State of the City

An Annual Address by Mayor Bob Murphy
Mayor Bob Murphy's 2014 State of the City speech focused on the City's recent accomplishments, the priorities for the coming year and the vision for the future. This annual community luncheon raises funds for nonprofit organizations in Lakewood -- $8,500 this year.
 

Presented by FirstBank

Hosted by

  • Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District
  • Alameda Gateway Community Association
  • Lakewood-West Colfax Business Improvement District
  • West Colfax Community Association
Video of the Mayor's 2014 State of the City address.
 
Text of Mayor Murphy's Remarks

Mayor Bob Murphy
State of the City, 2014

Thank you George and Bill, and thanks to both of your organizations, the Alameda Gateway and West Colfax community associations for putting on this event today. I know it’s a lot of work. It’s great to see so many of you here today from both organizations. I think it’s important that the word “community” is in the name of both groups because community building really is our core mission as public servants on the Lakewood City Council.

 

Once again, I’d like to pay special thanks to FirstBank, our hometown bank, for being the presenting sponsor today, the only one in the history of this event. We also want to thank FirstBank for continuing their longtime commitment to Lakewood by choosing to expand at their current corporate headquarters. This will be one of several new multimillion dollar investments near Colfax Avenue this year.

 

And thanks to everyone who came out today. It’s really our one opportunity each year to focus on Lakewood, to celebrate our successes, to acknowledge our challenges, and, together, to envision our future.

 

So, this is now my seventh State of the City address. They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I am – most of the time! Seriously, this time I’ve had to serve you as mayor has been the most enriching and rewarding experience of my life, and I want to start off by sincerely thanking you for this opportunity.

 

And what a six years it has been!

 

Some of you arrived here today on a gleaming new light rail car. You disembarked at the Federal Center/St Anthony Hospital Station, looked across the platform and saw two hospitals, including Ortho Colorado, that just three years ago were not there. Maybe you even thought about the immediate impact of this dynamic facility on our city: world-class health care right here at home, 1,700 new jobs, lots of new building renovations and construction on Union Boulevard, more business for those already here like 240 Union, right Michael?

 

2014SOCMayor4But if you happened to look north from that platform, you saw something else. One eye might see a vacant parcel of land known as the “horseshoe property” that’s frankly a bit desolate right now. But another eye sees opportunity, an opportunity born from the convergence of 1) a multimodal transit station, 2) a federal campus with over 6, 000 jobs, 3) a dynamic new medical campus, 4) a Union corridor with 13,000 jobs, and 5) all of this soon to be connected to DIA, and the world, by rail when the East Line opens in two years.

 

It’s an opportunity symbolized by the two medical office buildings adjacent to the hospital that quickly reached capacity, an opportunity easily measured by the 2,700 indirect jobs that St. Anthony Medical Campus has already spun off. Yet, this is about much more than jobs. Working with our partners RTD and the General Services Administration, we have an incredible opportunity with the horseshoe property at the Federal Center to create a distinctive and dynamic new urban village, an opportunity to create a synergetic cluster of resources and intellectual capacity in order to cradle and foster the kind of innovation that’s occurring right now in medicine, biotech, alternative energy development and so much more.

 

Most importantly, it will also be a place to call home for people living in hundreds of homes that will span the affordability spectrum. People who can walk to work, hop on the train to cultural events both to downtown and to 40 West, shop at local stores, ride their bikes to Green Mountain, in short, people who will become welcomed new members of our community.

 

We’re getting closer to implementing this vision that hundreds of residents have helped us create through several plans over the last six years. When we start, it will be gradual as pioneering efforts often are. But in the end, we want to ensure we leave ourselves the capability to have discretion over the outcome and the flexibility to adapt to evolving market conditions.

 

Are we thinking big? I sincerely hope so! That’s what it will take to continue to survive and thrive in a competitive and increasingly global marketplace. An undertaking of this scope will require four important skills: No. 1, creativity; No. 2, collaboration; No. 3, the capacity to participate financially at some level, and finally the courage to be innovative and bold.

 

Collaboration, investment, the courage to embark on creative, but careful risk-taking. I think that just described what we did with Belmar. It was just over 10 years ago when the public witnessed the first store openings at Belmar. What many didn’t get to see was the vision of people like Mark Falcone, the years of planning, the daily roll-up-your-sleeves work between Lakewood’s staff and Continuum Partners to turn that vision into reality. Our City was presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform a decaying mall into a new urbanist downtown in a suburb that had never had one.

