Meet your Development Council Chair | Q&A with Amy Cara
Amy Cara, Managing Partner at East West Partners, was recently announced as the Chair of the newly-formed Downtown Denver Partnership Development Council. The Development Council works to reduce barriers to development, identify development opportunities, and increase the supply of new housing in Downtown Denver and surrounding center city neighborhoods. The council reviews policies and initiatives, evaluates supply and demand balance, and drives innovation and connections within the development community.
Ready to meet Amy? Let’s get to it!
What are the things that attract developers and investment to a City?
AC: First and foremost, developers and investors are attracted to cities where it already is a great place, or where they can see an opportunity to create a terrific place. They are attracted to cities they believe in that already have strong demographic trends and a strong vibe and energy. Development and investment comes to cities that are forward-thinking in encouraging responsible growth and where creative solutions to urban issues are encouraged. As an example, East West Partners came to Denver because of the city’s leaders at the time were visionary in their thinking about how to bring the city back stronger from the downturns of the 80s. They instituted a series of great policies and applied focused effort to make the city the best it could be. There was a spirit of action that created opportunities like Commons Park. That kind of energy is contagious.
What are the key focus areas for the new Development Council?
AC: First, as this council morphs from the Housing Council to the Development Council, housing policy will continue to be important. Monitoring and influencing the planned changes to affordable housing policy and ensuring that such goals don’t instead restrict the construction of new housing altogether by making it too challenging to build any at all, reducing supply and therefore reducing overall affordability. Similarly, working to create policies that ensure we retain existing affordable housing stock and ensuring that policies of any sort do not unintentionally favor rental housing over for sale housing.
Second, as we expand our outlook, we should look at all the property types in our center city. How do we ensure that we retain existing affordable housing stock? How do we ensure that policies that are formed around development consider the changing dynamics of retail? As we come out of the pandemic, are there different ways our existing buildings can be used to make sure our city comes out more vibrant than before? How can we ensure that the first 30 vertical feet of each building makes our city a great place to be without placing all the burden on retail? How should we think about office differently with the changing needs of tenants and post-pandemic workplace culture, and how do we carry forward the best of the lessons of the pandemic in making all property types thrive in our downtown? How do we ensure that downtown remains vibrant, diverse and inclusive?
Regarding attracting investment, investors need to be able to fully understand and have confidence in the playing field in which they are investing. Certainty and predictability are key in this regard, so consistency of city policies is important, as well as the knowledge that the city supports responsible growth and progressive development policy. Issues around growth are always complicated, and a municipal spirit of working with the private sector in solving those them is critical.
What are the strengths of the Development community in Downtown Denver?
AC: Our development community is made up of local, national and international players. We have a component of understanding our community’s needs and how to ensure that we retain our authentic character in combination with best-in-class ideas and practices from around the world. We are a tight-knit community and work well together which translates to a lot of sharing ideas that can make our city even better. Many of the developers working here have had, and continue to have, long-term visions for how they want our city to thrive and how they want to be part of that solution, and that is important to creating the city we all strive for. I also appreciate that everyone has different ideas for how to get from A to B, and we continue to challenge each other to do things better.
What do we need to be aware of in terms of risks to ongoing development in Denver?
AC: The single largest risk is that Denver is starting to teeter on the edge of adding enough restrictions and barriers to development that we could potentially start to reduce the attraction of development in our city. Consequences include a decrease in affordability and availability, both for housing and for the other property types. If we lose our affordability edge over coastal cities, the vibrancy that we have cultivated over the past couple of decades could be lost.
Growth for growth’s sake is not the goal. Responsible growth that helps our city thrive and evolve is. It is important that our successes as a city can be shared by all and are not solely for the precious few. These issues are complicated, and if not carefully considered, can have unintended consequences. We need to ensure we’re being thoughtful when enacting policies to address them.
Do you have a leadership quote or mantra that you believe in related to building great cities?