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DENVER-Former Mayor Wellington Webb once said that the most difficult public-private redevelopment he ever tackled was Dahlia Square, a relatively small retail center in northeast Denver that has languished for years. Last year, when Webb was still in office, he came up with a plan to redevelop the center that primarily serves African American residents.

Now, the project is stalled because of an unexpected environmental problem.

Council president Elbra Wedgeworth, who worked closely with Webb last year and continues to do so under Mayor John Hickenlooper’s administration, says she will sponsor a neighborhood meeting to discuss future housing development possibilities at the Dahlia Shopping Center.

During the past two years, the City and County of Denver, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the development community, the center’s owners, existing retailers and the neighborhood have worked to design a comprehensive plan to create more full-time job opportunities, attract a grocery store and preserve exiting affordable housing and a health clinic. The proposed $32.5-million effort to redevelop the Dahlia Shopping Center will not proceed because of a recent environmental report which indicates there is a landfill underneath the site.

The cost of hauling away the buried garbage is estimated at $3.6 million so the current development team and the majority property owner have decided that their project cannot go forward.

“I am very committed to completing a project at the Dahlia Shopping Center and it will be what the community wants to have and we look forward to developing that proposal,” says Wedgeworth. “It is very critical to the future of this neighborhood to create jobs and other opportunities.”

The purpose of the Dec. 17 Neighborhood Meeting will be to receive from residents and other stakeholders their ideas regarding various housing developments for the site. The information from the Neighborhood Meeting will then be given to the Denver Urban Renewal Authority to draft a Request for Proposal to submit to potential developers in January.

“I know that people are very disappointed about what has happened with the project, but we have to continue to work together to have a win-win for the residents, business owners and the City of Denver,” according to Wedgeworth.

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