Longmont Council Floundering on City Planning

Photo by M. Douglas Wray ©2011 FreeRangeLongmont.com

Council is floundering on Twin Peaks redevelopment.

Longmont City Council seems to be floundering again on city planning.  It’s a familiar story.  They cozy up to a company that wants to have its own way completely in what it does to Longmont.  Whether it is oil companies or mall developers, they make deals that do not reflect the thoughts or preferences of the people of Longmont.  Then they paper it over simply by declaring that their own bizarre decisions are “what the people want,” or “what the people have asked for.”  Listen up, City Council!  The people of Longmont didn’t ask for fracking wells in the city, or fracking wells surrounding Union Reservoir, but it took a public referendum and official vote to make that clear to the Longmont City Council.   Even so, the City Council seems less than enthusiastic about enforcing the ban on drilling that the people’s vote now mandates.  Instead of listening to the residents of Longmont, the City Council seems distressed at the thought of conducting themselves as the representatives of the people who elected them.

The recent disputes about how to redevelop Twin Peaks Mall involve tactics that are similar to the push for sweetheart deals with the oil companies.   City Council members have again shown their eagerness to bend over because the failed cinema wants to extend its failures into the future by using Longmont tax dollars. The existing mall has only one major survivor at this point, a large department store that found a way to stay in business, despite the disastrous mismanagement of the mall.   And what does City Council want to do with it?  Taking a wrecking ball to it, of course, and declare that this is what the people have asked for.  On the contrary, the people have already voted with their dollars to keep this department store.  There is no other store like it in Longmont, and no other store with their survivor skills in today’s market.  You’d think the City Council would be consulting the department store about what would be needed for a viable mall.  Instead, they have courted one of the worst cinema chains, whose appeal is largely to teenagers and small children, and made this the cornerstone of their redevelopment.  This theater habitually screens the cinematic equivalent of fast food.  There are other cinema chains that would be far better choices for redeveloping the mall.  Boulder has found them and so has Denver.  Why can’t the City Council take its blinders off and do the same?  Do they really think that the weekly allowance of twelve year olds is what it takes to make a new mall financially viable?

And aren’t these the same Council members who moaned and complained about the expense of law suits when it came to standing up for citizen’s rights against the encroachments of oil companies?  Now they have decided to initiate legal action to try to condemn the only viable store at the present mall.  This strategy seems like a very long shot, and a ridiculous misuse of Longmont tax dollars.  It will cause serious delays in the mall redevelopment and will drive away many new tenants who might otherwise want to be in Longmont.

If the deal with the current cinema can’t get the wrecking ball, then choose something else for another anchor.  Why not revitalize the conference center, and give it more variety and visibility in the possible uses for it.  Add a performance hall to it, for example, like the one that Arvada has.   Put a new multiplex cinema on Hover or Ken Pratt Blvd or upper Main St. or Pace St.  Apparently the present cinema only has a deal for the present location.  The cinema for Longmont could easily be relocated, and could attract a film distributor that would provide us with much more variety and quality.  And finally, why rebuild the entire mall when only parts of it need to be changed?  Has City Council never heard of remodeling?

The City Council needs to change its approach, and in fact put the needs of residents first in their considerations, not last.  Longmont residents have shown that they will not stand for a flagrant misuse of tax dollars to underwrite sweetheart deals with companies that have no interest in the well-being of Longmont.

  2 comments for “Longmont Council Floundering on City Planning

  1. Gregory Iwan
    April 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    The saddest part of the matter is that “malls” might well be extinct for all practical purposes. Between online and catalog sales and excessive rents (which support excessive property “values” and add to property tax collections that the County covets almost as much as the City), to say nothing of low wages and consistently elevated economic friction–e.g., uncoordinated traffic stop lights–there are few reasons to suppose that new business is salivating at the prospect of locating here in the first place. Even those who like PAYING low wages undergo these “frictions,” and if their margins are tight and they need to compete for what labor there is, they hate it. If their margins are excessive then competition heats up, and that’s when and how Longmont could gain new commercial entries that might be worth something. Now if a business can’t grow its margin with low wages, then what kind of business is it, really? Incompetent? Improperly marketed? Poorly sited (like IHOP, Village Inn, K-Mart, Albertson’s, etc., etc.)? What’s needed in Longmont is a hiring epidemic, not rearranging the chairs on the Mall’s Titanic. More hiring grows incomes and leads to more jobs, which leads to people with money in their pockets, …. Are you getting my point? A comprehensive revitalization of a two-block-deep downtown, complete with a 287 bypass, total public-transit penetration AND more high-density residential (Cotton Burden’s project is a start but only that), might prove to be a better way forward than a splashy “mall” with an economic lifetime measured in less than a decade. Try getting your Tax Increment Financing recovered in that time. This mall thing is a recipe for the City’s financial disaster, not fracking lawsuits, to be sure. Sadly, instead of foresight and courage we get polished rear view mirrors and fearmongering.

  2. lesblant
    April 7, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    Wow. I hadn’t even thought of some of those things. But how right it sounds. This article is a year old now. You need to update the story. All I see is Longmont getting poorer and more unemployed, farther and farther away from RTD access, and little movement on the new mall. Even if they do manage to get this mall built, which I am dubious about, I am not sure if this town can afford to shop there. Longmont is stuck in the mud, in my opinion.

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