As I looked outdoors, where it was 18 degrees with a slight breeze, the 2019 Volkswagen Beetle rounded the corner and came down the street toward my driveway on Tuesday morning; I was more than a bit relieved to see that it was of solid top and not a convertible.
In an earlier discussion of delivery of the car to me, I recall the word "cabrio" (convertible) being mentioned. It's been too darned cold this week for a cabrio, so I was pleased to see the closed-top two-door arrive.
Hard top or soft top, this one is special. It's the VW Beetle Final Edition, marking the end of production for the beloved Bug, which dates back 70 years in the U.S.
This one is of stonewashed blue metallic exterior finish, a light blue or gray, depending on degree of light or lack of light that is cast upon it. At the rear, a "Beetle" badge replaces one which would have said Turbo, and, inside, the SE models include cloth and leatherette Rhombus seats and stainless-steel pedal caps. Also, a "kaeferbach," or beetle bin with upward-folding lid that sits atop the regular glove box.
Shortly after its arrival, Jan and I got in and drove it to downtown Loveland, then back out to the Motorplex at Centerra and past the 15 acres where it was announced this week that Dealin' Doug will build a Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep dealership.
The short-wheelbase, front-wheel-drive Beetle is a fairly precise handler and performs decently with a 174-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. Its EPA estimate is 26/33 miles per gallon. The German-based Bug is built in Puebla, Mexico.
Its $23,940 sticker price includes push-button start, cruise control, blind-spot monitor, heated front seats and sunroof.
Production will end this summer for the Beetle, as sales have taken a dive over the past several years.
The post-World War II boom was underway in 1949 when Ben Pon Sr., a Dutch businessman, shipped a Volkswagen Beetle to New York City. From that first Beetle, priced at $800, sales climbed rapidly. By the mid-1950s, more than 35,000 had been sold. Sales soared in the 1960s, and by the end of the decade, the Beetle was selling 400,000 models a year.
I was a young employe at the Sterling Journal-Advocate in the late 1950s when Sherm Sigler, longtime press foreman and photographer at the paper, bought a new Beetle. For several years, he drove it all over the Logan County countryside while pursuing photos, and became recognized nearly as much for his little car as for the Graflex 4X5 Speed Graphic camera he carried with him.
Production was halted on the original Beetle 40 years ago, in 1978, also due to slackened demand for the iconic product.
The Beetle's absence lasted almost 20 years; and in the spring of 1997 when the '98 VW concept was unveiled, it was the biggest attraction at the Denver Auto Show.
A New Beetle was sent my way in March of '98, and after driving it for a week all around the city, I wrote:
"In many years of automotive reviewing, I don't remember anything that has drawn the attention of the New Beetle. Not the bright red SL500 convertible, nor the NSX; not even the Marathon Electric. When driven, the bright blue Beetle brought smiles and waves from fellow motorists and turned heads of people along the streets. When parked, it was the center of numerous "walk-arounds." The attention came from all ages — kids, housewives, retirees. It seems to be an emotional thing, and is creating a healthy dose of fun in the automotive world."
More than 5.5 million Beetles have been sold in the U.S.
— Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Northern Colorado Women in Business will host its monthly networking and breakfast workshop from 8-10 a.m. March 6 at Flood & Peterson, 4687 18th St., in Greeley.
Mary Atchison, owner of Yellow Wagon Leadership in Fort Collins, will present “Position Yourself for Success: Leadership in Life and Business.” The workshop will include the basics of leadership, practical applications of those basics and how to apply those basics confidently.
Registration is $27 and available at bit.ly/NoCoWIB0219. Payment may also be sent to 4113 16th Street Road, Greeley, CO 80634. Registration closes 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The meeting will be held in the basement training room, and parking is available along 18th Street or in the business park across the street.
This month’s philanthropic effort is coordinated by Fidelia Muniz, of Organo Gourmet Beverages, to benefit Zac’s Legacy Foundation and assist local families coping with childhood cancer.
Vestas Blades in Windsor donated $12,550 to United Way of Weld County earlier this month.
Vestas raffled off two 2009 Toyota Prius company cars, selling tickets to employees for $10, or six tickets for $50. According to a United Way news release, Vestas has donated $31,590 this year to the nonprofit’s annual campaign in assisting Weld County residents in early childhood, youth development, household stability and older adults/healthy again.
Nicholas Bielewitz purchased $500 of tickets, winning one of the cars. The other winner was Roberty Erbelding. Bielewitz, a nine-year employee who works in shells and production, was shopping for a car after a car crash a few months prior.
“Not only was the car up for raffle, but we were helping a cause that has made a huge difference,” Bielewitz said. “It worked out perfectly.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its outlook for the coming year on Friday morning, showing a drastic swing for U.S. farmers away from planting soybeans toward corn.
Many Midwestern farmers make an annual decision between the two crops, gauging weather, soil conditions and profitability to help determine their mix of acreage.
This year, farmers may plant 4 million fewer acres of soybeans, while adding nearly 3 million acres of corn. The primary reason for the switch has been the ongoing trade dispute with China, which caused that nation to nearly cease buying U.S. soybeans during the last year, compared to normal years where China buys one third of U.S. beans.
Even if this year's corn crop is bigger, the USDA is projecting that corn demand will rise faster. In its newest estimates, the USDA expects stockpiles of corn, wheat, and soybeans all to be smaller next year, which could help prices to rebound.
As of midday Friday, March corn was worth $3.76 per bushel, while soybeans and Kansas City wheat traded for $9.13 and $4.60, respectively.
Oil Blows up on OPEC Cuts
Crude oil soared to $57 per barrel as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and other major oil producing countries agreed to reduce production by more than a million barrels per day for the next six months.
Trade negotiations with China also fueled the rally as hopes for a resolution could create more demand from that country.
Meat Markets Diverge
Cattle prices continued higher this week, reaching a one-year high, even as hogs dropped to a six-month low.
Beef has been gaining steam as consumer demand has been strong, and a harsh winter in the Great Plains has made it hard for cattle to stay healthy. Meanwhile, U.S. pork is continuing to be bottled up by trade disputes, while the ongoing African swine fever in China is creating a short-term glut of meat and lower demand.
These factors knocked April hog futures under 56 cents per pound this week, while April live cattle garnered $1.28 per pound on Friday, a near-record ratio of the prices.
For carnivorous shoppers, this means that pork chops should be significantly cheaper than steaks, and hot dogs should be on discount compared to hamburgers, creating opportunities for savings at the supermarket.
— Opinions are solely the writers’. Walt and Alex Breitinger are commodity futures brokers with Paragon Investments in Silver Lake, Kan. They can be reached at (800) 411-3888 or http://www.paragoninvestments.com. This is not a solicitation of any order to buy or sell any market.
To spread the word about your new hires and promotions in the Greeley, Evans and Windsor area, contact Trevor Reid at email@example.com or (970) 392-4492.
The Greeley office of northern Colorado law firm Otis, Bedingfield & Peters recently welcomed James Godbold as a senior associate.
Before joining the firm, Godbold was a partner with a law firm specializing in mineral, oil and gas law. He’s represented mineral owners, oil and gas operators, oil refineries and industry associations, as well as pipeline, construction, land holding and well service companies. Godbold’s experience includes negotiating and preparing surface use agreements, joint operating agreements, participation agreements, oil and gas leases, confidentiality agreement and purchase and sale agreements.
He graduated cum laude from Indiana University-McKinney School of Law and earned his undergraduate degree from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
A former Southwest Airlines passenger has sued the company in U.S. District Court in Denver after a suitcase tumbled from an overhead bin onto his head and injured him, according to court records.
Charles E. Giebel II was in his plane seat at Denver International Airport awaiting a flight to Newark, New Jersey on March 22, 2017, when an “infirm” passenger trying to load a suitcase in an overhead bin dropped it on Giebel’s head, the lawsuit said.
Under the circumstances, flight attendants should have noticed the passenger was struggling to put his suitcase in the overhead bin and helped him, the lawsuit filed by Colorado Springs attorney Timothy Fields said.
Giebel is seeking an unspecified award from Southwest.
The suitcase fell onto Giebel’s head, shoulder, right forearm and elbow, causing multiple injuries including shoulder and head pain and a bleeding abrasion, the lawsuit said. Giebel incurred medical expenses and permanent injuries, the lawsuit said.
A phone message left with Southwest’s communications office was not immediately returned on Friday.
NEW YORK — Several phone apps are sending sensitive user data to Facebook, including health information, without users’ consent, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
An analytics tool called “App Events” allows app developers to record user activity and report it back to Facebook, even if the user isn’t on Facebook, according to the report .
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It told the Journal that some of the data-sharing appears to violate its business terms. The company says it requires app developers to be clear with users about what they share.
The development comes as Facebook is dealing with increased scrutiny over how it handles user data. Last week, British lawmakers issued a scathing report calling for tougher privacy rules for Facebook and other tech firms.
Criticisms over privacy intensified nearly a year ago following revelations that the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica data-mining firm accessed data on some 87 million Facebook users without their consent. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been investigating that flap as well and is reportedly in negotiations with Facebook over a multibillion dollar fine.
Hours after the Journal story was published, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the state’s Department of State and Department of Financial Services to “immediately investigate” what he calls a clear invasion of consumer privacy. The Democrat also urged federal regulators to step in to end the practice.
The data-sharing is related to a data analytics tool that Facebook offers developers. The tool lets developers see statistics about their users and target them with Facebook ads.
According to the Journal, Instant Heart Rate: HR Monitor; Flo Health, which tracks a woman’s period and ovulation; and real-estate app Realtor.com were among the apps that sent data to Facebook. The Journal found that the apps did not provide users any way to stop the app from sending their information to Facebook.