 

It took courage and a financial partnership, and today, under the stewardship of Linda Kaboth and the GF Group, Belmar is stronger than ever. And there is still more to come with new additions to the downtown, including a hotel. Planners from all over the country continue to hold up Belmar as the model for suburban redevelopment. It is truly a unique place, designed to stand the test of time. Seizing that opportunity presented to us a decade ago – even with some risk involved – resulted in an immense positive impact for this city. Impact that cannot solely be measured in dollars, but in community pride, in an infusion of new creative energy and in rising property values surrounding Belmar.

 

Lakewood can afford to think big because we never lose sight of three fundamentals: 1) ensuring that our community is safe for residents and businesses, 2) building a firm financial foundation, and 3) doing everything we can to support our public and private educational institutions.

 

Today, I bring good news on all three of these fronts. In 2013 for the fifth time in the last six years, our crime rate in Lakewood declined. Property crime dropped 2 percent and crimes against persons fell an astonishing 17 percent. It’s a tribute to the training and professionalism of our police force and also to their flexibility as they constantly strive to implement new techniques that adapt to our evolving city. Today’s style of community policing partners residents and businesses with agents who are deployed in the same areas for extended periods and, thus, gain intimate knowledge of their sectors.

 

2014SOCMayor1The idea of investing in our future with projects like Belmar or the horseshoe property at the Federal Center requires confidence in our current financial status. Today I am proud to report that when the books close on 2013 your city is on track to spend less than it brought in for the ninth straight year. Once again our fund balance is the highest in our history. This savings account allows us to consider investing in significant projects important to the city and protects us against shocks from instabilities in the economy. This financial strength is an incredible tribute to our management team and entire staff, led by City Manager Kathy Hodgson. Think about it: despite the financial crisis, on through the Great Recession, nine straight years of adding money to our savings account. We’ve done it with no layoffs or furloughs, we lowered taxes, and very importantly, we were able to give our dedicated employees competitive merit raises each year. I can tell you the culture of this organization, the one that keeps us safe, that provides such wonderful quality of life services on a daily basis, has never been stronger or more cohesive.

 

We’re an organization of 900 professionals committed to providing a high level of service to 144,000 customers -- you, our residents, businesses and community members. Like any top-notch organization, we constantly strive for improvement. Just two months ago, we launched a brand-new effort called Request Lakewood. This new online system channels your question or concern directly to the appropriate staff member, facilitating a response in a courteous and timely fashion. It even includes a mobile app called GORequest, where you can take a picture of something, like graffiti, and immediately submit it. Finally in keeping with our commitment to inclusiveness, there is even a built-in translator so requests can be made in a variety of languages. We’re proud of this new upgrade to our customer service so that we can serve you better.

 

We are also very proud of our Jefferson County School District. You have heard me say many times how vital our schools are to everything we set out to do: public safety, business attraction and retention, enhancement of property values and cultural enrichment. Our services are intertwined with theirs from after-school arts programs to school resource officers and, of course, the Boys and Girls Club at O’Connell. Their kids are our kids. Our kids are their kids. We simply cannot succeed unless they do.

 

I’m happy to report that, once again, the graduation rate in Jeffco Schools increased in 2013. Our overall rate is more than 4 percentage points higher than the rest of Colorado. And the graduation rate from our neighborhood high schools – think Lakewood, Green Mountain, Alameda and Bear Creek – increased to 89 percent. Those are indeed powerful numbers for the state’s largest school district.

 

Sadly, though, we are saying goodbye to the architect of this success. Dr. Cindy Stevenson, one of the great educational visionaries and leaders in this country, has retired from the district.

 

Cindy has been in the Jeffco school system since she was 5 years old. She is a graduate of Lakewood High School. She has dedicated her entire career to the district and our kids, beginning as a kindergarten teacher and concluding with 12 stellar years as our leader.

 

One of our themes today is impact. Over the last three decades, no one has had a more positive impact on our kids, on our new generation of leaders, and, thus, on our entire community than Cindy Stevenson. Cindy, thank you just isn’t enough. You’ve dedicated your career, indeed your life to Jeffco. And you gave it everything you had within you. We sincerely appreciate what you’ve done and wish you the best.

