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An arial view rendering of the proposed Broomfield Civic Center and town square. Artist rendering courtesy of Civitas.
An arial view rendering of the proposed Broomfield Civic Center and town square. Artist rendering courtesy of Civitas.

Plans for the Broomfield Town Square — a place developers and city leaders imagine being the heart of Broomfield — are moving forward despite financial worries brought on by the novel coronavirus.

So far Broomfield has committed $400,000 for civil engineering and design services that ultimately will provide a better overall estimate of how much the proposed Civic Center project will cost.

A rendering of the view from the waterfront of the proposed development. Artist rendering courtesy of Civitas.

Preliminary cost estimates suggest the project could cost in the vicinity of $180 million to $200 million, without land costs, according to a memo prepared by the City and County Manager’s Office and Community Development. Cost estimates will be redefined as the project progresses.

Joe Vostrejs, with City Street Investors, said banks obviously want to be cautious, but at this time there’s no way to know what will happen in the future.

The sentiment is that it will pass, he said, even though it seems like things are changing every month.

“That’s why I think our strategy now is smart,” he said to council members in late May, “which is — look, we have so much work to do before we’re even ready to get to financing. Let’s keep doing our work, keep our nose to the grindstone, get the project designed, get it entitled. Then whatever the reality is at that point, we’re all going to be able to make a decision together about, you know, do we pull the trigger on this?”

Obviously the project will need financing, he said, and if the market doesn’t support it at that time, developers will have no choice but to pause. That being said, Vostrejs said he thinks its a compelling project that is well supported through the financing structure they’ve put together with the city, which he thinks is going to make it a very attractive investment.

The future area of the town square, between Main Street and Spader Way, North of W. 120th Ave., is about 43 acres. Visions of the plan imagine it as a community gathering place within a pedestrian-oriented setting. It will be a town plaza with public amenities framed by mixed-use buildings — restaurants, entertainment and civic uses.

The current plan includes 483 residential units, with opportunities for affordable and “age-targeted” housing for seniors, and more than 81,000 square feet of commercial development, including 32,641 square feet within a new central plaza north of E. 1st Ave. and 49,163 square feet within the re-imagined Market Hall, currently the former Safeway building. At least 20% of all residential units will be offered at 60% average median income.

A focal point of the project is enlarging the water feature by the Broomfield Amphitheater to a 4.5-acre lake that will wrap around the Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library and Broomfeild Auditorium to the north and west.

In 2017, Broomfield selected a development team that included Urban Neighborhoods and City Street Investors, two of the teams responsible for redeveloping Denver Union Station, to craft a vision for the civic center land and develop it in partnership with the city. Milender White Construction, the Denver Union Station general contractor, was brought on as construction manager and cost estimator, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck for legal services and D.A. Davidson & Co. for financial modeling.

On May 21, 2019, Broomfield and the development team prepared a predevelopment agreement that Broomfield provide $400,000 in funding to support design and engineering of the project.

Council approved the agreement, which provides for a total reimbursement for the construction of public improvements of, not to exceed, $20 million, which is estimated to be over $42 million with interest. That money would be revenue generated from within the project — including property tax, sales tax, use tax on building materials and service expansion fees — to develop public infrastructure and private development that make up the town center.

An artist rendering of the proposed plaza for the project. Artist rendering courtesy of Civitas.

Crawford and Vostrejs led several focus groups, featuring the same Broomfield residents, a few years ago to help hone in on guiding principals and how they wanted to use the space.

Christopher Parezo, with Civitas, an urban design, urban planning and landscape architecture firm, said the design came out of four overarching urban design frameworks — renovating the Safeway, expanding the lake, developing the town square that will be the heart of the project between the former Safeway and the lake, and developing a series of promenades that extend around the lake,  through the Safeway lot and connect to open spaces around the water.

The team pulled together “character imagery” from existing downtown or town square areas as a way to make the Broomfield project a place to gather while working the community’s character into the site design. The Safeway building will open to the north and south and lead to a grand staircase that leads to the town square.

The plan includes a boat house or snack shop, or both, at the northern end of the western promenade to draw people to the water, he said. It will be clean water to house a healthy ecosystem for fish and plant life.

Tim Fredregill, development executive with Milinder White, talked about a space for a large European-style beer garden that will empty into green space between the library and apartments. It’s intended to be a space where adults and children feel welcome with views of the new lake.

The long-vacant old Safeway building will be part of the proposed Broomfield Town Center project. (Photo: Jennifer Rios / Enterprise Staff)

“I think the concept as a whole will exist on the other side of the pandemic,” Fredregill said. “By the time we’re open we should be in a different world, but it’s something to be cognizant of.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Elizabeth Law-Evans has received calls and emails from residents asking that Broomfield pause on the project until the community is out of what she calls the “COVID slump,” but that she disagrees.

“I think we do need to keep moving forward on this and all our capital improvement projects because we don’t know how or when or what shape (this is) going to end,” Law-Evans said.

She has heard everything from a long, protracted recession, which she doesn’t believe, to bouncing out of it as quickly as it hit, which she also doesn’t believe.

Vostrejs said the Market Hall gives an opportunity to work with local tenants, which focus group members identified as a top priority.

Several commissioners with Broomfield Planning and Zoning were concerned about the number of parking spaces for the project and were not necessarily satisfied with answers they’ve heard from the developer so far.

Fredregill noted parking at the Safeway will remain and was designed to serve a 60,000 square foot building. The plan proposes to take out 20,000 square feet, he said, while still delivering the same amount of parking. Library and municipal building parking is not counted toward the parking count for the project.

He appreciates the concern, Fredregill said, and the team can dive in and make sure everyone is comfortable with parking spaces and reach the industry norm.

Ward 2 Councilman William Lindstedt, who grew up in Broomfield, remembers spending “way too much time” in Boulder and Louisville enjoying those downtowns.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “I think the vast majority of our residents are very excited about this civic center, downtown coming to fruition and I’m glad to be able to move forward.”

Fredregill said he estimates the project is about two years out from breaking ground. Deputy City and County Manager Kevin Standbridge said developers expect to break ground work on the Safeway building in late 2022 or early 2023.

Mayor Pro Tem Guyleen Castriotta also reaffirmed support for what she called a wonderful project “that’s been incubating for a long time.” Broomfield loses a lot of revenue when people travel to neighboring communities to shop at local stores and eat at chef-owned restaurants, she said, so from an investment standpoint, this project would keep that money in Broomfield.

“So many people have asked about restaurants,” she said. “I know we have Arista and FlatIrons, but this would be the heart center … a place where people want to gather, meet friends, hang out, see some art and entertainment. I know it’s still going to be a lengthy process, but the reasons for having it haven’t changed. We still need this and our residents want it.”