Flo Health said in an emailed statement that using analytical systems is a “common practice” for all app developers and that it uses Facebook analytics for “internal analytics purposes only.” But the company plans to audit its analytics tools to be “as proactive as possible” on privacy concerns.
That’s what’s going on at 909 Bannock St. where Greystar and general contractor Milender White are about six months from completion of the Parq on Speer apartment building.
The 16-story building’s 301 units — 38 studios, 124 one-bedroom apartments, 101 two-bedrooms, 16 three-bedrooms, 16 penthouses and four townhomes — range in size from around 540 square feet to more than 3,400. All come with hardwood floors (not laminate, Greystar officials emphasize) gas stoves, tiled backsplashes and so-called “smart home” technological features like lighting that can be controlled through a Bluetooth connection, Nest smartphone connected thermostats and Wifi enabled entry.
Outside of the apartments, Parq on Speer will include 50,000 square feet of amenities including a pool deck and a covered dog park. On days where owners may not want to take their pooches across the street to Sunken Gardens Park to do their business, they can take them to the fifth-floor patch of covered turf, complete with irrigation system.
Valet parking and 24-hour concierge service will be part of the deal.
“I think this project will reset people’s expectations when it comes to amenities just given the scale of what we’re offering,” Bo Champan, Greystar’s senior director of development, said on a tour of the property Wednesday. “We’ve got so many different unit types, it appeals to a lot of different potential renters that appreciate this higher level of finish.”
Mayor Michael Hancock sat and listened for 45 minutes on a recent Saturday morning as three people explained why he should lose his job. He was the last speaker in a forum featuring the major mayoral candidates in Denver’s contentious election.
The challengers’ attacks were plentiful, but they shared one common theme: the city’s explosive development. They said the city was on “an unsustainable path of growth and development,” that “residents have felt ignored,” and that Denver is “dramatically out of balance.”
So, when it was finally his turn to speak, the incumbent grinned and adjusted his sport coat.
“Well, that was fun,” Hancock told the crowd of local politicos. “We suck in Denver, huh?”
He was joking, of course — but the moment illustrated how development is driving one of the city’s most crowded election cycles in decades. Hancock, who cruised to a re-election victory in 2015 amid an economic boom, now faces a referendum on growth and its impacts in his final re-election campaign.
Denver has added 100,000 residents in less than a decade, although the population growth is slowing. The competition for limited housing has driven apartment rent in Denver from a median of about $850 in 2011, when Hancock was elected, to nearly $1,500 today — a surge that has only recently slowed. Meanwhile, automobile traffic grows heavier, transit use stagnates and the spread of development is inspiring waves of resistance in newly affected neighborhoods.
Amid mounting frustrations, Hancock’s three major challengers have promised new approaches to development. Each says that they’ll give residents more power to shape development, and that they’ll ensure new construction delivers better results. None has embraced the “NIMBY” mantle — they all say growth will continue — but their ideas reflect a weariness and frustration that has only grown since 2015, when voters rewarded several lower-office candidates who ran on development-skeptical platforms.
Hancock, meanwhile, is trying to put his grander vision for the city in focus.
“In reality, I think people have very short memories. This city has had not a good or great but absolutely phenomenal run. We have challenges — but I would challenge everybody to point to a city that doesn’t.”
Where it’s happening
Ahead of election season, The Denver Post analyzed the city’s construction trends since 2016 and interviewed more than a dozen candidates and experts.
While urban neighborhoods like Union Station, parts of Five Points and Golden Triangle have seen the greatest concentration of large apartment buildings, it’s the redevelopment of lower-density areas that has attracted the greatest criticism.
The Post has identified three areas outside the urban core to demonstrate how development is reshaping the city’s politics. These places and topics will be the focus of Denver Post reporting over the next two months.
In northwest Denver, redevelopment is everywhere. Two neighborhoods — West Colfax and Lincoln Park — have together absorbed more than 1,000 new condos and townhomes, about a third of the city’s total for that category. With Councilman Rafael Espinoza stepping down, District 1 is a wide-open conversation about the side effects of construction and the design of the city’s new urban areas.
The spread of “slot homes” in this area shows a major challenge for the mayor: Some voters perceive new construction as cheap, ugly or out of character. On the other hand, the District 1 race isn’t focused on development as a yes or no question. Candidates and voters at a recent elections forum talked about how to deliver walkability, transit and affordable housing in an urban environment.
“The density doesn’t bother me. It’s the affordability that makes me sad,” said Jessica Dominguez, a 41-year-old teacher and real estate agent in the district.
“I just wish it wasn’t so ugly,” said Mike Huling, 38.
East and south Denver
Apartments and multifamily buildings have started to appear at the edges of single-family neighborhoods — a result in part of the citywide rezoning in 2010, just before Hancock took office, according to Ken Schroeppel of CU Denver.
While the scale of development there is smaller, the response is just as loud.
Incumbent Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman, who represents east Denver neighborhoods like Hilltop and Hale, says that inner-ring suburbs should expect some growth on their edges. One of her opponents, Amanda Sawyer, is gaining momentum with a message that would give residents more power to shape — and shrink — development.
It’s all part of a bigger debate. A nascent yes-in-my-backyard movement says that housing development is the solution, rather than the cause, for the housing crisis.
“The diversity of housing cannot only be for certain neighborhoods,” said Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, who represents far northeastern Denver. “I welcome the challenges of older, more established neighborhoods becoming more diverse and inclusive. If that’s really the city we’re all trying to get to, you need to allow folks to live in your neighborhood.”
That message has traction among some district-level candidates and incumbents, but the mayoral challengers haven’t embraced it.
In northeast Denver, billions of dollars worth of public projects are happening simultaneously, including the state’s widening of Interstate 70 and the city’s work on the National Western Center.
This wave of public spending, along with the rise of River North in Five Points, could accelerate private development in lower-income neighborhoods like Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, where residents already are struggling with closed roads, construction noise and rising rents.
“They’re older areas that don’t have a lot of money or power. They don’t have a lot of push-back that you would get in other areas,” Maria De Luna Jimenez, a longtime community advocate in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea, said through a translator. “It feels like every day, we’re no closer to the end. We’re right in the middle of the tsunami. Rents are going up and conditions are going down.”
Hancock’s report card
Hancock tells Denver’s story like this: When he took office, it was reeling from the economic recession, but it was ready to boom.
“Having grown up in this city and studied the decisions key mayors made, Denver’s been primed to make this kind of boom since (Mayor Bill) McNichols,” he said in an interview. McNichols and Federico Peña invested in major public projects, such as the airport, while Mayor John Hickenlooper later oversaw regional investment in transit.
“We’ve seen development respond to the demands of the market — and the good thing is that it’s responding with a balance of development and transit and mobility,” Hancock said. “We’re victims of our own prosperity, but now can meet those challenges.”
Asked what he would have done differently about development in his first two terms, he first named the city’s “aesthetic” challenges, such as slot homes.
Today, those plans are nearly ready for a vote by the council. The documents revise the city’s old concept of “areas of change” and “areas of stability.” Instead, Denveright says every neighborhood may change to some extent — whether that’s through apartment construction on major corridors or simply allowing homeowners to build accessory dwellings.
The plan also calls for transit investments along major road corridors, ranging from new buses to bus rapid transit and rail lines. That could cost between $1 billion and $5 billion or more.
For example, Hancock has talked about creating a city transportation department to supplement RTD’s services. That’s still in the works. The city has launched a major corridor improvement project — the Colfax bus rapid transit line is funded and in planning — along with a $48 million sidewalk expansion plan, but Denveright’s grander visions could be years in the making.
Meanwhile, the city’s new overarching plans face a new political challenge: The Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, a citywide residents’ group, recently asked that the city postpone the approval of the Denveright plans until after the election, describing the 1,000-plus-pages of documents as “incomplete and vague.”
Brad Buchanan, the former planning director, said the new plans are based on tens of thousands of residents’ comments and hundreds of meetings over 30 months. It wasn’t done earlier because the city was still dealing with its massive 2010 land-use revision when Hancock took office, he said.
Denver also has launched an effort to draft area plans for each of its 78 neighborhoods, but with limited staffing it could take 14 years to cycle through the entire city.
In interviews, Hancock’s rivals didn’t challenge the broad strokes of the administration’s plans for development along transit-enhanced corridors and around growth centers — but they described them as too late and too vague. Each of the challengers said they would get residents more involved in the development process and try to ensure that it delivers better results for the people who live here now.
Jamie Giellis has positioned herself as a bridge-builder who can help communities figure out development.
“It’s not just development and density. It’s development, density and design,” she said. “Neighborhoods are not only frustrated (that) development is happening, but also concerned about the quality of construction and the design of construction.”
She points to her work on customized design requirements in places like River North and Old South Pearl. Those kinds of specialized rules can frustrate developers, but Giellis said they improve results. She also has promised $1 billion for “attainable” housing over a decade. Hancock’s administration dedicated $15 million per year to the cause in 2016 and recently doubled that commitment.
In a recent interview, she talked about her visions of a transit-connected, greener Denver — perhaps with streetcars — and she contrasted herself with the mayors who made their names as city builders.
“We talk about the quality of life and we talk about the economic sustainability of the city — being inclusive and being transparent and being accountable. That’s not as great of a pitch line as ‘Imagine a great city,’ ” she said, riffing on Federico Peña’s 1982 mayoral campaign motto.
Penfield Tate III said he would “sit down with developers and tell them open season is not open.” Like Giellis, he said he would give more influence to neighbors and more funding for affordable housing.
“We’re so overdeveloped. It hasn’t been planned, it hasn’t been designed, it hasn’t been directed,” he said. “The quality of life and the things that made Denver, Denver are disappearing.”