 

By the way, I can’t leave the topic of schools without again mentioning Lakewood High School and a certain event last October. Those Lakewood Tigers roared loud enough to bring Katy Perry here for a concert that was televised live on “Good Morning America” and brought national acclaim to the school and our city. Congratulations again to Ron Castagna, who is here today, his staff and the entire student body. By the way, if you ever doubted the existence of school spirit in these times, those doubts were washed away in the wave of enthusiastic cheers in that gym that still has my ears ringing.

 

The impact of education extends to our institutions of higher learning as well. Colorado Christian University is undergoing an expansion that is infusing millions of dollars into our economy, expanding their curriculum and elevating their international status as a leader in preparing students for careers and for life.

 

Red Rocks Community College is fast on their feet, adapting to the rapidly changing needs of employers with a dynamic, responsive new curriculum. Always on the forefront of tomorrow’s educational and vocational needs, Red Rocks gives students a world of opportunities, whether to simultaneously earn high school and college credits or improve water quality for villagers living in remote parts of Bolivia.

 

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design continues to serve as a creative hub in our community, particularly for the West Colfax corridor. They too are rapidly adapting to changing student needs, including formulation of a robust new online curriculum. We greatly appreciate their dynamic contributions, including student Ryan Mathews, who is here today, the first official artist-in-residence at the Lamar Station Crossing.

 

We constantly emphasize our quality homegrown educational institutions because a well-trained workforce is essential to one of the pillars of our economic development strategy: retaining and attracting employers. Every day, 50,000 people leave Lakewood to go to work elsewhere, but another 50,000 commute in to jobs here. These are people who shop here, dine here and often eventually move here, along the way stimulating every segment of our economy.

 

On April 1, we will celebrate a significant success on this front. Terumo BCT, already our largest private employer, will break ground for their new corporate headquarters building on their campus at the Lakewood Technology Center. This represents first and foremost a commitment to remain here, but also, over time, a $45 million investment, and ultimately hundreds of additional jobs.

 

Terumo’s site is walking distance from the Oak Station. Like current and future employees at the Federal Center and St. Anthony, Terumo’s associates will have the option of commuting to work by rail.

 

2014SOCMayor2Last year, I spoke of what I believe will be the catalytic impact of this new form of transportation. One reason: the W Rail is absolutely unique among current and future rail lines in the metro area. Most of the portion in Lakewood does not run along a freeway, but rather travels a narrow right of way through existing residential neighborhoods. This creates an entirely different character, a streetcar-like intimacy that will generate a different style of development.

 

It will not be big boxes that we first see, but homes. They will be built in a more compact format, satisfying the changing desires of young people and empty nesters alike, to have less responsibility for upkeep and more flexibility in life including access to transit. Already 10 different proposed projects are in the pipeline, totaling more than 1,800 units. These will be new customers for our existing businesses and will spawn the kind of neighborhood-serving retail that many have been hoping to see for a long time. We will welcome the new arrivals, with their new energy and new ideas. And for those of us looking to downsize a bit and move closer to transit, we’ll be making available our existing homes to other new arrivals, continuing the ongoing regeneration of our beautiful single-family neighborhoods.

 

The first of these new developments opened on Jan. 11. Lamar Station Crossing is the creation of Metro West Housing Solutions. It is, in a word, impressive, and includes live-work spaces, a community room and an artist-in-residence program. If you don’t think affordable can also be beautiful, you need to stop in and take a look. It is already a model for future projects.

 

Just how important is this housing to our future and ensuring the next generation comes to live in Lakewood? Liz Black, who is here today, is a living example of what happens with the intersection of housing, transit and cultural amenities. She moved to the Two Creeks neighborhood because it’s close to the W Line and is home to the growing 40 West Arts District. Within a short time of becoming a Lakewood resident, Liz has already become a writer for the 40 W Artsphere blog.

 

The impact of light rail has presented an opportunity to envision a new, more vibrant Lakewood. Our stations will evolve in their own unique ways. Each will offer a more walkable, bikeable lifestyle and allow convenient access to everything from a nearby art gallery, to healthy food options, to an international airport.

 

Nowhere is this vision more apparent than at our two easternmost stations: Sheridan and Lamar. At Sheridan, a collaboration of neighbors, businesses, and the cities of Lakewood and Denver is planning for a “20-minute neighborhood,” where everything you need from work to groceries, medical care, entertainment and recreation is all within just a 20-minute walk.

