Colfax business districts want $500,000 from city council for improvements

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DENVER -- Denver is thriving, but its most famous street is being left behind.

“Colfax is our main street, it’s our historic drag,” said Hilarie Portell, executive director of Colfax Mayfair Business Improvement District.

Crumbling sidewalks, abandoned buildings and a lack of crosswalks provide visual proof.

“That attracts nuisance activity and that’s what we see on a consistent basis on Colfax. And it’s getting a little old,” Portell said.

Four business districts along the Colfax corridor are banning together to begin improvement.

The districts span about a nine-mile stretch of Colfax between Sheridan Boulevard and Yosemite Street.

The corridor was under consideration for the 2017 budget, but was not selected. Now, the group is turning to city council with hopes of amending the budget.

They’re asking for $500,000, with plans for walkways, better street lights, benches, bike racks and landscape areas.

“Colfax was originally designed to move automobiles and it moves a lot of them very quickly, which makes it a very dangerous environment for pedestrians,” said Jill Locantore, program director for Walk Denver.

Walk Denver, an advocacy organization dedicated to making Denver the most walkable city, has been working with the Colfax community for years and said the benefits are much more than walking.

“Walkable commercial districts do much better than car-oriented districts," Locantore said. "On average, they’ll see 80 percent more in retail sales and have higher lease rates for the businesses there. So it’s critical for the economic development of the corridor to cater to pedestrians.”

The city council is set to vote on the amendment next week.

Council member Mary Beth Susman said she expects it to pass and from there the decision goes to Mayor Michael Hancock.

“This is a really important project for the council and it means a lot to the neighborhoods,” Susman said. “It affects so many people’s lives.”

The $500,000 would be a starting point to a much more comprehensive plan to fix the Colfax corridor.

The business districts have started an online petition to urge the city to include Colfax improvements in the budget.