He’s not anti-growth, he explained. He’s skeptical, though, of Denveright’s projections that the city will grow to 900,000 people by 2040.
“I believe that there’s support that Denver is going to continue to grow, but there’s just no support for Denver growing and expanding how it has in the last eight years,” he said. “They want a change, and they’re going to get a change.”
He’s dubious, too, of emerging urbanist ideas, especially limiting parking in order to discourage automobile use.
Lisa Calderón frames housing as a question of justice and inequality.
“I would describe the development in Denver as privileging the wealthiest as opposed to workers and working families,” she said.
” … The city is chasing corporate agencies to come in and give them essentially corporate welfare when we don’t have the infrastructure to support a huge influx of people, and we’re not taking care of our current residents. That’s where I think people push back on growth.”
She called for a “village concept,” where residents are considered experts and have a greater decision-making role in their areas. She also wants a more holistic focus on raising wages to keep people in Denver — an issue that the other challengers and Hancock himself have raised too.
With a different approach, she said, opinions on growth could change.
“People tend to conflate growth with gentrification, and those are not necessarily the same thing,” she said. “We want to grow and we want to revitalize. That’s a good thing to me.”
What do you want to know?
Submit your questions about development, density, transportation and the city election to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-954-1785.
Kevin Hamm contributed reporting and analysis to this story.
Since 1965, Winchell’s Donut House in Greeley has served hot and fresh doughnuts at 1503 8th Ave., making it the oldest operating doughnut shop in the city.
Though the doughnut shop’s age shows with its retro design, the business has grown through the years, particularly since Rami Batikha, 39, and Samer Koudsi, 47, began operating it in 2004. Batikha and Koudsi spent $80,000 to remodel the store in 2017, its first remodel since 1977.
Winchell's Donut House
The co-owners of Winchell’s Donut House, 1503 8th Ave. in Greeley, are finalizing plans to open a second location of the doughnut store in the Bear Paw Shopping Center, at 4239 CenterPlace Drive.
The location isn’t expected to open until the fall, as Roche Constructors only broke ground on the two-story 25,000-square-foot development earlier this month.
For more information about Winchell’s in Greeley, call (970) 353-5728.
This month, the uncle-nephew business duo have been finalizing agreements for a second location, something Batikha said residents of central and west Greeley have said they’ve wanted for years.
“We’ve been in high demand in Greeley area,” Batikha said. “(I) feel the frustration of everybody having to drive downtown to get a dozen doughnuts.”
Batikha expects the second Winchell’s location could open as early as October, at PB Roche Solutions’ Bear Paw Shopping Center, 4239 CenterPlace Drive. Roche Constructors broke ground on the development earlier this month, with the expectations of finishing the core and shell of the two-story 25,000-square-foot development in late July. The development’s tenants, who are likely to include Winchell’s, Cheba Hut and Five Guys, will then do final touches before opening.
Batikha said the current plans for the second Winchell’s places the new doughnut shop in 1,500 square feet of space adjacent to Five Guys on the west end of the development. Batikha and Koudsi plan to introduce fresh juices at the new location, which will feature a modernized look. Other “surprises” are in the works for the new shop, Batikha said.
The city’s low retail vacancy rates have meant limited options for business owners like Batikha who have been looking to expand their businesses for the past few years. Developments like the Bear Paw Shopping Center are expected to open up more opportunities.
“It’s really been a dream for me to open a new location, but I (hadn’t) got the right opportunity here in town,” Batikha said.
Koudsi and Batikha moved to Colorado from Syria, with Koudsi arriving about a decade earlier than his nephew. Batikha said they were seeking a better quality of life, and Colorado seemed to have opportunities for their family. As the political stability in Syria deteriorated, Batikha moved his parents to Greeley in 2012. His dad now helps work the late night shifts at the doughnut shop.
“I try to get vocal about it and try to tell people what the American Dream means for everybody,” he said. “I came literally with nothing. I didn’t know how to speak English. I didn’t have any money.”
Batikha has worked with Winchell’s since 2000, when he ran a partnership store in Denver. Koudsi, who has been with Winchells for about 30 years, taught Batikha how to bake doughnuts and how to manage, and they developed a passion for the business. When the Greeley location was put up for sale, Batikha saw it as an opportunity. He described the Greeley Winchell’s success story as a “simple” one: “We try always to do the best we can to get out fresh doughnuts daily.”
Working alongside their employees, Batikha and Koudsi work a minimum of eight hours a day, six days a week. They treat their employees like family, Batikha said, with some employees having been at the shop for as much as 14 years. Keeping doughnuts fresh is around-the-clock work, with a baker coming in around 6 p.m. and working as late as 4 a.m. About then, Batikha or Koudsi start making doughnuts until 10 or 11 a.m. That constant doughnut making helps keep an edge on the shop’s influx of customers from 7-10 a.m. on the weekdays. Batikha said the always-fresh standard he sets for the doughnuts he serves holds true for its sandwiches as well.
“I know it’s hard work, but we’re trying to build something for the future,” he said.
The downtown location will stay even as Richmark Real Estate Partners develops three multi-story apartment buildings. Batikha said he’s looking forward to the new business he expects the apartments will bring. The construction workers have already kept them pretty busy, he joked.
Batikha said he could have opened a new store in Denver, but he didn’t want to leave his hometown in Greeley.
“We’ve always loved Greeley,” he said. “We love the people in Greeley.”
EDWARDS — They are already gathering in the quiet room, where a glass wall reveals the arresting New York Range. Sitting in a circle of chairs, the therapists at All Points North Lodge are counseling the ailing as dozens of workers next door scramble to build a one-of-a-kind addiction treatment facility in the heart of the Eagle Valley.
“This will be the new model. The best-of-the-best in terms of behavioral health and integrated care,” said Jeff Brooks, the soft-spoken behavioral scientist and addiction therapist tasked with developing an addiction-treatment program for a 72-room luxury facility inside what was a once a five-star resort hotel. “It’s definitely a new vision for integrating biological, psychological, social and spiritual care under one roof.”
It’s a long, winding road past the guarded gatehouse to the 69,000-square-foot lodge that stands like a castle atop the Cordillera community. Noah Nordheimer knows it well, both literally and figuratively.
The investor and recovering addict whose struggle with pain medication after an injury spurred him to build a thriving public-service treatment program in Baltimore, Maryland, has spent several years laboring to buy and convert the former Cordillera Lodge & Spa into a drug addiction treatment center. The journey has seen him navigating and winning four lawsuits filed by irked homeowners lamenting the loss of their resort community’s centerpiece. Now he’s corralled deep-pocketed investors and is building what he promises will be the most progressive approach to stemming the country’s addiction crisis.
“It took a while for us to get here, but now we are focusing on people’s health,” Nordheimer said. “Many of our guests are coming to us because they have a dependence to a substance or a behavioral health issue that they want us to help solve. We are not looking at these things in a silo. We are looking at overall health, from nutrition to fitness to primary and preventative care needs. I really think this place is going to do a lot of people a lot of good.”
The plan is big. Nordheimer and his investors are spending $136 million on the project, starting with a $20 million renovation of the lodge, which opened in 1988 and was made famous — or rather infamous — in 2003 when a 19-year-old concierge accused basketball superstar Kobe Bryant of sexual assault following an encounter at the tony hotel.
The project involves converting the 56-room hotel into a 72-room, 110-patient treatment center with a mix of single- and double-occupancy rooms.
Brooks’ team has signed a long-term lease on a 10,000-square-foot mansion that will house six patients in a more intimate therapeutic environment. Plans are underway to develop additional acreage below the lodge into what they call an “all-inclusive, holistic healthcare campus,” for patients who have graduated from more intensive care. When the renovation is complete, the lodge will employ about 100 people full-time, making it one of the larger private employers in the region.
Projects like All Points North Lodge help diversify Eagle County’s economy with high-paying jobs that attract and retain skilled workers, said Chris Romer, the head of the Vail Valley Partnership.
“Construction also remains a large part of our economy and requires a vibrant economy across all other sectors – from tourism to medical to outdoor recreation – to continue to thrive,” Romer said. “The issues seem to have been well vetted through the public process and the court system, and we hope the Eagle County community welcomes and embraces them moving forward.”
The lodge’s evidence-based addiction recovery program — meaning it deploys a science-based intervention with health, fitness, medicine and psychiatry, versus the traditional 12-step approach — is targeting high-level executives, athletes, musicians and entertainment superstars, with prices ranging from more than $40,000 a month for double-occupancy to $120,000 a month for spots in the private home. A second-track — called the day sober-living program — offers sessions for local patients in recovery.
Brooks said there is a “seriously underserved population” of wealthy people struggling with addiction.
“A lot of market research shows that there is a strong demand for this type of service,” Brooks said, noting All Points North Lodge’s five-star hotel services offered alongside behavioral health addiction treatment “in an area that provides the amenity level, but also enough seclusion to offer privacy and discretion.”
Residents of Cordillera — which spans several communities across 7,000 mountainous acres above the Eagle Valley — fought for three years to block Nordheimer, filing five lawsuits in federal and state courtrooms. Their arguments included a $100 million class-action lawsuit arguing the rehab center would hurt property values in the remote, gated community where stone-and-beam palaces sell for many millions.
Those were heady times in the resort real estate world, with buyers spending record amounts on homes. The 2007-08 home sales in the Colorado mountains hit highs that linger today. But the boom didn’t last.
By 2009, the economy was withering and the high-end real estate market collapsed. That year Behringer approached the county with amendments to Cordillera’s Planned Unit Development guide, hoping to weather the downturn by expanding the potential uses of the struggling lodge to include 34 options, including office space and medical facilities. The county approved the amendment and Behringer, which renovated the lodge in 2008, put the property on the market in 2013, after membership to the Cordillera golf club declined to 53 residents, occupancy at the lodge plummeted and Cordillera real estate activity stalled.