 

But it is at the Lamar Station where the vision is already turning into reality. The seeds planted through the hard work from all the folks at the 40 West Arts District are now bearing fruit – or flowers, in the case of the beautiful mural painted on the side of the Kings Rest Motel by Lakewood artist Johanna Parker to inaugurate the exciting new COLorFAX program.

 

Added to that art is a freshly launched business incubator called the LaunchPad Lakewood, with 22 mentors already on board to help start-up and other new businesses.

 

I frequently talk and write about the importance of the arts. Why? Because of the broad scope of its potential impact: on our image, our economy, our efforts toward revitalization, on our spirit and our self-identity. Across the nation, arts and cultural activities provide over $135 billion in economic activity. Here in Colorado, it represents our fifth largest employment cluster, accounting for 186,000 jobs and $5 billion in employee earnings. Every time cultural tourists leave their town to attend an event in another city, they spend more than twice what a local does attending the same event.

 

This past summer I had an opportunity to visit Salida to take an inspiring tour of the new arts district that is reinvigorating their downtown. Well, Lakewood now has an incredibly exciting opportunity to attract something that can do the same for 40 West, for Colfax Avenue and for Lakewood.

 

Artspace is the nation’s largest developer of permanently affordable homes for artists. Their motto is “building better community through the arts.” Exactly! Artists infuse imagination and innovation into neighborhoods. Economic activity naturally follows. Artspace’s concept of “creative place-making” has grown to 36 projects, from their Twin Cities home to Seattle, New York, and, most recently, right up the road in Loveland. Just two weeks ago their team made a second visit here to begin Phase Two of their study. I can assure you that Bill and his 40 West team, along with our group from the City, will be working cohesively to do everything to encourage Artspace to bring a project here.

 

You know, community building is a term you’ve heard me use before, including more than once today. One definition of community is “the condition of living together in friendly association and fellowship.” Why not try to build on that?

 

We closed out 2013 with an extraordinary story of community building. It illustrates how a dedicated group of people from different backgrounds and with varied interests can come together to accomplish something remarkable. It’s called the Foothills Field of Dreams.

 

Foothills Elementary is a 44-year-old school in Green Mountain. The schoolyard has deteriorated so badly through the years that it is no longer safe to even send the students out for recess.

 

2014SOCMayor3A desperate need was clearly there, and, in true Lakewood fashion, a partnership was formed to try to meet that need. The faith-based community, led by Pastor Reg Cox, who is here today, residents like Diane Rhodes, who is also here, the private sector and our Ward 4 City Council members all worked closely with Principal Sue Borzych and the school district. Architect Hugh Duffy contributed the design, the costs were estimated, and a fund drive began to raise the seed money necessary to apply for a large grant.

 

In December, we received the news that Great Outdoors Colorado awarded a grant of $338,000 to complete the funding for the Foothills Field of Dreams. Soon, those kids will not just be able to run around outside during recess like we all did – my favorite part of school – but will do so in a state-of-the-art facility.

 

Please give a round of applause to everyone involved in this effort, many of whom are here today. Thank you all for the positive impact you will have on Foothills kids for decades to come.

 

In my years as mayor, I’ve made no secret of my goal to, in some small way, be an agent for change here in Lakewood. I know, change can be hard for some. Believe me, I hear about it from time to time. But change is also vital, not just for our success, but to our survival. Former Mayor Steve Burkholder always told me that “communities will either get better or get worse, they cannot remain the same.” It’s our job as leaders to be stewards of a change for the better.

 

I’ve had the good fortune to be accompanied by a great group of leaders in my fellow City Council members who are here today. Please stand and let’s give them a round of applause. I want to express my deep appreciation to my fellow members of the class of 2007: Karen Kellen, Cindy Baroway, Adam Paul and Tom Quinn. 2007 was indeed a very good year for French wines and for Lakewood City Council. This is an exceptional group, visionaries with the courage to make the tough decisions necessary to move Lakewood forward on that path toward positive and necessary change.

 

Now, people see change in different ways. Certainly a new zoning code that encourages density where appropriate along our major roads and at our rail stations is one such example. This new density is the kind of change that can make some apprehensive, but it’s a simple fact that we will have more people living here in the future, not less. I think we’ve been very wise to plan for this inevitable growth in the precise places where it is suitable.

