Mayor Melendez Urges Residents to Contact Commissioners in Support of Project
April 7, 2020
Submitted by the Town of Windsor
The Future Legends Sports Complex (formerly known as Colorado National Sports Park) is a private project with a public partnership component tied to the Town of Windsor. With the construction of a 118-acre sports tourism park underway at the location commonly known as the Diamond Valley ballfields, Weld County Commissioners made a last-minute decision without making notice to any of the participating parties to pull out of a statewide program that makes private funding available to qualifying projects.
The state-supported Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Finance program, also known also as the C-PACE clean energy program, allows developers to secure low-interest and low-risk loans. It is only available to property owners located in counties participating in the state-backed program. On Oct. 23, 2017, the Board of Weld County Commissioners unanimously adopted Resolution No. 2017-3636, authorizing participation in the state C-PACE clean energy program, a program supported by the State of Colorado’s Energy Office. On February 20, the Board of County Commissioners received notification that the Future Legends Sports Complex had submitted a program application seeking $20 million in C-PACE funding, equaling roughly 13% of its capital stack.
To participate in C-PACE, the property owner engages with a selected capital provider. In this case, owners of the Future Legends Sports Complex chose Petros PACE Finance LLC, to prepare and execute a financing agreement. The capital provider then instigates project closing and assessment records with the county where the property resides. With C-PACE no public funds are required for the program and no county liabilities are created.
That is when, according to Windsor Economic Development Director Stacy Miller, the Future Legends Sports Complex project’s future was jeopardized by a single decision made by the Board of Weld County Commissioners.
Only six days later—on February 26 and with no prior indication that Weld County commissioners intended to back out of the C-PACE program—Weld County commissioners voted unanimously to dissolve county participation. It appears the decision to disavowal program support was in response to notification that the board received from Petros PACE Finance, LLC’s that the project intended to secure C-PACE funding.
“By all appearances, the Weld County commissioners had to know that recusal from the C-PACE program would damage the project’s success,” said Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez. “This project was set to provide the town with a major and revolving source of revenue generated from hotel visitation, retail opportunities, and sports tourism activities.”
Melendez notes, “If C-PACE was such bad policy, then why was it passed unanimously in 2017, sat on the county and state books for almost three years and was only terminated after an application from Windsor was submitted? Why didn’t the Town of Windsor or anyone on the project get a courtesy call to hear the concerns and have an opportunity to address or refute the decision?”
Aside from supporting the local economy, Melendez states the bigger picture harms Weld County’s economy as well.
“I can’t understand why, at this crucial time, with everything our communities are facing in terms of public health and safety and when everything else in the business world as we know it is changing and crashing around us, why we can’t get Weld County to see the importance and magnitude of this project,” says an impassioned Melendez. “The jobs, the economics, the financial implications of this project are crucial and substantial and would greatly aid in our regional financial recovery. It’s not what this project brings to Windsor, but what it brings to the entire Northern Colorado Region, specifically to Weld County and to our state.”
According to Project Developer Jeff Katofsky, Future Legends was never notified that Weld County’s intention to pull out of the state-supported program. Business eligibility relied on county participation so the Petros PACE Finance, LLC loan was no longer an option. Up until that point, the loan was secure with a closing date scheduled. It was only upon Petros PACE’s finalization of loan closing documents that the Future Legends owner became aware of Weld County’s program dissolution.
Various attempts were made between the organization representing the financial interests of the loan, Mayor Melendez, and multiple state and local dignitaries to encourage Weld County commissioners to follow the intent of the original county resolution supporting C-PACE participation. This included offering that a third party, in place of Weld County, could handle the assessment collection obligation. In this scenario, the county would have no obligation with the project.
“There’s an option for commissioners to make an allowance for the sports complex project to move forward with C-PACE funding, but it relies on them holding up the spirit of the original resolution,” says Melendez.
Weld County commissioners’ dissolution of C-PACE participation was outside of Windsor’s control and Melendez believes that the decision is highly indefensible, as it may ensure the sports complex—which was projected to create nearly 1,500 job opportunities during the construction phase alone—will not succeed, having a severe negative impact on Windsor’s economic resources.
According to Melendez, “We were on the verge of something great, something for which we all could have been proud. Instead, we are now facing a severe negative financial impact for not only Windsor, but for all of Northern Colorado.”