Behringer called Nordheimer’s Baltimore-based Concerted Care Group the “only serious” buyer that looked at the property. In 2016, CCG bought the lodge and surrounding acreage for $9.6 million. That’s when residents noticed the 2009 PUD amendment allowed for an addiction-treatment center. They railed against the plan, challenging the county’s approval of the amendment in Colorado federal district court, Eagle County District Court and, most recently in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. They lost every challenge.
Residents expected the lodge would be redeveloped, said Rachel Oys, the general manager of the Cordillera Property Owners Association and Cordillera Metropolitan District, both of which joined several local homeowners in the five lawsuits seeking to stop the rehab center plan.
Oys said her boards disagree with “several points” in the Court of Appeals opinion, but they are glad to see the court confirm that “inpatient uses” are not allowed. The issue gets into some semantics here, because the investors behind All Points North Lodge refer to it as a “residential outpatient facility,” separated into distinct parts with a clinic and hotel-like rooms. The Court of Appeals’ November decision focused on that word, “inpatient.” The court noted that Eagle County’s commissioners — who forbid inpatient use of the clinic portion of the lodge following homeowner appeals of its 2009 PUD amendment — determined the project fit into allowed uses because it planned an outpatient facility with a separate residential component. Homeowners argued the two separate uses constitute inpatient use. The appeals court declined to overturn the lower court’s support of the county approval for the rehab center, ruling the homeowners can argue the alleged zoning issue to the board of commissioners if they think All Points North Lodge violates the regulations.
Nordheimer, through his CSMN Investments, in October 2017 sued several Cordillera homeowners and their two associations, arguing the residents violated the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as fair housing and anti-discrimination laws in their opposition to the development of the former hotel.
With the legal issues settled, dozens of workers from mountain construction firm RA Nelson now scramble across the lodge. Not a single area remains untouched. The former restaurant and bar are becoming a smoothie bar and cafe. Every pod of units has its own common room adjacent to counselor offices. The new owners donated $300,000 worth of furniture and furnishings to the local Habitat for Humanity as they develop a more modern appeal.
Nordheimer said marketing and advertising efforts are underway and his team is assembling a waiting list of patients. His team recently had actors and models gather in the glass-walled carriage house to film a commercial for the lodge. The models were talking with the lodge’s counselors for the video depicting a group session “and a couple of them had some breakthrough moments,” Nordheimer said.
“With the team and the setting there, you could just see how it put people at ease,” he said. “That certainly gave us some insight into what we are expecting to happen there. It’s just such a unique, amazing setting.”
A California model
The luxury addiction treatment lodge will be a first for Colorado, but it’s a progression of a well-established model in California, where there are almost 2,000 licensed treatment centers, many in residential settings. The explosion of neighborhood addiction rehabilitation in luxury communities in Southern California prodded state and local lawmakers last fall to craft a raft of regulations.
Many of the new California laws addressed operations, like forbidding patient brokering, in which rehab centers pay patients with hefty insurance coverage or pay agents to recruit amply insured patients. One new law requires doctors to more closely study the risks of opioids.
One law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018 targets the increasing practice of for-profit rehabilitation companies buying several homes on a single street, creating a sort-of addiction treatment campus in the middle of high-end neighborhoods. That law — Assembly Bill 3162 — places restrictions on new rehab facilities in communities like Malibu, where dozens of addiction treatment centers are based in luxury homes. Another new law requires new facilities in residential homes to create plans for parking and medical waste disposal.
About half of All Points North Lodge’s 100 employees will be on the service side: concierges, cleaners, maintenance workers, chefs and restaurant staff. The other 50 employees will be a team of nurses, physician assistants, addiction counselors and behavioral health specialists working under a psychiatrist and a doctor.
A second treatment track will offer outpatient services for valley residents who can drive up for regular sessions with counselors. The full lodge is slated to open in October while those outpatient services are set to begin in April.
Brooks, himself 27 years sober, said many of the peer counselors he’s hiring are in recovery, making them better able to connect with patients at the lodge. The ripple effects rolling down from the facility will help reduce the stigma of addiction in the community, Brooks said.
Brooks said All Points North Lodge’s workers and local clients will help to “raise the recovery IQ” in the Eagle Valley by mingling in the community and sharing stigma-dashing perspectives about addiction and relapse.
“As this social web unfolds, the community gets these new insights, and this informed process lowers the stigma and really raises the health of the community as people start to talk more about what they may be dealing with,” Brooks said.
Some chat with lawmakers while others huddle in small groups to discuss legislation. Together, these lobbyists will receive tens of millions of dollars this year from big businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments to influence Colorado elected officials.
The combined total spent on lobbying from July 2014 through December is estimated at $138 million, according to a Colorado Sun analysis of state disclosure reports. How accurate that total is is difficult to discern because of the state’s convoluted disclosure system, inconsistencies in lobbyists’ filings and lax enforcement.
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The total spent on lobbying is increasing, to more than $33 million in 2018 from roughly $30 million in 2015, the analysis found.
So far this session, nearly 500 individuals and lobbying firms are registered to influence state lawmakers and officials. That’s about five lobbyists for every legislator.
They represent more than 1,000 clients — from health care nonprofits to the cannabis industry and oil and gas companies — and spend most days tracking legislation, persuading lawmakers to support or oppose certain bills and negotiating for their clients behind the scenes.
The work to influence state lawmakers is just one facet of the job. Many interest groups that hire lobbyists spend big money to influence who gets elected.
The Sun looked at 2018 campaign donations from 150 of the top interest groups and businesses employing lobbyists, and determined they gave nearly $18 million to lawmakers, super PACs and other political committees — most of it aimed at winning seats in the 100-member legislature.
The big dollars lead some to question whether lobbyists wield outsize influence on behalf of their clients, overshadowing the voices of voters, who don’t have a paid presence at the Capitol.
“The problem is when special interests get more airtime than regular people,” said Amanda Gonzalez, executive director of Common Cause Colorado, an organization that seeks to reduce the influence of money in politics.
But lobbyists also play a key role in educating lawmakers, serving as a fountain of information and institutional memory for part-time lawmakers whose terms are limited to eight years in each chamber.
“Sometimes (lawmakers) need really specialized information to help them make decisions,” said Jennifer Victor, a political scientist at George Mason University. “And that’s the role that lobbyists play. … They’re really sort of the information powerhouse of the legislative process.”
The scenario is especially true this year in Colorado. Nearly one-third of the state’s lawmakers are new, and the political landscape has changed. Democrats now hold all the cards after taking control of the state Senate, increasing their numbers in the House and electing a new governor in 2018. That means new issues are being pushed to the forefront and interest groups are scrambling to be heard.
Reporting system complicates public disclosure
In Colorado, lobbyists are required to file monthly reports with the secretary of state’s office, listing the clients they represent, how much the clients pay them, and where the clients stand on the bills they are tracking.
But the information is difficult to navigate, and that makes it hard for the public to know who is paying — and how much — to influence state lawmakers and officials.
There’s plenty of duplication in the system. For instance, when a lobbying firm reports income from clients, its individual employees may also report income from the firm. Many lobbyists are clear that they’re reporting income from subcontracts with other lobbyists, making a note on the form even though it isn’t required. But some don’t specify when a payment comes from another lobbyist as a subcontract.
“I think there is a basic tool that we could provide that would be easier to more comprehensively see money in Colorado politics, and that’s what we hope to build,” she said.
Griswold also would like to see more real-time reporting on what bills lobbyists are working on, and even a list of lobbyists and clients working on a bill listed in legislative documents. Now, lobbyists report their income, clients and bills they lobbied once a month. So if a position changes on a bill changes or a client is added, it can be difficult to immediately discern.
Her predecessor, Republican Wayne Williams, began examining the lobbying system last year, consulting with lobbyists and those who use the system, including journalists, to learn about what changes they’d like to see made. Griswold is continuing that process, with an eye on both upgrading the online system and improving reporting requirements.
The big lobbying spenders are major companies
Big business spends the most on lobbyists each legislative session as lawmakers propose bills that could impact them. Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest utility, tops the list and Comcast, the cable and internet company, comes in second, the Sun’s analysis found.
But associations representing doctors, lawyers and hospitals also rank among the top spenders in the past four and a half years. So do the University of Colorado and the state retirement system.
The Sun contacted the top 15 clients to confirm their lobbying costs. Mile High Racing, AT&T, Uber and the City of Denver didn’t respond, but others confirmed the numbers.
Many of these businesses or industries donated to candidates or super PACs that helped candidates get elected in November. Education unions and a Democratic education nonprofit top the donor list, though it also includes a conservative education nonprofit, a conservative business nonprofit, a service worker union and environmental nonprofit.
Democratic-affiliated super PACs were among the top recipients of the money from industries and organizations with lobbyists, The Sun found. Coloradans for Fairness, which supported Democratic state Senate candidates, received nearly $3.7 million from interest groups with lobbyists, while Our Colorado Values, which backed Democratic state House candidates, received nearly $2.5 million. The GOP Senate Majority Fund received about $2.4 million.
State law prohibits lawmakers from accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists and their clients during the 120-day legislative session.
The campaign contributions may buy access to lawmakers, but the research on whether it sways the issue positions of elected officials is not conclusive, said George Mason’s Victor.
“For the most part, those individuals or groups donate to candidates that already agree with them on issues or policy,” she said. “So the idea that those campaign donations are changing the mind of candidates or are causing those candidates (who) become politicians to make a legislative choice that they wouldn’t have otherwise … we just don’t find a ton of evidence for that.”
Lobbyists get their clients’ voices heard
One recent morning, when Democratic Sen. Faith Winter left the chamber, she talked with four lobbyists. She said she typically talks to a dozen lobbyists a day, at a minimum.
