Brighton could consider using its historic City Hall for more than non-profits, using a historic church as a new home for the Brighton museum and keeping a 31-acre parcel on Tower Road at Bromley Lane in reserve in case the city needs more athletic fields.
Those were among the findings of a facilities assessment presented to the City Council on Aug. 9. Real estate consultant Brian Duffany presented the results of the study to councilors during their regular study session. City Manager Michael Martinez said councilors don’t need to take immediate action on the study but said they should keep it in mind during budget discussions.”
“We weren’t expecting direction,” Martinez said. “Obviously, we unpacked a million things on you right now. This was just to close out this portion of the analysis so we can start the discussion on other things.”
Councilors are scheduled to begin discussing Brighton’s 2023 budget later this month.
“We just need to close this out and get us to a point so you understand the pain-points for some of these buildings and start the conversation in earnest,” Martinez said. “We’ll start doing that at our budget session in two weeks.”
Councilors said the report contained a lot of data and they’d need time to make sense of all of it. They did offer some impressions, off the top, however.
“What I appreciate most about this is the stability of some of the options, to leave them as-is,” Councilor Peter Padilla. “Perhaps it will cost us a little bit of money, but not tremendous amounts. And several of them are neutral.”
Open lots, potential uses
The study reviewed Brighton’s city-owned land and buildings, including historic buildings, with a look at the current uses, costs to keep and revenues as well as potentially different ways to use them. With that in mind, it made recommendations for which properties to keep for city use, which properties might be better suited for other city uses or for selling.
Regarding city-owned land and undeveloped spaces, Duffany focused on two parcels.
One is a 31.4-acre lot at Tower Road and Bromley Lane that was dedicated to the city when a K-Mart/Sears distribution warehouse was developed. Duffany said suggested the city hold on to that land until a new sports complex with athletic fields is finished.
“The city needs to really understand how much recreational use will be available at that new facility before making a decision on this property,” Duffany said. “If there is still a need for more public recreation fields, this site would be a great property to have in your toolkit. The risk, if you sell it and then find five, ten, 15 years down the road that you needed more land for recreation fields, it would be difficult to acquire a site of this quality at a reasonable price. And it’s negligible cost to hold on to it.”
The second lot is 90 acres north of Bridge Street at about N. 23rd St. The city currently leases that land to a dairy farm for $16,000 per year. The first option is to leave that situation as is.
“Agricultural heritage is a big part of Brighton,” he said.
“The obvious option is to keep doing that current leasing program,” he said. “But looking farther down the road and if conditions change or the lessee does not what to renew at some point there are opportunities to do a lot with this property.”
He suggested affordable workforce housing could be developed there along Bridge Street, part of that land could be used for community farms.
Using and reusing building space
Duffany noted that the city will no longer need the land at 4th and Longs Peak when the new Brighton Service Center opens. That site currently houses Brighton’s’ fleet maintenance facility as well as a storage dome for Brighton’s wintertime road salt.
“When that is complete long term, this building will not be needed,” he said. “So, at that time, you could consider selling it. There will be a cost associated with removing the salt dome and that’s not currently funded, but that is something to keep in mind for later on down the road.”
Brighton’s stock of historic buildings are important, he said. These include Brighton’s first church, at 147 S. Main St., the historic farmhouse on the Ken Michell Open Space and the Historic City Hall on Bridge and and S. 4th Ave.
“The city does not have unlimited resources to preserve every historic building on its own,” Duffany said.
Preservation work relies on grants and volunteers, he said.
“But the overall point is to ensure they are stabilized, roofs are not leaking, there is no unauthorized access — things like that,” he said. “You want to keep them stable and prevent further deterioration.”
Regarding the Ken Michell open space farmhouse, that property would need at least $400,000 in renovations before it could be used, and it would also need to be connected to City water and sewer. It could be used as offices for the city parks staff or as a visitors center for the open space.
Similarly, the historic church would need at least $300,000 to renovate the building and its bathrooms before it could be used regularly for special events. The city could move the City Museum there, but it would cost at least $600,000 to get the building ready for that.
The historic city hall is currently home to several non-profit groups and Duffany said it generates about $62,000 in revenues but costs the city as much as $230,000 to operate. He said the city could lease more of the building — only about 22% of the building is currently occupied — or move the city courts in there.
He also said the city could move the municipal courts to the current city building — either on the first floor or the sixth.
Moving the courts to the historic building could cost $11.6 million. Moving to the current building could cost $1 million or more.
“These are ballpark, planning level costs,” he said.
Historic City Hall skepticism
Councilors were cool to the idea of moving the courts.
“I actually think the best use of that facility (Historic City Hall) is to expand the potential use of potential non-profits that provide use in that space,” Councilor Peter Padilla said.
Councilor Clint Blackhurst said he would be in favor of transferring ownership of the historic city hall to a different group.
“There are a lot of people in there, but we are footing the bill,” Blackhurst said. “Then we’re becoming landlords and I’m not sure that’s the way we want to go. We’ve put millions into that building since the city moved out. So I would love to consider unloading that building — either another government agency that needs it or a public/private partnership that could get some historic tax credits.”
Councilor Jan Pawlowski was not a fan of that idea. She said she’s protective of the old city hall.
“We need to really think about this stuff and not be too flippant about old buildings. Old is not necessarily bad,” she said.
Councilor Ann Taddeo said she’s in favor of bringing more tenants to the old city hall to help pay for its upkeep.
“I think we should focus on getting more tenants,” she said. “I know we are not in the business of being landlords, but in that particular building it’s okay. We are providing services for the city and so, I think it’s okay in that regard with that building.”