Metro secures funding for newest stage of Master Plan
By Paul Zastrocky
The Metropolitan (Metropolitan State College of Denver)
Metro will purchase bonds worth almost $60 million to fund building the Hotel Learning Center, a portion of Metro's Master Plan.
Because of Metro's timeliness in acquiring the bonds, proposed Amendments 60 and 61 should not affect building plans for the HLC. Metro President Stephen Jordan and two staff members visited California Sept. 19 to research Metro bonding issues if 60 and 61 pass according to Tim Carroll, assistant director of Media Relations.
Amendment 61, currently on the Colorado ballot, proposes eliminating borrowing or bonding by the state, and significantly limiting it at the local level. If amendment passes future projects like the HLC, or a public library, new firehouse or road construction, would require payment up front. Also, the RTD FasTrack program would cease to exist because RTD needs to float a bond to pay for the project, according to Tamara Ward, senior vice president of public affairs and communication for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
Amendment 60 calls for a reduction in property taxes paid by individuals and businesses to school districts, counties and towns. According to the State Ballot information booklet.
The measure also requires that reduced property tax funds, used to fund public schools be replaced with state funding. The estimated loss in revenue projected by the Bell Policy Center, a nonpartisan organization, stands at $1 billion a year or more. Metro, as well as human services in Colorado, would be severely impacted fiscally.
A nonprofit corporation known as the HLC @ Metro, Inc. was created by Metro's Board of Trustees at a meeting Sept. 14.
HLC @ Metro, Inc. will finance the hotel. The project is supposed to be financed through tax-subsidized Build America Bonds, with the debt primarily paid by revenues from the hotel and the rest of the debt paid through fund raising efforts. By creating the nonprofit, bondholders would then assume much of the risk.
From the beginning, Metro has looked at possibilities for public/private partnerships to incorporate in the Master Plan.
"The idea was that these private developers would pay us rent to use the land. We could then use that rent as a revenue stream to build new academic buildings elsewhere on campus," said Jill Jennings Golich, Auraria master planner.
One option offered by a Denver developer was to open a Target store on campus, which Metro declined.
"That sort of just scared them," Jennings Golich said. "The land is really valuable, and does that make sense for us, who really do need space and are going to continue to have growth and are really land-locked, to turn over land to something like Target?"
The HLC is a public/private partnership that encompasses the goals of the institution, according to Jennings Golich.
Although the HLC will be primarily staffed by students and faculty, and will house classrooms and a conference center, the hotel will be a Marriott property run by Springhill Suites.
"That's a really true public/private partnership," Jennings Golich said. "That's really kind of what's envisioned."
A group from the Master Plan subcommittee visited the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania for inspiration in their public/private planning because both institutions have had success with similar ventures.
The hotel will be six stories with 180 rooms. The attached classroom building and conference center will be two stories high and will face Auraria Parkway. Mortenson Construction will be building the HLC, and the architects RNL and JG Johnson are in charge of design. RNL also designed the new Student Success Center, Jennings Golich said.
The Center for Innovation also has plans to incorporate a public/private element in their headquarters in the Student Success Center.
Other opportunities to incorporate this type of partnership in the new SSC include a coffee shop, some small retail space or a student gallery to catch the attention of passers-by, according to Jennings Golich.
The Master Plan creates institutional neighborhoods unique to Metro, CCD and UCD. The perimeters for Metro's "neighborhood" are designated as being between 9th and 7th streets, along Auraria Parkway.
There was discussion of closing 7th Street because of its width and how fast cars tend to drive. The idea was ultimately ruled out because it's really the only thoroughfare between Colfax and Auraria Parkway on campus, Jennings Golich said.
The tentative date for the ground breaking for the HLC is Feb. 2011, according to Jennings Golich. The HLC is estimated to be completed by Fall 2012.