She said she views lobbyists as partners on bills she sponsors, because they provide information, help craft amendments and build coalitions to support her efforts.
“The lobbyists I’m working with on bills I care about share my values,” said Winter, who was a lobbyist before she was elected to office.
Gayle Berry and Mike Feeley have been on both sides of the lawmaking. Berry is a former Republican House member who served on the Joint Budget Committee, while Feeley is a former Democratic Senate minority leader.
Today, they both work as lobbyists, representing corporate, government and nonprofit clients. Those clients often represent everyday Coloradans, Feeley said.
“Everybody’s a special interest,” Feeley said. “Whether you’re a tobacco company or a children’s health organization, you’re still a special interest.”
Berry said she worked with lobbyists when she was a lawmaker, but they didn’t always sway her vote. “If I don’t like your bill, I’m still gonna vote against you,” she said. “And I think that’s a good philosophy to have.”
Most bills don’t spark that much interest with the public. Instead, a roomful of lobbyists typically listens as lawmakers debate measures, and later conduct conversations privately. And Victor, the George Mason political scientist, said it’s possible for the lobbyists and their clients to have more influence than people who are not at the building following the legislative action.
“The people who are playing in that game, who are providing the lobbying and the campaign contributions and going after all that stuff, is not a representative sample of the population,” she said. “It’s not a representative sample of ideas.”
Winter said her constituents’ views matter more than those of lobbyists. “Constituent voices are more important, I think, on their opinion and how they want me to vote and the reasons why, because my job is to bring their hopes and dreams to this building,” the Westminster lawmaker said.
Few people, though, have the time to devote to closely following the activities of the legislature. Gonzalez, who is registered to lobby on behalf of Common Cause Colorado, cited a recent hearing on a bill that would change how the state awards its electoral votes in presidential elections as an example. More than 70 people signed up to address the measure, part of a national popular vote movement.
“We had at least four members there who were planning to testify, one of whom had never been inside the Capitol before,” she said. “Sadly, he ended up having to leave because he had to go pick up his kid.”
Editor’s Note: Correspondent Sandra Fish was one of the journalists who participated in a focus group with the secretary of state’s office last summer about the use of lobbyist data.
Vail Resorts announced Thursday in a news release that the company has entered into an agreement to purchase the ski fields at Falls Creek Alpine Resort (“Falls Creek”) and Hotham Alpine Resort (“Hotham”) in Victoria, Australia.
Falls Creek, Victoria’s largest ski resort, features a variety of terrain including beginner and intermediate trails that are suited to families and first-timers. Considered the “Powder Capital” of Australia, Hotham is the only resort in the Southern Hemisphere where the village is located on top of the mountain, ensuring ski-in, ski-out opportunities from anywhere in the village.
The acquisition, which is subject to certain regulatory approvals, is expected to close prior to the commencement of the Australian snow season in June 2019.
“We are thrilled to welcome the guests and employees of both Falls Creek and Hotham into the Vail Resorts family and further strengthen our position in Australia, which is one of our most important international markets. The acquisition of the leading mountain resorts in Victoria is part of our continued strategy to drive season pass sales and build loyalty with guests from around the world,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts, in the release. “After our success connecting with skiers in Sydney and across New South Wales since acquiring Perisher in 2015, we have a huge opportunity to create a deeper connection with Melbourne and broader Victorian skiers and riders.”
Sarah MacQuiddy announced Thursday evening she will retire from her role as president and chief executive officer of the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce.
MacQuiddy announced her retirement at the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, where more than 1,000 people celebrated the chamber’s 100th anniversary.
Pending the acceptance of the board of directors, MacQuiddy said, she will retire from the chamber June 30.
“I have to tell you you can’t do this job and have this going on in the community without the most amazing team in the whole world,” MacQuiddy said after her announcement. “Working with the board of directors that I have for the last 15 years, there aren’t enough thank yous to say. You gave me a lot of guidance.”
MacQuiddy began working with the Greeley business community after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in 1978.
Sarah MacQuiddy announced Thursday evening she will retire from her role as president and chief executive officer of the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce.
MacQuiddy announced her retirement at the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, where more than 1,000 people celebrated the chamber’s 100th anniversary.
Pending the acceptance of the board of directors, MacQuiddy said, she will retire from the chamber June 30.
“I have to tell you you can’t do this job and have this going on in the community without the most amazing team in the whole world,” MacQuiddy said after her announcement. “Working with the board of directors that I have for the last 15 years, there aren’t enough thank yous to say. You gave me a lot of guidance.”
MacQuiddy began working with the Greeley business community after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in 1978.
A common misconception about renters is that they rent because they don’t have any other option. Given enough time and a high enough income, they will eventually buy a home or condo. But in metro Denver, it appears that isn’t the case for a growing number of people.
The number of renter households in metro Denver who clear that kind of income, which should be enough to buy a home or condo, shot up 146 percent between 2008-17. Nationally, the increase was 48 percent.
“I do believe the American Dream is evolving. It no longer is about owning the single-family home with a white-picket fence. It is about flexibility and being able to pick up and move,” said Nancy Burke, vice president of government affairs with the Apartment Association of Metro Denver.
A study last month from Zillow found that a little more than half the households buying a home in metro Denver earned an income of $100,000 or more. That kind of earning power should be enough to obtain a home, so why are so many people still handing over money to a landlord every month?
Much of the new housing supply this decade has come in multi-family and much of that has come in denser urban neighborhoods where millennials, and increasingly retiring Baby Boomers, are gravitating toward, said Igor Popov, chief economist with Apartment List.
“There is more rental supply for high earners today, especially in places like Denver,” he said. “People with higher incomes are clustering more in city centers than they used to. They are preferring to be closer to the action. We are seeing higher earners locating in downtowns.”
And it isn’t just young people who see value in renting to be closer to the action. Burke said some older adults who don’t want to deal with yard work or home maintenance see value in leasing. Many are sitting on huge equity gains that will allow them to cover the rent payments for a long, long time.
She also said that developers in Denver have gotten into amenity wars, offering everything from goat yoga to lazy rivers. Although the rent may look high, a lot of extras are built into that monthly payment that homeowners don’t get.
What about the argument that millennials, once they start having kids, will want to buy a home?
Popov said so many investors swept in to buy homes and convert them to rentals during the real estate crash that it has limited the supply. Builders have also built few entry-level homes. That has pushed more families to rent homes, not just apartments.
And there is the elephant in the room — student loan debt. A college graduate who moved to Denver may be pulling down a big paycheck. But he or she probably is also carrying around a pile of student loan debt. Until that gets paid down, saving for a downpayment will remain a struggle.
And it helps to take a bigger view. In 2008, there were 28,795 renter households in metro Denver who made $100,000 or more a year. That represented 9 percent of all renters, below the U.S. share at 13 percent, according to Apartment List.
With the impressive 146-percent gain, the share of high-income households who rent in Denver reached 70,860 or 16 percent of the total in 2017. Nationally, it rose to 17 percent.
So Denver, while the leader for gains in high-income renters over the past decade, is just approaching the national average in terms of its share of high-income renters.
Baker neighborhood fashion boutique Fancy Tiger Clothing will drop the fancy and the tiger from its name next month when it rebrands as FM. The name change will be accompanied by the addition of a permanent DJ booth, more house-made clothing and expanded services in the shop at 55 Broadway in Denver.
Officially taking effect March 15, the rebranding was announced in a news release Thursday from Fancy Tiger founder Matthew Brown.
In the release, Brown said more “elevated” clothing lines not part of the Fancy Tiger mix will be available at FM, as well as a broader selection of house-made items. The store will “continue to carry the more affordable brands that built Fancy Tiger’s reputation as an accessible boutique,” the release vowed.
FM will also offer on-site hemming and complimentary home delivery of hemmed items. The store will also produce a bi-monthly map of Denver’s retail landscape tailored toward foodies and independent retail devotees.
“We want to change people’s expectations about what a retail store can be to a city,” Brown said in the release.
Like many busy parents, Jennifer Boltz found herself with very little time for keeping her home organized and tidy. In an all-too-relatable scenario, she regularly shoved Tupperware into her cupboard, then slammed the door shut before anything could fall out.
Then Boltz saw friends on Facebook chatting about Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizing consultant who created the “KonMari Method” of tidying and decluttering, so she decided to watch a few episodes of the new “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” series on Netflix.
Though Kondo published an English translation of her best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” in 2014, her popularity skyrocketed earlier this year after Netflix released eight episodes of her new series on Jan. 1 (Netflix told CNN that Kondo’s Instagram follower count was at 710,000 before the show launched; it’s now at 2.4 million). Each episode follows one family or individual as they work with Kondo to reorganize and simplify their homes and lives.
Boltz, 39, said she knew immediately after watching that she had to try implementing Kondo’s techniques in her house in Thornton. And she’s not alone: Across the Front Range, people are purging their closets, folding their T-shirts into Kondo’s signature small rectangles and expressing gratitude to their homes and belongings (another key tenet of Kondo’s philosophy).
Colorado thrift and consignment shops are feeling the Kondo craze, too, as their donation bins and clothing racks are overflowing, thanks in part to the show’s popularity.
“I knew we wouldn’t be perfect, but we had to try,” Boltz said. “It was worth the chance of not being angry every day at our surroundings.”
Boltz and her husband piled all of their clothing onto their bed and went through Kondo’s process of deciding which items sparked joy and which items didn’t. In the end, they spent four days sorting and donated 11 garbage bags full of clothing to a local thrift store. They’ve since moved on to their two kids’ rooms, the kitchen and the laundry room.
Now, Boltz said, where she was once frustrated and tense, she is now calm, happy and relieved.