“If you have a player at this time under these conditions still willing to move forward, any community would count itself lucky and would fight for it and do everything it takes to make sure that project comes to fruition,” says Melendez. “That’s what we’re fighting for right now. The lack of Weld commissioners’ support of the C-PACE program puts this project at risk of terminating and becoming a dead dream. It’s a job killer and an economy crusher that once gone, we will never get back nor is there anything of its kind to replace it with.”
A letter from Petros PACE Finance, LLC dated March 26, 2020, to Weld County commissioners, stated that the project would include over 250 hotel rooms, a retail center with national and local tenants, a viable sports venue and more. “The annual economic impact is in the tens of millions, with seven-figure annual tax revenue. Partners include local construction giant Hensel Phelps, several Colorado Rockies, led by our own Ryan Spilborghs, and a host of other business people, athletes and people of influence,” the letter states.
“I’m appalled that the Weld Board of County County Commissioners suggested Windsor find a way to make up this $20 million dollar gap. Their lack of sensitivity to the urgency of the timeline and the current state of emergency everyone is facing is part of the issue. Even if Windsor is able to find an alternative avenue for funding resources, and we are looking, my fear is that it will come too little too late and our alternatives would give up valuable tax revenues.” Melendez adds, “Windsor plans and builds for long-term success, and Future Legends Sports Complex fits into this plan. Future Legends Sports Complex is seriously threatened if we can’t get Weld County to rethink this.”
Melendez urges Weld County residents concerned with the loss of this project to contact the Weld Board of County Commissioners immediately and ask them to change their stance on C-PACE financing for the Future Legends Sports Complex project. Information about contacting commissioners is online at https://www.weldgov.com/departments/commissioners.
Denver retailers, shoppers weigh in on the COVID-born outlet for self-expression
A pair of mannequins posed in the window of True,a women’s boutique in the trendy River North Art District portion of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, modeling fall looks.
One sported a marigold, textured sweater and wide-brimmed hat. The other was dressed in a black puffy coat over a pink shirt tucked into jeans. The second mannequin had something dangling from its ear that a year ago may have stuck passersby as odd. Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, however, a patterned cloth mask seems natural.
“They are really seen as the new accessory,” Monique Plante, a True sales associate, said. “They’re definitely popular. I do get people coming in and asking for masks.”
Joe’s Liquors, also located in the 2600 block of Larimer Street, sells masks, too. They’re on the counter next to the tobacco products and the liquor shooters. They’re cheaper than the masks at True, $5.99 compared to $12 or $14 each. Unlike the floral patterns among True’s offerings, Joe’s Liquors sells masks bearing the Colorado flag or a Denver Broncos logo.
“No choice,” Joe’s owner Ung Choi said when asked why he started carrying masks. “People have been asking.”
That the two neighboring — albeit very different businesses — are selling face coverings is a sign of the times. It’s also a testament to how many people in Denver and across the nation have adapted to public health experts’ recommendations and have embraced masks as an avenue for self-expression.
“It’s quickly moved from commodity to something that is a differentiator,” said Melissa Akaka, an associate professor of marketing with the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. “It’s affixed onto our body. It covers our face. Masks are definitely closely tied to how we engage with others and how we express ourselves.”
Government intervention has played a role in masks moving from something mostly associated with medical workers to being accepted and expected in contexts ranging from the workplace to Colorado’s mountain trails, said Akaka, co-director of DU’s Consumer Insights and Business Innovation Center. Gov. Jared Polis issued a statewide mask mandate in July that applies to everyone over the age of 11 and covering all indoor public spaces including stores. Polis on Monday extended the mandate for another 30 days amid a rise in coronavirus hospitalization in the state.
That intervention come with pushback. Demostrations have been held in Colorado protesting the mask order and other government restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. One held at Bandimere Speedway in Jefferson County last month drew more than 1,000 unmasked people.
As Choi has seen with the Denver Central Market food hall across the street from his store, many businesses enforced their own mandatory mask rules before the governor or city officials took action. And many people will buy a mask on the fly so they can shop where they want to shop.
“The mandate to wear them in particular areas means that we have to have enough of this product to get through our daily lives and once you have to wear them you might as well make them something you want to wear,” Akaka said.