 

But isn’t a tool that encourages neighbors to simply get to know each other a little bit better also a positive change? I sure think so. Last year, I talked about one part of my Lakewood Linked initiative and reported that our fledging effort with Nextdoor.com already had 10 neighborhoods signed up. Today, that number stands at 85 neighborhoods. Only good can come from thousands more of you talking with each other, within your own neighborhoods and connecting with other resources, whether you’re looking for a handyman or organizing a block party.

 

There is no question that we are undergoing a transition here in Lakewood. Once rural, we evolved into suburban, and, in some places, even urban. Now, we have a variety of neighborhoods with aspects of each of those to choose from.

 

I believe we are in the midst of more than a transition. It’s really a transformation. Soon, just as Colorado Mills and Belmar turned us into a net importer of sales tax revenue, St. Anthony Hospital, the new urban village at the Federal Center Station and the W Rail will transform us into a net importer of jobs as well.

 

Many of these new arrivals will choose to call Lakewood home. Some may choose the beautiful executive housing offered at Solterra. Others will look for that charming home in an older neighborhood, close to one of our great schools. Many, though, will opt for that new, more compact style of living close to transit and convenient to nearby amenities.

 

Lakewood is looked upon as a leader in our region, and frankly, some of those looks come with a bit of envy. We are positioned like no one else: 10 minutes from both downtown Denver and the mountains, a thriving new downtown of our own, an awakening West Colfax anchored by an emerging arts district and a brand-new transit corridor running through the heart of it all. Just ahead, as was the case with Belmar, we have the same phenomenal opportunity with the 60 acres of the horseshoe property at the Federal Center.

 

We are successful because we have been very deliberate and strategic in capitalizing on those coming opportunities in a way that will maximize their potential for positive impacts here at home.

 

In that tradition, we will in the coming year undertake frank assessments of areas of need like the JCRS Center, Jewell and Wadsworth and parts of Sheridan and Alameda boulevards. We will inventory and prioritize capital spending and beautification projects throughout the city. We will assess how to continue meeting the needs of our growing seniors population.

 

In 2014, we will be updating our Comprehensive Plan and also formulating Lakewood’s very first Sustainability Plan. This exciting new step is another sign of our commitment to sustainability. Already, the Sustainable Neighborhood Program developed three years ago by City Planner Jonathan Wachtel is bringing success to several neighborhoods. The program also is being emulated in Denver and, I hear, may be exported to other cities as well.

 

This year, Lakewood celebrates its 45th anniversary as a city. That happens to be an age where many of us just begin to enter our prime in our personal and professional lives. We’re settled onto a firm foundation of family and career and can now strive to reach goals we once thought were unattainable.

 

That’s where I believe Lakewood is as a city. We’re mature enough to recognize our strengths and needs, and confident enough to be bold in trying to achieve our goals. We are going to become more compact, and as part of that evolution we will also become greener. We are going to have more choices in how and where to live, work, shop and play. In some places we’re even going to become a little more hip. Now that’s bold!

 

Lakewood is the jewel of Jefferson County because we’ve had the courage to step beyond our comfort zone, the willingness to establish public or private collaborations and to become partners with a wide range of community members to find the best and most efficient ways to meet our community’s needs.

 

Our ability and desire to collaborate was a key factor in earning us the All-America City Award, and our collaboration with the National Civic League to create more All-America cities continues. Denver is now host to the annual awards ceremony, and this year’s finalists will be visiting Belmar this summer to learn firsthand about this innovative downtown.

 

I’ve talked a lot about opportunity today and about the broad range of positive impacts we’ve experienced here in Lakewood because we reached out and grabbed ahold of those rare chances when they came our way. It’s a fact that there were often some difficult community conversations here, as leaders made the courageous decisions that brought change, and with it, opportunity. Hey, people loved their Villa Italia. I did too. But it’s the ability to rise to the challenge as a community and together make those daunting decisions that will pave the path toward the golden opportunities of the future.

 

In my last two years as mayor, I want to look change, and the opportunities it brings with it, straight in the eyes. I invite all of you to join me. We cannot blink. We must move forward with confidence, remembering the rewards we have reaped when we’ve made demanding decisions in the past. We have the ability right now to once again seize critical opportunities coming our way. Each generation of leaders must bridge the gap between the arduous and the achievable. We must be bold! I am up for the challenges we face, and I know you have the strength, foresight and courage to join me. Thank you!