“My mood is better, our space is better and it impacts everything in a positive way,” said Boltz, a stay-at-home mom who runs a business selling toothpaste from her phone. “My family is getting the best of me now, rather than the worst.”
Places like Peak Thrift in Denver are also reaping the benefits of the Kondo movement. The store is a social enterprise of Urban Peak, a nonprofit that provides services for children and young adults who are experiencing homelessness or who are on the verge of being homeless. In addition to the thrift store, Urban Peak has an overnight shelter, a daytime drop-in center, education and employment programs, and supportive housing.
Since the show dropped in January, the store has seen a massive influx in donations, says Chris Venable, manager of social enterprise for Urban Peak and Peak Thrift. By his estimate, clothing donations have doubled.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he says. “Pretty consistently, starting that second week of January, we’ve had people coming in and saying, ‘I just watched Marie Kondo and here are 12 bags of clothes we don’t need anymore.’ ”
Peak Thrift regularly accepts donations from the Denver location of Buffalo Exchange, a national chain that buys and sells used clothing and accessories. The retailer has also noticed a huge uptick in the number of people trying to sell their clothing after implementing the KonMari method.
“People seem to be really responsive to this idea of sparking joy and only keeping things that make them happy,” says Greg Maronde, operations facilitator for Buffalo Exchange in Denver. “It seems like two out of every 10 people have said, ‘I saw the show and that’s why I’m bringing my clothes here today.’ ”
Maronde says sales have also been higher recently, perhaps because bargain-hunters are hoping to capitalize on the wave of new items hitting the shelves of local thrift and resale shops.
Case in point: Dustin Moody, 34, and his wife Laura, 30, were inspired by Kondo to organize and declutter their Westminster home. But then, Moody found himself affected by the show in another way: He visited nearby thrift shops while looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for his wife, an uncharacteristic choice on his part.
“Thrift stores are not somewhere I go when I’m looking for things,” Moody said. “But I started at the mall, which I hate, and realized there’s no reason to go looking for a bar cart new — surely someone has gotten rid of one. With so many people donating right now because of the show, I figured I could find something good.”
At Denver-area Goodwills, donations have been “steady and strong” for this time of year, says spokeswoman Jessica Hudgins Smith. While it’s difficult to separate normal spring cleaning and New Year’s resolution donations from Kondo-inspired donations, Goodwill is happy that the show is drawing attention to local charities, she added.
“By donating to Goodwill, what no longer ‘sparks joy’ for you will certainly ‘spark joy’ for tens of thousands of Coloradans in need through Goodwill’s career development programming,” she said.
The series may also be raising awareness about the field of professional organizing at-large, though Denver-area professionals are quick to point out that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to organizing and decluttering. In fact, many professional organizers use methods that differ greatly from the one shown on the show, so if KonMari isn’t your style, don’t worry — there are tons of other options out there. And, you don’t have to go it alone when you feel the urge to tidy up your home.
“We always get a lot of January business, but I’m guessing the show may be in the back of people’s minds,” said Christina Morton, owner of The Organizing Co. “It’s definitely creating awareness, which is wonderful, and we really appreciate that. We’re happy to help people.”
16 tips from Front Range professional organizers to help you get started
Even if you haven’t watched the “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” series on Netflix, you might feel inspired to take a stab at organizing, rearranging and generally decluttering your home. Since the process can be a lot to wrap your head around, we asked Front Range professional organizers for some advice. Here are 16 tips to help you get started.
It’s OK to organize one cupboard or one drawer at a time, says Meghan Siddall Maxson, owner and organizer at Streamlined Living Colorado. The important thing is that you just get started.
Set yourself up to succeed by creating realistic goals and deadlines, Maxson says. After all, this type of work can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. “Pay attention to how you’re feeling and give yourself attainable deadlines like, ‘I will declutter and purge one bathroom cabinet by the end of the week,’ ” she said.
Set a timer
Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of spending an entire Saturday decluttering and organizing? Set a timer for 15 minutes and start there, Maxson says. If you can break this seemingly giant task down into smaller chunks, it won’t be so intimidating.
Ask for help
Don’t feel defeated or ashamed if you feel like you can’t tackle organizing on your own. On “Tidying Up,” Kondo often gives instructions and then leaves a family to their own devices before returning a week later. In reality, many local professional organizers will be there with you every step of the way, or they can offer a more tailored level of guidance, depending on your preference.
“So many people are like, ‘I could never do that on my own,’ especially if they’re had a really rough year or they moved or they have a new baby,” says Samantha Tobia, owner of Demessify. “These are things we all deal with and it’s OK if you need to hire out some extra help and support.”
Declutter first, then organize
And not the other way around. You first need to know how many items you have before you can create a system for keeping that area tidy, Tobia says.
Use whatever organizing devices are handy. You don’t have to run to The Container Store and spend hundreds of dollars on fancy boxes and systems — use old shoe boxes or other items you have around the house, Tobia says.
Value your time and energy
Don’t overlook the importance of a tidy space. Kondo makes this abundantly clear on the show and in her books, but it’s a point that deserves repeating: A happy, organized home can help you in other areas of your life. “A lot of clients have found that because their home is organized, they had the mental and emotional energy to tackle some bigger goals in life, like losing weight,” said Christina Morton, owner of The Organizing Co.
Get an estimate
Hiring someone may not be as expensive as you think, in part because professional organizers do this every day, so they’re quick and efficient, Morton says. While you might look at your closet and think, “This will take me all weekend,” a professional organizer might be able to get it into tip-top shape in just a few hours. Some organizers, including Morton, also offer free estimates.
Don’t worry about purging
You don’t necessarily have to get rid of things, Morton says. Her theory is that you’ll naturally get rid of items as a result of organizing. Once you see all of your clothes, you might realize you have several variations of the same shirt and feel inclined to get rid of the duplicates. “It’s not always so much about getting rid of things,” she said. “It’s about being organized and using your space better.”
Look to the future
Don’t get hung up on your old life, Morton says. Maybe you worked at an office, but are now a stay-at-home parent. While you may someday return to the world of business casual, that’s not necessarily a good reason to keep a closet full of pantsuits for years and years, Morton says.
Downsize and optimize
Look for efficiencies. Do you have one product or tool that can do the job of multiple items? This may be especially useful advice in the kitchen, where gadgets tend to take over every nook and cranny, Morton says.
Make it easy to put back
Make sure you create a system that encourages you to put items back where they belong. This will help prevent your home from devolving into total disarray again. “If it’s not easy to put back, then nobody’s going to do it,” Morton says.
Since the process can require quite a bit of mental and physical energy, consider blocking off some time in your schedule when you are fresh and can really “attack” an area, such as first thing in the morning, says Katie Siefermann, owner and organizer at Fall Into Place Organizing.
Keep it moving
While it may be tempting to go down the rabbit hole when you’re organizing, try to keep the big picture in mind while you sort through items, Siefermann said. Rather than prolong the process by overthinking it, keep pushing forward. Sort items into categories, then deal with trickier or more emotionally charged items later.
Change your habits
Organizing is not a one-time event, Siefermann says. It requires ongoing maintenance. One easy change? Stop bringing so many items into your home in the first place. “Cancel junk mail, curb your Amazon spending habits, create an ‘experience’ wishlist instead of a gift wishlist for birthdays and holidays and say no to freebies,” she said.
Let go of gifts
Siefermann says people often have a hard time getting rid of gifts. But, in the spirit of Marie Kondo, if an item does not spark joy but instead sparks guilt, it’s time to let it go, she said.
What to donate and what to trash
Remember that it costs thrift stores and charities money when they have to dispose of trash and other items they cannot accept. Generally speaking, you’ll want to stick to donating “gently used” items when possible, says Chris Venable of Peak Thrift. But it’s also a good idea to call ahead or check the specific organization’s website for guidance before you load up your car.
Some places, including Goodwill and Best Buy, can help you recycle electronics — but not all electronics are accepted, so check first.
For a list of the items Goodwill can and cannot accept, visit goodwilldenver.org/donate/stuff/stuff.html.
Nike is looking into what went wrong after college basketball’s biggest star sprained his knee when his shoe fell apart, one of the most high-profile apparel failures in basketball history.
Duke University star freshman Zion Williamson, the consensus No. 1 pick in this year’s National Basketball Association draft, tumbled to the court less than 35 seconds into last night’s loss to in-state rival North Carolina. He’d planted his foot to change direction when his left shoe, the PG 2.5 PE, came apart, causing him to fall awkwardly.
The fallout for the world’s largest sportswear brand was immediate. Twitter lit up with jabs from fans and rival brands, making “Zion” and “Nike” trending topics within the social media network. The company’s stock fell as much as 1.7 percent in New York trading Thursday.
“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said by email. “While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”
While the incident, which occurred during one of the most anticipated college basketball games of the year, is certainly embarrassing, it likely won’t affect Nike’s prominent standing within the sport, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Chen Grazutis. If you combine Nike and its Jordan brand, the company has more than 90 percent of the basketball market. Nike reported $4.35 billion in wholesale equivalent basketball sales in fiscal 2018, about 14 percent of its overall sales.
“They might get a lot bad press over the next couple days, but I don’t think it will have a direct impact on the shoes,” Grazutis said.
Companies like Nike and Adidas pay tens of millions of dollars for the exclusive right to outfit high-profile college programs like Duke, meaning their athletes are required to wear uniforms and shoes made by the team’s sponsor. Though Duke’s contract with Nike isn’t public, the Durham school is one of Nike’s most important basketball partners. For comparison, the University of Kentucky, another top basketball school, recently extended its Nike deal for eight years and $30.6 million.
