AP NEWS

‘Creative’ funding could put wind back in Aurora Regatta Plaza’s sails

November 7, 2016

AURORA | Aurora’s aging Regatta Plaza could get a sail full of wind by way of a $21.5 million upgrade under a new city loan agreement.

The loan was given initial approval by members of the Aurora City Council Management and Finance committee meeting at a Oct. 26, but still needs to be approved by Aurora City Council members at a regular meeting.

Aurora council members who are part of the management and finance committee are calling the loan a “creative solution” to Regatta. That’s because the sources for the loan are varied and include an Aurora General Fund TABOR reserve of $8 million, a General Fund operating reserve of $425,000, and $500,000 from the city’s Capital Projects fund. City officials say the rest of the money would come from land sales to the developer and an Aurora Urban Renewal Authority bank loan.

“It’s a huge project and definitely takes a lot of financial structuring to make it happen,” said At-large Councilman Bob LeGare, a member of the committee who thinks the loan provides the city an opportunity to redevelop the plaza with quality office space.

City officials say the loan would be paid back through land sales to the developer, Denver-based firm Mile High Development and Koelbel and Company, and through tax increment financing revenues generated by the property’s redevelopment or direct land sales. The payback would occur over a 25-year period, starting sometime in 2016 through 2041, with a 1.75 percent interest rate.

“There really is no other way to finance this project other than the city being involved,” LeGare said. He pointed out how difficult it has been for city officials to convince all of the owners located within the 22-acre parcel to sell their properties. “We knew that at the beginning, with four different owners, we knew we were going to have to come up with something that would put together all of the pieces and make it work for the development group.”

This past spring, the city’s urban renewal authority became the owner of the vast majority of the dilapidated Regatta Plaza — 14 of its 21 acres — after a judge sided with the city in condemnation court. Since that time, much of the property has had a date with a bulldozer.

Andrea Amonick, manager of the Aurora Urban Renewal Authority, said in a statement the loan would cover upfront costs that include $16.1 million to acquire the 22-acre parcel and $3.5 million for demolition, remediation and site prep. The city also expects to incur up to $500,000 in legal fees.

The plaza has been filled with empty storefronts, massive potholes and busted windows — and it has plagued city officials and community leaders for most of the past decade. That’s despite Regatta being in an ideal location, situated along Parker Road and South Peoria Street just across from the Nine Mile light rail stop and adjacent to Interstate 225.

Plans for the site call for a mixed-use development made up of housing, retail and office space, all focused on the RTD bus and light rail terminal just across the street.

City documents also show the inclusion of a pedestrian bridge as part of the future plaza that would serve residents and commuters from Nine Mile Station who don’t want to cross a busy Parker Road.

No design drawings have been included in city documents about the project, but Amonick said MHK Nine Mile recently submitted their initial master plan for Aurora city officials to review.

“The master plan document addresses public infrastructure improvements, urban design, streetscapes, public spaces, the main street and landscaping,” Amonick said. “The plan is in the initial review phase with the city, and during the process, there will be public meetings with both the neighborhood as well as with the Planning and Zoning Commission for final approval.”

Amonick said the loan is set to be presented to both the Aurora Urban Renewal Authority and city council members at a meeting Nov. 14. If approved, city officials expect to start construction on the site as well as initial plans to relocate the plaza’s King Soopers store in December.

Aurora Ward IV City Councilman Charlie Richardson, whose ward encompasses Regatta, said he agreed with the financing, but expects some concerns about what will happen to the plaza’s King Soopers at upcoming public meetings.

“But it’s very positive,” he said of the overall plan.