This summer, Englewood city leaders expressed interest in moving city offices out of the distinctive Civic Center building to clear the way for a more active and lucrative tenant that
could reinvigorate the surrounding CityCenter area.
As 2015 gives way to 2016, the first tentative steps have been taken in that direction, though the outcome remains far from certain.
In mid-November, City Manager Eric Keck put the Civic Center building on the commercial real estate market for an estimated $18.6 million, according to city officials.
The move at first rankled Mayor Joe Jefferson because it was done without consulting with the City Council, The Villager newspaper reported. The mayor emphasized at that time that he supports exploring new options for the building. Keck was unavailable to comment for this report, but Deputy City Manager Michael Flaherty said the council and manager's office have addressed those concerns and are moving forward.
"The initial listing was done without the knowledge of City Council, which I think we regret at this point, but, at the same time, it was not meant as an intent to sell," Flaherty said. "This is really, in essence, a trial, if you will. It was posted with the intent to see if we could get value and to also ascertain what interest level there may be."
The city moved its offices into the Civic Center building, a former Foley's department store at 1000 Englewood Parkway, in 2000. It was part of the light-rail-centered City- Center mixed-use development project that the city took on $19 million in debt to build. The city owes $1.5 million per year through 2023 for the Civic Center building, officials say.
Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gillit said he supported Keck's decision to test the market and is looking forward to discussing the matter further with the City Council in the coming months.
"We need to know if there is interest," Gillit said, pointing out that the city has had to make several tough financial decisions in the past year, including contracting its fire rescue services out to the Denver Fire Department. "When you get rid of your fire department, you've got to start looking at anything and everything. There is more space wasted at the Civic Center than we could ever use. I'm excited to look at all the ideas."
Flaherty said the city has received at least two letters of intent showing interest in the building since the listing went live on the website Loopnet.com. He said even if a buyer were found, it is likely the city would need time — perhaps three to five years — to relocate all of the staff and uses in the building, including local courts and the Englewood Public Library.
Doug Tisdale is the vice president for economic development at the South Metro Denver Chamber. He said he has been working with Keck and Englewood economic development manager Darren Hollingsworth on ideas for the more than 143,000-square-foot building.
"The idea is to explore how to re-purpose that building for someone who can make a better use of it and provide revenues to the city as a result," said Tisdale, an experienced attorney and real estate developer. "It's near a park-n-Ride, adjacent to the light rail and it is in an area that has historic significance. This was the very first TOD ( transit-oriented development) we had in the Denver area. This is a truly unique piece of real estate."
Rosemarie Cabral co-owns the Cuttn' It Loose Salon, which recently relocated from one building in the CityCenter development to a larger, cheaper space nearby in the building at 863 Englewood Parkway. A member of the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce, Cabral said she loves the CityCenter area and looks forward to some new life at the Civic Center building in the future.
"We have a city manager now who thinks outside the box like me," she said. "I'm totally in favor of it as long as they use it for the right thing. I always thought it would make a great event center."