Rallying to Ensure that Union Station Works for Denver's Working Families

May 18, 2008 -- FRESC

April 14th marked the latest Campaign for Responsible Development (CRD) action that included a rally and march around City Hall and the delivery of more than 1,800 postcards calling on the Mayor of Denver to ensure that community benefits are a part of the redevelopment of Union Station, the city’s regional light rail and transit hub.  More than 130 supporters participated in the action.  The passionate words of grassroots leaders were captured in FRESC’s first-ever YouTube Video.

For almost two years, the FRESC-staffed Campaign for Responsible Development (CRD) has been organizing to achieve community benefits at the upcoming redevelopment of Denver’s Union Station.  The CRD, composed of environmental, labor, affordable housing and microbusiness organizations, is fighting for an environmentally sustainable development that includes low-income housing, family-supporting jobs with benefits, and opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

Recent decades of revitalization and billions of dollars in public and private investment have improved the vitality of downtown Denver.  But while new shops and lofts have helped breathe fresh air into the area, many downtown service workers struggle to earn a self-sufficient wage, with fewer and fewer residents unable to afford to live downtown.  Today, almost 40% of downtown Denver employment is in the lowest-paid sectors of the economy: food, service, hospitality, retail and janitorial.  In spite of a revitalized downtown, many of the core’s surrounding neighborhoods still struggle with poverty and loss of affordable housing.  To achieve its full ‘great city’ status, downtown Denver must take every opportunity to become more inclusive and achieve a more sustainable balance between jobs and housing.

The redevelopment of Union Station offers that opportunity to create good jobs and a stronger, more diverse downtown community.  The developers will be receiving an estimated $100 million in City tax subsidies in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in public transit dollars for the development that will serve as the hub for the region’s light rail and transit systems.  Nearly twenty acres of public land will be developed, including the creation of new retail, commercial, housing and office space.  In exchange, CRD is asking that the developer guarantee the creation of quality family-supporting jobs and opportunities for community-based local small businesses, low-income and accessible housing for families earning between $21,510 and $35,850, and environmentally sustainable construction and operation.

Union Station can be a model for mixed-income development. The coalition has begun negotiations with the public-private team who will redevelop the site, leading up to votes on the project by the Denver City Council and other public entities in mid-summer.

For more information, contact Robin Kniech, FRESC Program Director at rkniech@fresc.org