The malfunction might also hurt Nike’s ability to sign Williamson once he decides to go pro. College athletes can’t sign endorsement deals, but competition for elite draft prospects is fierce every year. Last year’s No. 1 pick, Deandre Ayton, signed a deal with Puma that was reported to be the largest rookie deal since Kevin Durant’s seven-year, $60 million deal with Nike back in 2007.
Williamson is one of the most highly regarded college prospects in years. The 6-foot-7, 285-pound forward suffered a mild knee sprain, according to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. He did not return to the game, and No. 8 UNC upset No. 1 Duke 88-72.
The timing could not have been worse for Nike. Not only was the game televised nationally on ESPN, it was one of the most anticipated college basketball games of the year. The cheapest resale tickets leading up to tip-off were over $2,500, approaching Super Bowl levels.
Former President Barack Obama, courtside at the high-profile clash, was shown on video appearing to say with an incredulous look: “His shoe broke!”
It also comes as Nike draws criticism for a different kind of shoe malfunction. Some people who purchased the company’s newest basketball creation, a laceless shoe that you can control with your phone, were unable to connect to the Android version of the app.
This isn’t the first time that Nike’s had problems with its basketball merchandise. After taking over as the official NBA uniform supplier in 2017, multiple stars including LeBron James had their jerseys rip.
Nike stock is up about 25 percent in the past year, similar to the gains of Puma and Under Armour Inc. while leading the roughly 12 percent gain of Adidas AG.
Puma is an upstart in the basketball market, and one of its few NBA players, Terry Rozier of the Boston Celtics, took advantage of Nike’s stumble to urge others to join him.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has filed a legal brief in support of stronger vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, saying the state recently adopted its own rules because the Trump administration is pushing for weaker ones.
The friend-of-the-court brief Weiser filed Feb. 15 says the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to replace Obama-era rules has left states scrambling. In response, Colorado adopted a standard similar to California’s to boost gas mileage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the brief says.
The brief supports a lawsuit by California and 17 other states that challenges rolling back rules intended to significantly boost gas mileage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
“The abrupt and arbitrary switch of EPA causes states like Colorado to scramble to evaluate, and in Colorado’s case adopt, California’s approach” of stronger rules, according to the brief.
The EPA didn’t follow the law when it announced in August that it would roll back the standards, a decision that “will cause more greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the severity of climate change and polluting our state,” the brief states.
But Colorado’s decision to adopt California’s fuel-efficiency rule will drive up costs for Colorado car buyers and reduce their choices, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association argues. A lawsuit by the association seeks to repeal low-emission rule approved late last year.
A consultant hired by the association to review the rule eventually approved by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission said the rule will add an average $2,110 to a new vehicle’s sticker price in the state. The report by Energy Ventures Analysis in Virginia said adopting California’s standard for model years 2021 to 2025 would cost Colorado a cumulative $2.86 billion while saving less than $1 billion in fuel costs.
“Part of the added cost is having multiple standards,” said Tim Jackson, the association’s CEO and president. “It costs more to make different cars for different parts of the country.”
The report also says that Colorado regulators failed to address the effects of the state’s high altitude, which means the benefits of lower emissions and fuel costs could be overstated.
And there’s the fact that unlike California, about 75 percent of the vehicles sold in Colorado are trucks or sports utility vehicles, Jackson said.
When the Obama administration proposed boosting gas mileage, the EPA projected that the average per-vehicle cost would be roughly $1,100. In 2017, the agency estimated that people who took out a five-year car loan would see a payback within the first year and a net savings of $1,650 over the lifetime of the vehicle
“Unless you’re not planning to drive your car, we know that a fuel-efficient car will save you money over the long run,” said Danny Katz, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said a more fuel-efficient vehicle might cost slightly more upfront, but the state’s new rule should result in average savings in gas costs of $2,700 per Colorado household by 2030.
Advances in technology mean that the costs of making vehicles more fuel-efficient will likely be lower than the estimates by federal agencies, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The costs will likely be from 34 percent to 40 percent lower than projected, said the nonprofit research organization that works on climate change and public health issues.
The Obama administration developed rules to nearly double vehicles’ mileage and reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.
In August, the EPA announced plans to replace the Obama-era rule with what it called more realistic standards that would give “a much-needed time-out from further, costly increases.” The administration said its proposal would cut regulatory costs by more than $250 billion and save car buyers $2,340 overall.
The administration is also targeting the waiver that allows California, which has long struggled to reduce smog, to set its own standard. States without waivers, like Colorado, can approve a separate standard as long as it’s identical to California’s.
Federal officials have conceded that easing the Obama administration’s rule would boost national fuel consumption by about a million barrels of oil per day and increase greenhouse-gas emissions.
The new Colorado rule requires automakers to boost fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon, which is the target goal on paper. The actual number for vehicles in real-world conditions works out to be roughly 39 miles per gallon. The rule will start affecting new lightweight and medium-duty vehicles in 2022.
Later this year, state regulators are expected to consider a rule based on California’s requirement that a certain percentage of vehicles sold in the state be electric.
Call off the fire trucks. An update from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on Wednesday shows things weren’t as hot as first reported in El Paso County or in Colorado for that matter.
Monthly payroll reports showed metro Colorado Springs pumping out jobs at a 5.6 percent annual rate as of December 2018. Now, it looks like the rate might come in closer to 2 percent.
“Colorado Springs is actually growing jobs slightly below the state average,” said Ryan Gedney, a senior economist with the state labor department.
Normally, job growth in Colorado Springs gets underestimated, and then revised higher. This time around, the estimates were way high, which required an adjustment lower, he said. Greeley is now on track to beat both Colorado Springs and Fort Collins for job growth last year.
Why were the initial counts so off base? Gedney said the models can miss turns in the economy. Job growth definitely slowed in the second half of the year. Although he doesn’t predict job losses in 2019, he said slower gains are likely to continue.
Every month the U.S. Department of Labor surveys employers to estimate how many nonfarm jobs were created. Those reports are squared up with the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages or QCEW, which uses the headcounts employers provide when they pay unemployment insurance premiums.
The revisions that came out on Wednesday show that Colorado added 17,000 fewer jobs as of September than what was initially estimated. Of that reduction, 10,000 came just from Colorado Springs. Metro Denver had 4,700 fewer jobs than estimated and Fort Collins 1,400 fewer.
Adjustments were minimal for Grand Junction, Greeley and Pueblo.
Metro Colorado Springs, which covers all of El Paso County, showed steady job growth last year, Gedney said. It just happens to be less than half of what the monthly reports were showing.
Based on industry, the biggest revisions in the third quarter came in leisure and hospitality, down 11,800 jobs in September from initial estimates; professional and business services, down 6,300; mining, down 2700; government, down 2,400; and manufacturing, down 1,000.
The industries with upward revisions included other services, up 4,500; financial activities, up 1,700; trade, transportation and utilities, up 1,200; and construction, up 1,100.
Gedney said Wednesday’s update shows why it is important to do a reality check on the monthly estimates. Employment counts are undergoing a process known as benchmarking. When the results come out March 11, a clearer picture of what actually happened last year should emerge.
GREELEY — Yukwan Lee looked out to the lights of the gambling city Macau before gazing down into the black, cold water that could take him there.
He’d hiked murky trails for four nights to get to the cliff, using maps drawn by the people who escaped before him. The wind blew north, away from the noses of the German shepherds trained to bark when they caught a swimmer’s scent. The dark took care of the rest. Now was the time to jump.
If he did not jump, he would continue to make the equivalent of a penny in American money, for a day of hard labor on a farm. It cost that much to mail a letter. A pound of rice cost twice that.
“No one wants that life,” Lee said. “They knew that.”
Thirty years later, he has a life many would want. It’s the American dream, but in this case it’s the Chinese dream, too. He’s a Greeley business owner, a homeowner with two grown children and a retired man at 67 who enjoys puttering around in his garden. It is all far more than he expected, and in some ways, he believes it’s far more than he deserves, as he is a man without much education.
“How lucky am I?” Lee said with a smile.
And yet, there are some downtown business owners who believe that Lee deserves everything he gets. They believe he’s a big reason for their success, and many have stories similar to Lee’s own, immigrants with harrowing tales of escaping with nothing but their skin. Lee gave them a boost, they said, maybe because he got one himself when he came to Greeley in the early 1980s.
No one would mistake downtown Greeley for Pearl Street or the 16th Street Mall, but buoyed by bars, pizza places, unique shops (one business calls itself “The Nerd Store”), a downtown hotel, a bakery, coffeehouses, a steakhouse, a music theater and famous breweries such as WeldWerks, it’s about as hip an area as Greeley offers.
However, until recently, 10th Street seemed a bit like the middle child, as festivals in Lincoln Park, across from Eighth Street, and Friday Fests one block over, on Ninth Street, drew traffic to downtown, but not to Aaron and Sarah Wooten’s Cranford Tea Tavern. “Nick,” Lee’s nickname, is the guy responsible for changing that, Aaron said.
“Five years ago, when we opened, people wouldn’t walk this block at night,” Aaron said. “Now it feels like this is the last piece of the renaissance of downtown Greeley. It’s a very cool and diverse part of downtown, and it’s got Nick’s fingerprints all over it.”
Lee was 22 when he stared into the water. He had every reason to jump. He wanted a better life, and that was all he had, save for a few clothes he would leave behind to swim the mile to Macau. He was tired of being cold and hungry, and cold and hungry was all he could afford.
He also had every reason not to jump. He spent two months in prison after Chinese authorities caught him that summer hiking those trails to the ocean. He promised he would not go again and signed with a fingerprint. They released him and told him if he was caught again, they would keep him in prison for a long time, maybe for the rest of his life.
He would have to swim an hour, in his skivvies, in water cold enough to numb his fingers. He thought he could make the swim: He was strong from the farm, and he remembered how to swim from his time as a child, when his parents tossed him in a lake and told him to survive. Even so, he knew that cold water had killed many swimmers in the past.
