5 November 2020

Denver Union Station

Context

  • The Denver Union Station is a large-scale mixed-use development project to transform the underutilized old Denver Union Station into a modern district
  • The project was delivered via a PPP model which encompassed an eight- track commuter rail train hall, a new light rail station, an underground bus concourse and adjacent commercial sites

Problem

  • The Denver Union Station project was estimated to cost USD 500M, however, financing the project was challenging as capital markets were adversely affected by the 2007-2009 financial crisis
  • Commercial bank debt was limited while sales tax revenues was also on the decline due to the difficult economic conditions

Innovation

  • Federal loans were secured against the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) 's commitment to service repayments using revenues generated from value capture levers
  • Funds for repayments would be primarily generated by tax revenues from increased property taxes within the district, new special taxing districts, and lodgers tax on hotels, supplemented by revenues from increased ridership through the station

Stakeholders Involved

  • Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) – Public consortium set up to oversee the project
  • Union Station Neighbourhood Company (USNC) – Private consortium4 responsible for the design, construction, and operation of private buildings
  • Kiewit Western Company – Design-build contractor for transit infrastructure

Results/Impact

  • The development boom around Denver’s Union Station project resulted in higher property and sales tax proceeds; in 2016, proceeds from the two sources of taxes outpaced projections by 336%, amounting to c. USD 13M in total
  • With higher tax proceeds, the Denver City Council and Regional Transport District (RTD) were able to refinance their USD 300M loan, with the City Council taking out a USD 197M loan, while RTD issued USD 94.4M in bonds
  • Denver Union Station is projected to grow its annual passenger capacity to c. 50 million by 2030, with 500 trains per day travelling in and out of the station

Key lessons learnt

  • By ‘bundling’ infrastructure assets with adjacent infrastructure or real estate, a project sponsor can unlock multiple opportunities (land sales , tax increment financing, increased traffic) for value capture, creating a diversified means of project funding
  • Value capture innovations can be used by both public and private sector entities. Whereas the private sector uses them to supplement core revenue streams, the public sector can utilize value capture to fund financial contributions to a PPP
  • To manage and drive collaboration across multiple sub-national government agencies, a project specific, non-profit corporation like DUSPA can be created that provides a clear vehicle to align governance incentives
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