Akaka has noticed stylization quickly has become a big part of mask-wearing, possibly because so many masks early in the pandemic were handmade by anyone with a sewing machine. Her 11-year-old daughter personalized a plain colored mask for herself after not being able to find one she liked online.
The COVID Essentials store in Park Meadows mall in Lone Tree opened Labor Day weekend to offer dozens of varieties of masks and face shields, which line the walls in showroom fashion. Masks run anywhere from $14.99 to $129.99 for a “wearable air purifier” with a built-in fan, according to co-owner Nathan Chen.
“Denver likes the blingy ones,” Chen said Tuesday, motioning toward a row of masks decorated with Swarovski crystals.
COVID Essentials offers accessories including lanyards and extra straps that allow masks to be connected behind the neck rather than looping over the ears. It also boasts a wide selection of iron-on patches ranging from numbers and letters to emojis and pop culture characters. Salesman Chris Guzman wore a mask with patches of the Pokémon Charizard and the Batman logo.
“Most of the day I’m in the custom corner pressing masks,” Chen said of the popularity of the patches. “We used to do that on our jeans and jackets when we were kids.”
Of course, there are plenty of masks with logos and designs already on them in the store. Masks bearing President Donald Trump’s name have been popular, Chen said. He also carries Joe Biden masks.
Denver resident Tina DeVita bought a polyester mask with a Broncos logo on it at COVID Essentials on Tuesday. It was a little pricey for her at $24.99 before taxes, but she had been looking for a Broncos mask and got a voucher for $5 off her next mask at the store.
Like many people who work in the hospitality industry right now, DaVita is struggling. She has been furloughed from her job at a hotel gift shop. She was wearing face coverings daily at work and had 12 masks before buying her Broncos print Tuesday.
“Now it feels like I need to have something where I can coordinate with my clothes whether it’s for business or casual,” DeVita said. “It’s the new normal so you might as well have fun with it.”
The Lone Tree store is one of eight COVID Essentials locations across the country. Chen’s partner Nadav Benimetzky launched the first one in Florida. The chain and its Park Meadows location were featured in a story by a Kaiser Health News reporter that was published on the New York Times website. In that story, Bienmetzky said “I can’t wait to go out of business eventually,” looking forward to when the coronavirus is contained and masks and other COVID-related supplies are no longer essentials.
Chen expects demand will take a while to fade. He frequently hears from customers that are concerned that a future vaccine might not be effective or some people may choose not to be vaccinated, he said. Those people expect to rely on masks as a line of defense even after a vaccine is rolled out. In the short term, people are buying masks they plan to wear on New Year’s Eve or give as gifts for the holidays, Chen said.
COVID Essentials has plenty of competition trying to meet that demand, even within its own mall. Park Meadows general manager Pamela Schenck Kelly estimates that about half of the more than 180 retailers open in the shopping center today sell masks.
“Unintended consequences: Masks have become part of the look,” Kelly said. “A lot of masks are an expression of a person’s views, an expression of their style. It’s almost like what the T-shirt was in the 70s.”
Inside the social world of a shift-scheduling app – The Denver Post
By John Herrman
Zoom fatigue, layoffs in Slack chat, reply-all meltdowns and the general destruction of work-life boundaries: The digitized plight of the white-collar office employee, 9-to-5-ing remotely, has been documented extensively.
In non-white-collar industries, hit even harder by the pandemic — small businesses like restaurants, bars and independent retailers — managers have spent much of this year dealing with more immediate and brutal dilemmas, making major staff cuts and furloughs, navigating complicated loan applications, and weighing closures both temporary and permanent. Their employees, many unable to collect unemployment benefits that are now running out anyway, are not only eager for work but also wary of its new risks.
The pandemic has accelerated the service industry’s embrace of new tech tools, many of which are being adapted to the industry’s peculiar new needs. Online delivery platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats became vital — and sometimes demanding — partners for restaurants where takeout had been an afterthought.
Plans for touch-screen tableside ordering were expedited. Reservation and point-of-sale software is now being updated to help restaurants comply with new and frequently changing state-by-state capacity and spacing rules.
Some changes are less visible. Apps used for assigning and trading shifts have become, for some workers, the last thin thread connecting them to their jobs and colleagues.
