During his State of the City speech Aug. 28, Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison urged local business owners to spend as much time thinking about the future of the city as they do their current status. …
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During his State of the City speech Aug. 28, Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison urged local business owners to spend as much time thinking about the future of the city as they do their current status.
“We can no longer think inside the box,” Atchison told the members of the Westminster Chamber of Commerce at the annual luncheon. “We have to tear the sides of the box down and find new ways to do things before somebody else does it and we lose out.”
Atchison and Economic Development Director John Hall gave a quick rundown of economic development projects that are on the current horizon, from the Orchard development on Westminster’s northern edges to historic Westminster around 72nd and Lowell Boulevard. Then they answered questions from chamber members.
Atchison brought the discussion back to planning for the future again and again throughout his presentation, noting that none of the city’s projects are meant to be turned around quickly.
For example, Downtown Westminster is beginning to show results, now eight years after the Westminster Mall was torn down and the city began work to replace it.
“What we are creating is an urban district with a vibrant street level that is acting and engaging,” Atchison said. “It will not only be a destination for dining, shopping and entertainment it will be a hub of employment, civic and cultural uses and most importantly a new home for many downtown residents.”
With the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema open and joining JC Penney’s, the Olive Garden and the 118 apartment Eaton Street project, Atchison said there has been progress. More housing units are ready to open and the Origin Hotel is on course to open early in 2020.
But the downtown won’t be finished anytime soon, he said.
“This is a work in progress and it won’t be done in two or three years,” he said. “We will continue building out Downtown Westminster over the next 15 to 20 years.”
Similar work is underway at Westminster Station, the RTD commuter rail stop at 69th and Grove Street and at Orchard Town Center north off of 144th Avenue, he said.
“We won’t know what the future will look like 15 or 25 years in the future, but we know it will look much different than it does today,” he said. “We need to be able to plan for rapid advances in technology, to respond to shifts in politics and public police and we need to adapt to economic changes and adapt our services to the increasing expectations of an increasingly engaged community.”
Hall said that the moratorium on new developments north of 92nd Avenue that councilors enacted last year seems to have had little impact on Westminster’s fortunes. The councilors removed it in April
“It did slow some developments for a period of time, but most were able to recover, amend their timelines and get back on track,” Hall said. “We still see a fairly robust development schedule right now.”
Atchison also addressed efforts to limit growth in Lakewood and other cities. Voters there adopted a measure limiting new growth to 1 percent and requiring a public hearing on any projects of 40 units or more.
“Controlled growth, quality growth is what we’re interested in,” he said. “First and foremast, can we accommodate that kind of growth?”
He outlined some challenging scenarios, noting that the city does not have much undeveloped land.
“What we do have left, we have to be very smart with it,” he said. “Once something is there, it’s there for good. We will have to look at the ability to go vertical, to go higher to increase density because that’s the land we’re going to have left. And that’s not just a concern for us, but for all of us on the Front Range.
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