alone.
Over the years, through service on City Council, it has been my privilege to stand side by side with the Partnership as we’ve tackled some of our city’s most challenging issues. I am thrilled to begin my administration talking about the future of the 16th Street Mall and how best to attract and retain businesses Downtown. I look forward to brainstorming ideas about how best to recruit both retail and residential activity. And, I’m ready to build upon our success in responding to the poignant and deeply human challenges presented by homelessness and panhandling.
This season, new issues have arisen that present my Administration with new opportunities. Among them, we’ll soon be formulating an inclusive and far-sighted approach to recently emerging questions surrounding our treasured National Western Stock Show, as well as those related to demands for mandatory paid sick-leave within Denver’s city limits.
Perhaps most importantly as we consider the future, however, we must take a fresh look at the education of Denver’s children and begin to find answers to the questions that have so long eluded us. Amidst the real world challenges that face Denver families right now, how can we see to it that ALL of Denver’s kids in every neighborhood are school-ready and receive an education that makes them both college and career-ready moving forward?
Over the course of the past year, it has been exciting to watch the Downtown Denver Partnership thrive through its implementation of the “Downtown Denver Area Plan”. Skyline Park attracted over 100,000 people to its Southwest Airlines Ice Skating Rink during a time when some said it just couldn’t be done. I will also note the “14th Street Construction Project” which required close cooperation between the City and area property owners. And, finally, the design, funding and execution of the “16th Street Mall Project”, which resulted in the first-ever Colorado H & M retail store being located right here - in downtown Denver. It’s no surprise that this year, as it does every year, the 16th Street Mall attracted over a million people to Denver events.
As my Administration moves from Transition to Governing, a few highlights concerning attracting and retaining business downtown deserve further mention.
The City has a successful partnership with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA). The recent approval of tax increment financing (TIF) for the Colorado National Bank building is a prime example of “gap financing” that will bring a major hotel, restaurant and lounge project to life in a building that was once outdated and obsolete.
This year the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District (BID) is up for renewal. We have said that we would support exploring the extension of the BID for an additional 25 years, as opposed to another 10-year term, in order to create greater certainty for planning, while still giving property owners the ability to vote on it again in the future. HOWEVER, we understand that many at the DDP do NOT want to extend the BID that long and would like to see more residents involved in the future BID.
The Downtown Denver BID has been a valuable asset for the city, but we must remember that Downtown Denver isn’t simply a commercial district anymore. As we look to the future, we need more flexible and sustainable models that allow for mixed-use neighborhoods and developments to supplement capital improvement and pay for maintenance of facilities that best serve everyone in our community.
One of the most important reforms to the city’s built environment was an overhaul of the city’s zoning code. Our next challenge should be to ensure that the Zoning Code matches our long-term vision for Downtown and includes measures that encourage density.
Transportation provides the lifeblood of our Downtown, and FasTracks has the potential to be one of this region’s greatest economic drivers for decades to come. Ultimately, Denver Union Station is the hub and heartbeat of the whole system. This project must be finished in the most efficient and timely manner possible to elevate Denver as a world-class city, to attract new businesses, to connect communities, and to enhance our overall quality of life far into the future.
With regard to education, it is my intention to develop unprecedented partnership with the business community on a number of fronts. Most prominently for the DDP, however, I will enlist their support for several initiatives that will better connect the 40,000 student, 125-acre Auraria Higher Education Center both physically and intellectually to Downtown and to better engage campus officials in key decisions about Denver’s future.
As a proud graduate of the University of Colorado at Denver, I appreciate what an important asset this campus is to our economic vitality, and it’s essential that we work together toward Denver’s future. Finally, and once again, we need to continue the good work begun with Denver’s Road Home programs and to continue to strengthen those relationships with our faith-based and non-profit community so that in-so-far as it depends upon us, those individuals who need help, and want help, can get help.
As I close, I want you to take away this message. We can do this. We will do this. We have faced far more difficult challenges in our past, and we have overcome. With your help – with your ideas, your expertise and your energy – Downtown Denver and the surrounding city – the place we call home - will emerge from the present challenges a stronger, more vibrant, more livable city than ever.
Thank you very much!