Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera began lobbying the city to relax its policy on skybridges long before LandCo’s U.S. Olympic Committee development proposal, which includes a skybridge, was made known to City Council, according to Vice Mayor Larry Small.
On Sept. 27, 2007, Rivera summoned the Board of the Downtown Development Authority to a meeting at City Hall with the sole purpose of discussing the DDA’s policy regarding skybridges.
Rivera, Small and DDA board member Nolan Schriner were in attendance.
Skybridges, which are common in many American cities, connect office buildings with parking garages or with other nearby structures.
The DDA’s policy, adopted in response to the “Imagine Downtown” plan, was to refuse to support tax-increment financing for any building that utilized a skybridge, because the bridges remove office workers from the street, which could adversely affect businesses.
Tax-increment financing is a common redevelopment tool. Property owners who propose improvements to a building in a qualifying special improvement district may, through the DDA, use the net new tax revenue generated by the redevelopment project to help finance the project.
By law, the new tax revenue must be used for projects that have a public benefit and that support redevelopment.
“We didn’t consider skybridges appropriate,” Small said, “but the mayor argued forcefully for skybridges. He didn’t specifically refer to any particular property, but he wanted us to reconsider our policy.”
Schriner confirmed Small’s account of the meeting, and added new details.
“Chris Jenkins wasn’t there,” Schriner said, “Mike Hassell was there. And besides the mayor and vice mayor, there were two other people in the room – (LandCo CEO) Ray Marshall and (LandCo executive) Jim Brodie.”
Schriner said Brodie and Marshall has attended a DDA meeting a few months earlier.
“They had wanted TIF financing and a skybridge for 27 South Tejon,” he said. “It was very early in the game – the DDA had only been created a few months before and we weren’t sure of what we could do, but we told them we didn’t like the skybridge.
“Then on Sept. 27th, the mayor called a meeting in the City Hall conference room. I recall the mayor asking me what happened at the DDA meeting with TIF and the skybridge. Marshall and Brodie were there. We didn’t take any action, or change our position at that time. There was no discussion of the USOC. (There were rumors) out on the street, but it was not part of the discussion.”
Small said that, “sometime later, we decided that we’d consider a property with a skybridge if we agreed that it caused an exceptional public benefit, but that our policy would remain unchanged.”
On March 31, 2008, the city announced it would partner with LandCo Equity Partners to create an economic development agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
That’s when it became known that LandCo’s proposal, which utilized tax increment financing, called for a skybridge from the headquarters building at 27 S. Tejon St. across Colorado Avenue to a city owned parking garage.
During September 2007, as an officer of UBS Financial Services, Rivera was listed as the investment adviser on at least three accounts controlled by LandCo CEO Ray Marshall. He had served in that capacity since 2005.
When Marshall’s proposal was chosen by the city, Small said the board agreed that the USOC would bring an exceptional benefit to downtown and that it should accept the skybridge in that case.