In the beginning of September, HotSchedules, an employee scheduling and communications app, was one of the 10 bestselling apps in Apple’s App Store, just ahead of the hugely popular Plague Inc. — a pandemic simulation game — and FaceTune, the photo touch-up app.
HotSchedules’ downloads tell a story: In March and April, when many service workers were sent home, it was crowded out by apps used for remote schooling and work; by May and especially June, it had come roaring back. Temporarily closed restaurants and bars were, to different degrees and at different times, returning to business as usual.
HotSchedules, which is based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 1999 and released its first web-based scheduling system in 2000. In 2008, it released its first smartphone app, and in 2019 it merged with Fourth, a company in London that specializes in payroll, analytics and inventory-tracking software.
While HotSchedules is primarily used for setting work schedules, it also includes email-style messaging that owners, managers and employees can use to talk. In many workplaces, this talk is limited to official business and haggling over shifts; in some, HotSchedules becomes a de facto social network.
DM-ing with (and around) the boss
Amber Hitchcock, 27, who works at a steakhouse in Florida, said that most employees use the app for its intended purpose. “But then people are like, ‘Hey, I have a pressure-washing business,’ or, like, ‘Here’s a cat I found.’ ”
How people use the service is largely a reflection of workplace culture. A restaurant worker in South Carolina, who was granted anonymity by The New York Times to protect his job, described how a male co-worker once used the app to send inappropriate messages to a woman he worked with; when the co-worker was let go, he sent a message to the entire staff lashing out at his managers.
HotSchedules is, at its core, a tool for managers, and so managers dictate how, and how well, it’s used.
“I’ve used HotSchedules at four to five different restaurants now,” said Sierra Cordell, a supervisor at a restaurant in Denver. “I’ve worked places where it was discouraged to use it for anything other than strictly scheduling,” Cordell said, “but at other places, we’ve set up our fantasy football league through HotSchedules messaging.”
In March, when local restaurants were ordered to close for in-house service, Cordell’s employer told staff members they wouldn’t be working for a while. “One server sent out a lot of very detailed information about unemployment in Colorado and sent over some helpful tips regarding getting contact with the unemployment office,” Cordell said.
Chatter shifted to Facebook and group texts until June, when workers started getting their first notifications from HotSchedules: Shifts were once again available. Since then the app has been key as a hub for weekly updates about changes to service, coronavirus precautions and staffing issues.
In the early days of the pandemic, Sara Porcheddu, a bartender and server in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was similarly encouraged by how communicative her employer was on HotSchedules. When she and her colleagues were furloughed in March, the communication continued: messages about “local emergency funds we could apply for, unemployment insurance tips, when and how we could pick up our final tip and wage checks, as well as being generally warm and supportive,” she said.
“A few posts a week quickly turned into radio silence,” Porcheddu said. “It became clear things would be closed a lot longer than we anticipated.” She didn’t receive any HotSchedules notifications for weeks; eventually she stopped checking it.
Her workplace had never been especially social on HotSchedules — perhaps, Porcheddu said, “influenced by rumors that our general manager had access to any messages we sent to each other.”
Instead, the app was mostly used for shift swapping and looking up contact information for other employees. (Madison McGillicuddy, an outside spokeswoman for HotSchedules, shared the company’s response: that managers do not have routine access to employee messages; in cases where there is “legitimate cause for concern, such as legal, health or physical or mental well-being,” the company said, a manager can submit a request to the company for access.)
Still, in the early days of the pandemic it was Porcheddu’s sole source of information about her workplace, and her job. In June, she checked for an update. The restaurant’s account had been deactivated.
She’s been checking in on former colleagues and managers on social media, looking, and asking, for clues about possible reopening. As far as she knows, she’s been “furloughed” for six months.
Other restaurant workers, physically cut off from their workplaces, shared similarly surreal experiences.
Alex, a 22-year-old server in central Ohio, was eight months pregnant when the small restaurant she worked at shut down; she gave birth the next day.
“I was exhausted from taking care of my newborn at the time so I wasn’t logging on to HotSchedules all that much,” she said. In the middle of May, she and her mother, who worked at the same restaurant, logged in to see if there were any updates. They were locked out.
“There was no communication and no explanation,” she said. Just an error message.
Worried about her eligibility for unemployment benefits, Alex was eventually able to get in touch with a manager by phone, who provided a fuller story: There had been staff cuts, and she was among them.
