Urban renewal in the Rockies: Dillon draws plans for new development
Though it is one of the smallest towns in Summit County, Dillon has sizeable plans for the future. With several plots of land on the market, the town is undergoing a substantial redevelopment effort, similar to its larger neighbor, the town of Silverthorne.
While the town created an urban renewal authority in 2009, this year, Dillon began a pointed effort to revitalize its downtown. However, the urban renewal district encompasses the entire town, not just its downtown — setting it aside from current efforts in Silverthorne and several other cities across the state.
“It’s important to know we’ve really only had the tools in place to do what we’re trying to do in the last few years,” Mayor Kevin Burns said. “It’s all starting to come to fruition now.”
The three-part plan includes improvements to public amenities, increasing density and attracting businesses to the downtown area. Having completed renovations to the Marina Park, and, with plans for the Dillon Amphitheatre and Town Park coming into focus, the town is well on its way to creating a new face.
A large piece of the effort is the allotment of parcels of land into the Dillon Urban Renewal Authority (DURA), allowing the town flexibility in selling empty land in the city center. Moving the property through DURA, the town has the option to strike a deal with potential developers, selling the land below the market price in exchange for improvements to the town of an equal value.
“Using an urban renewal authority, there are a few options for how a developer might be able to come in,” Burns said. “They can pay full market value for a piece of land, or we can negotiate with a developer.”
For example, a property valued at $5 million might be sold for $3 million, with the developer making $2 million worth of improvements in the surrounding land to account for the difference.
“The key is it must always be for the public good … it must benefit residents in the long run,” Burns added. “That might be a great win-win for the town and the developer that you wouldn’t be able to do if you didn’t have an urban renewal authority.”
Three parcels of town-owned land were put on the market this summer — a total of 1.19 acres consisting of two empty spaces and an underutilized parking lot curving around LaBonte Street. The town has not seen any proposals on these properties yet but hoped to see plans stream in before the mid-September deadline, spokeswoman Kerstin Anderson said.
Urban renewal is financed through TIFs, or tax increment financing, allowing cities to use tax revenues from a designated urban renewal area to fund projects in that area. In 2015, DURA’s budget was approved at $5,000 through an intergovernmental agreement with the town.
According to a bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this session, urban renewal authorities will be required to share future sales and property tax revenues with schools, fire protection districts, counties and other entities that would be affected by new development. These requirements will go into effect next January. In addition to these requirements, Dillon made an agreement with Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue to give the district a portion of TIF funds to account for incremental increases in financing.
“We do have an agreement in place to make sure nobody’s left behind,” Burns said. “With these special districts, we need to make sure they’re able to do what they need to do.”
Dillon also allotted several other empty downtown parcels to DURA, which will go on the market in the future. Most of these parcels are currently empty land or parking lots, some of which are located adjacent to buildings that are currently for sale, allowing even more land for potential development.
“We’re hoping to see more people living in our downtown and create some support for more people to open up shop,” Burns said.
The idea is to create more of a town identity, by narrowing Lake Dillon Drive and creating a larger pedestrian plaza and storefront for a “Main Street” of sorts. But, the surrounding buildings will be up to the decision of future developers. Anderson said the town was hoping for more mixed-use parcels, with a mix of residential, retail and restaurant.
“Certainly a coffee shop — I hear that a lot,” she laughed.
As some of the plans subtract from parking spaces in Dillon, she said that the town was working on plans to create new parking along Buffalo Street, Main Street and Village Place. She added that plans for Buffalo Street, next to Town Park, are more concrete and may be integrated in the next three to five years.
The town is looking to create separate event parking along both sides of the park, creating an allotted space for the town’s weekly farmers market while reserving spaces for residents who work just across the street. In addition, improvements to the park are on the horizon, with a Great Outdoors Colorado Grant going toward initial designs that may be shovel-ready within a year.
The town also drew potential plans for an altered bus route that would stop at the Post Office and Town Park.
“It’s like so many pieces of a puzzle,” Anderson said. “How do we draw more pedestrian traffic through town while maintaining a small-town atmosphere that sets Dillon apart?”
In addition to work on town-owned property, several privately-owned parcels throughout the town are open for redevelopment. The Dillon “Gateway Project,” consisting of town owned land, Lake Dillon Conoco and Adriano’s Bistro, is already out on the market.
With an offer from Dillon to purchase town-owned land surrounding the lots for $549,000, the two business owners, Ivano Ottoborgo and Daniel Eilts, drew up plans for the 2.35-acre lot, including sketches for a building a hotel, restaurant, residential and retail space. An overview of the projects lists the land for sale at $5.85 million.
However, there has also been some push back from the community, as two buildings of historical value — the old Rebekah Lodge and the Lake Dillon Theatre — are also part of those lots. While the two owners expressed little interest in keeping the two buildings, the town has reportedly been in conversation with the Summit Historical Society as to the future of the two structures. According to the town, there are no plans currently in place to modify either structure at this time.
Another parcel, owned by Miller Real Estate Investments, LLC, may see some improvements in the future. The company, which owns the Dillon Ridge Marketplace, including City Market and several other stores, is looking to develop empty space just east of the center.
Anderson said the developer might look to put a restaurant next to the existing movie theater, for example. Burns did not have any specifics about the project, but hoped to see a second phase of development soon.
Anderson added that she hoped the new businesses would not only capitalize on the town’s summer activities, but also offer indoor options for the winter, as well. Dillon has worked in recent months to advertise the properties throughout the town, hoping to bring in a mix of local and Front Range developers.
“There’s so much opportunity here — it’s such a central location,” she added. “The time is right.”
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