Englewood is going places: Mayor Joe Jefferson delivers the first State of the City. Courtesy of City of Englewood
BY PETER JONES
As Englewood enters the cusp of new beginnings, the mayor delivered the first-ever State of the City address in the history of the 114-year-old municipality.
“We are a smaller city of less than seven square miles, but we are a uniquely desirable place to live and do business because of the small-town feel, along with all the urban conveniences and vitality we enjoy,” Mayor Joe Jefferson told about 200 residents and government officials in the Englewood Civic Center on June 1.
Maintaining that mix of Mayberry charm and metropolitan amenity is more “art” than science, the mayor said of a city whose South Broadway business district, north of Hampden Avenue, is slowly evolving through a mix of intention and organic change.
Quite literally, a free Art Shuttle, in partnership with RTD, connects the city’s light rail station and government offices to its Broadway center and recently expanded medical complex, with displays of public art dotting the landscape all the way to the Museum of Outdoor Art.
“This is a popular service for our residents, averaging over 14,000 riders monthly. Public art is visible along the route, making the trip around town even more enjoyable,” Jefferson said.
Stops through the downtown area can now get travelers to such newer destinations as Brews on Broadway, Englewood Grand and the Whiskey Biscuit, as younger-skewing restaurants and bars continue to replace old-school retailers that have moved on, after having themselves unseated a long history of changing and historic business fronts.
“In the late 1800s, the community developed a saucy reputation when gamblers built saloons and roadhouses along South Broadway,” the mayor recounted, eventually tying the long history to the rise and fall of Cinderella City, a site where the Civic Center now stands.
“Today’s Englewood is a distinct reflection of its colorful history,” Jefferson said. “There continues to be a high priority placed on established family-friendly neighborhoods, a vibrant local economy, transportation, park amenities and education.”
Jefferson noted that millennials constitute 31 percent of Englewood’s total population of 33,000, while baby boomers comprise a shrinking 22 percent. As some of the city’s older development gives way to higher-density apartments in a sort of walkable, mixed-use “old urbanism,” the mayor says the older and the young are meeting in the middle.
“Seniors and millennials often want the same things—excellent transportation infrastructure, reasonably priced housing, a vibrant local economy that provides plenty of opportunity and consumer choices, community gathering places and most of all, a sense of community,” Jefferson said.
While the mayor said the great recession of 2008 caused budgetary struggles for the city, he said the City Council made it a priority to restructure the finances, capture efficiencies and build up reserves.
“2016 represented the first budgeted surplus in many years and we now have several years in a row of actual surplus in the general fund. However, we still have many long-term capital needs to address so we must remain vigilant,” Jefferson said.
In the next decade, it is projected that Englewood will need to spend $32 million on road and bridge projects, $17 million on facilities refurbishment, and $31 million on parks and recreation infrastructure. None of the projects yet have designated funding, and the mayor said the city is likely to apply for state and federal grants.
City voters have already OK’d a new police station, which is slated for groundbreaking by the end of the year. Voters have also approved bonds for Englewood Schools.
Much of the conversation about Englewood invariably returns to South Broadway, which recently introduced a new Final Friday celebration among area businesses and may be the site of a major outdoor celebration of the changing community this summer.
“I would not want to be anywhere in the world right now besides in here with all of you, my friends, neighbors, and colleagues defining our own, uniquely Englewood, art of community,” the mayor said in closing.
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