Brave new world of workplace chat
Apps like HotSchedules share an attitude, and central tension, with their white-collar counterparts, like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google’s G Suite, and encourage somewhat free and casual exchange. These apps often obscure, although not always effectively, conventional power dynamics.
Remote work during the pandemic, which has shifted more time and labor to such platforms, has sharpened the contrast between how such tools feel and what they’re actually for: productivity, efficiency and helping companies keep track of their workforces.
Some firms are using new software to comprehensively monitor remote workers, while others are seeing how close they can get with the tools they already expect employees to use.
Employees returning to work in virtually every industry are realizing that their jobs, if they’re lucky enough to have kept them, aren’t the same ones they left. Safely meeting basic business needs is complicated enough, and additional in-person interaction is widely discouraged. Workplace socializing, to the extent it still exists, even in workplaces where presence is mandatory, has been nudged online.
A restaurant, of course, is not a tech start-up, and compared with the overlapping communications systems used for remote office work, the social veneer of a service like HotSchedules is thin. (The app asks workers how they might rate their recent shifts, using emoji.) Still, messaging is one of the app’s most robust functions; according to the company, employees interact with it on average 3.5 times per day, even during a period of curtailed work.
“One of the ways employees have stayed engaged is using the communications tools,” said Casey Clinkenbeard, who works in product development for HotSchedules. “It’s kind of like a watering hole.”
The problem is, with reduced or eliminated in-person interactions, there isn’t much to talk about except anxiety and fear about job security and health.
One factor in HotSchedules’ sudden spike in popularity may be a new feature: an option to require employees to answer a health survey before they’re able to schedule a shift.
With more than 6,000 customers accounting for more than 35,000 different locations — mostly restaurants and bars — HotSchedules has an unusually clear view of how the pandemic has shocked the service industry.
It’s clear from their data, for example, that larger chains and takeout-ready restaurants have fared much better than their smaller counterparts. Reopened quick-service restaurants have returned to and sometimes exceeded prepandemic staffing levels. In contrast, HotSchedules recorded a drop in average scheduled staffers at table-service restaurants from a peak of 39 at the beginning of March to 25 at the beginning of August — a statistic that excludes restaurants that closed altogether.
Health care real estate firm eyeing metro Denver for corporate headquarters
A multibillion-dollar California real estate investment trust and the U.S. arm of a Japanese aerospace firm are considering locating their headquarters in metro Denver, according to incentive requests approved this week by the Colorado Economic Development Commission.
Healthpeak Properties, a real estate investment trust based in Irvine, Calif., was approved for up to $5.3 million in Job Growth Incentive Tax Credits if it brings 166 net new full-time jobs to the state. The company, which applied under the codename Project Pegasus, expects the primarily executive-level jobs will pay an average annual wage of $425,213 a year.
“It would be the highest projected average annual wage if they move forward with Colorado,” said Jill McGranahan, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Office of Economic Development & International Trade.
One question around Healthpeak’s award is whether it could actually take advantage of those state tax credits. Real estate investment trusts must pay out 90% of their profits as dividends to investors, meaning it may not be much state income to offset for tax purposes.
Jim Croy, a senior vice president at Healthpeak, told members of the EDC on a video call that the company is “very interested in Colorado.” The trust focuses on investing in life science facilities, medical offices, and senior housing. Croy described metro Denver as being closer to its markets and a better location than Irvine.
Healthpeak, which has a market value of $14.7 billion, is also considering Nashville and Dallas for its new headquarters.
Another Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit award, worth up to $1.13 million, was approved for the U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese company developing a lunar lander capable of delivering payloads to the moon. The U.S. headquarters would employ 48 people over the next five years with an average wage of $118,333.
The company, which applied as Project Cosmic Sphere, also is looking to build a plant to manufacture its landers, although it is not certain if that would locate near the U.S. office. The company is looking at a $40 million capital investment and considering locations in Texas and Florida as well.
Developing logistics capabilities to the moon will in turn make upcoming deep space missions possible, Vicky Lea, director of aerospace and aviation at the Metro Denver Economic Development Commission, told the EDC.
Aurora and Colorado Springs are in the running to permanently host the U.S. Space Command. Landing that newly established military branch could attract a host of aerospace companies.