Macau was only the first step. He arranged through the underground market for a boat in Macau to take him to Hong Kong on the promise that he would pay for it later. He would have to find a job and a place to live on his own.
If it seems like a choice, Lee makes it clear, when he tells the story, that it wasn’t much of one. Lee wanted freedom, but he really wanted to eat.
Maybe it wasn’t a choice. But it was definitely a risk. Lee loved a risk. He still does.
So Lee popped a handful of black pepper in his mouth, chewed and swallowed, hoping that the heat from the spice would make him welcome the icy waves. He steadied himself, stripped off his clothes and, on Dec. 18, 1973, at 2 a.m., he jumped.
Why does Aaron Wooten call Lee the savior of 10th Street? These days, downtown Greeley is doing much better than anyone had hoped, even 10th Street, and there is little doubt Lee could make more money on the rent he charges for the three buildings he now owns. He could probably make twice as much.
He’d have good reason to charge more. Lee has a nice nest egg — those buildings are paid off — but rent and Social Security are his main sources of income.
“He could be raising me big time,” Wooten said. “That’s not who he is.”
The low rent and his hands-off approach empower Wooten and business owners in his buildings to take chances, the same kind of risks that Lee enjoys and respects, and that led to 10th Street’s comeback, Wooten said.
Tea houses, for instance, had failed many times in Greeley, but Lee was not only supportive, he let Wooten do it his way. He didn’t care that Wooten tore down a wall and changed the place to fit his needs.
“He allows us to work hard and make it on our own,” Wooten said, “and I don’t know many who are like that. I’m not sure I’d be like that.”
When Wooten says “us,” he means himself and Abdi Warsame Abdirahman, whose family owns the Daris Uroon as a part of an enterprise, and Luis Ochoa, the owner of Hispano Appliances who will soon open the Millennium Event Center in the same location upstairs, a project he’s worked on for 10 years.
Lee doesn’t hand-pick his clients. Wooten is a white man who also owns the downtown steakhouse. Ochoa and Abdirahman are immigrants, and even if Ochoa says, admiringly, that Lee is “on his side,” Lee doesn’t treat any of his clients differently. In fact, in this age where immigrants are questioned harder than they’ve been in decades, Lee proudly says he gets along with everyone, “the black man, the white man, the yellow man and the brown man.”
Ochoa rented the building from Lee 13 years ago, and now Ochoa calls him a friend, not just a landlord. They got to know each other, he said, swapping stories of their escapes.
Lee emerged from the water, took a boat to Hong Kong and found a job delivering coffee in the daytime. At night, he slept on tables he pushed together.
It doesn’t sound glamorous, but life was good compared to the scraps in China. He went from $2.40 a month to $300. He sent some of the money to his parents and a chunk to a friend who helped him pay for the boat that got him there, and he still had enough left over to fill his belly every night and stay warm.
Hong Kong offered him political refuge, but his mother was scared for him to be so close to China. When he had a chance to go to America, after a friend from China offered to let him work in his restaurant in Jackson, California, he took it in 1977. He could not speak any English.
“I didn’t even know ‘sorry’ or ‘thank you,’” Lee said.
But he pieced enough together to work as a waiter, first with the Chinese customers, and then the Americans, and life got ridiculously better. He made $400 a month. It was an embarrassment of riches.
Two years later in 1979, he moved to Aurora and made $3,000 a month working as a cook for a restaurant called Yep’s Dynasty. And yet, that desire for a better life, and his penchant for a fun risk, never went away: A cafe for rent in downtown Greeley in 1982 tingled both those needs.
Lee became an American citizen that same year, and like most Americans, he had a dream. He wanted to be his own boss. He thought of himself as a self-disciplined person. He liked his life being up to him. He chose a restaurant because that was what he knew. There wasn’t much to it, he said. Make good food and charge a fair price.
He remodeled the cafe in two months at night and worked in Aurora during the day, and then he took all his vacation, two weeks, and gave himself an ultimatum. He would smile at customers, and he would cook 14 hours a day, and his wife, Mui Kuen, with a kid on her back, would chop vegetables in between feedings. He would serve Hong Kong food, and it would cost $2.50 a meal, about half of what the other Asian restaurant in town charged. They would need to do $50 a day in lunch. He had no money to advertise: He hoped, in two weeks, that the word would spread.
The first day, he did $100 in lunch, and he gave his two weeks notice to Yep’s Dynasty and began cooking for himself. He moved his family to downtown Greeley. He and his family stayed below the cafe. It was more like a dungeon from “Game of Thrones” than a home. Water dripped from the ceiling into their beds. There was no window. The conditions were awful and not really legal.
During the day, from his 9 a.m. start until the place closed 12 hours later, he cooked, his wife chopped and a waitress carried food to hungry customers. As he cooked, he called his customers by their names, and he sang happy Chinese songs, even on weekends and holidays such as Thanksgiving, when he let anyone eat at his place for free.
In 1982, when he opened that first cafe on Ninth Street, downtown Greeley was not hip. It was desolate. Yet he did well because most of those customers were students from the University of Northern Colorado who didn’t want luxurious, hip restaurants as much as cheap meals. Several wound up working for him when he moved to a larger place on 10th Street a couple years later. He let them do their homework during their shifts, as long as they got their work done, and he paid them by the day if that’s what they needed. His family stayed in that basement, too, which was nicer. It didn’t leak. When his wife got pregnant again, they moved into an apartment.
When he had a chance to buy the building in 1985, Lee thought it was a good price, even if downtown was dead. The building was near the courthouse, and since that wasn’t going anywhere, he thought downtown probably wouldn’t die, either, even if it looked like it might at the time.
He and his wife didn’t have much education, and in his mind, they already had more than they could reasonably expect. They had their freedom and their own restaurant in their own building and a place to sleep. Every day, as he sang, Lee said one thought went through his head: How lucky am I?
Ochoa, Lee’s friend and tenant for 13 years, has his own near-death dash for freedom, only the enemy was the Mexican cartel.
He was 38 and living in Juarez, a city just south of El Paso, Texas, with his wife and two daughters. Many agree that Juarez is one of the most dangerous in the world because of the cartels.
Ochoa ran an auto shop when members of a cartel grabbed him and told him to get in a van. Ochoa spotted two men in the van with machine guns, and his stomach clenched. He thought that if he got in, he probably wouldn’t survive the day.
He took Taekwondo most of his life, and he used it to push his captor against the van doors, and then he just ran and prayed the bullets wouldn’t hit him.
He got away. He called his wife, Soledad, and told her to collect their two little girls because they were leaving that day.
“I left my shop, cars, everything and everyone,” Ochoa said. “I never went back. The cartel kills people like flies, man.”
Ochoa started his appliance business in downtown Greeley, and lifted by Lee’s low rent, he began to dream of the event center.
The low rent helps, but Lee has also paid for half of the repairs in the building, including a new heating system that dropped Ochoa’s gas bill from $3,500 a month to less than $500, to make the event center possible. Ochoa put the money he saved from Lee’s kindness to the event center.
“We’ve been working on it for 10 years,” he said. “We want it to be classy.”
As an example of their friendship, Ochoa spoke about a trip the two took together with their families to Cancun.
“He wanted to see the real Mexico,” Ochoa said and laughed, “so he said he wanted to go with a Mexican.”
It’s not lost on Ochoa that they have similar backgrounds. “He’s on our side,” Ochoa said. This is what Wooten loves about Lee. Wooten sees Lee in himself, too.
“He’s empowering people like himself,” Wooten said, even as he’s also empowering people such as Wooten, a white man who now owns the Chophouse steak house in addition to their thriving tea business.
Lee shrugs off the savior role. Charging them less was merely a business decision. He said the low rent helps him keep tenants, and if he keeps them long enough, they tend to take care of the building and maybe even improve it. Ochoa, he said, is a good example of that.
“Financially, I’m OK,” Lee said. “I’m not so greedy that I need to charge a lot.”
But maybe it’s more than that. After all, Lee’s never really forgotten where he came from.
When Lee opened his first restaurant, he had enough money to keep it open for two weeks. It’s doubtful he would have had that much time if it weren’t for Bob Gilbert.
Gilbert, a bank president in Greeley, owned downtown back then, in the early ’80s, and he charged Lee $150 a month in rent, which included water, gas and power. The gas itself, Lee said with a grin, cost more than that.
Downtown was depressed back then, but Gilbert could have, and maybe should have, charged Lee twice as much. He gave Lee a chance. Lee knew that, and he appreciated Gilbert for it. When he would drive by Gilbert’s large house, Lee looked at it with pride, not jealousy. The house, he thought to himself, was fitting for a great man.
Lee would eventually move his restaurant, and he bought the building from the owner, who also gave him a break: He financed it to Lee at no interest.
Lee loves uncertainty because it makes you work harder, he said. But he also considers himself a lucky person. He’s won practically every gamble he’s taken, and that’s because of the people around him as much as his own good business sense.
Those people, of course, include his first wife. She got breast cancer and died after 30 years of marriage. He is happily married again, to Jing Jing, who worked as a pediatrician in China before meeting Lee on the internet and marrying him three years ago.
But it still makes him sad to talk about his first wife. They had good times and raised two children, Cathy of Windsor and Jefferson of Portland, Oregon. She worked hard and was a sweet, loving wife and mother. When they bought their first house together, in 1986, it was a beautiful feeling, and every day, Lee walked around the house and thought about his good fortune.
He is lucky to be in America, he said, even at a time when immigrants are questioned by people as powerful as the president. He’s never felt people look down on him, save for one time, when he drove a beaten-down truck with a loose door into a downtown parking lot and later found a note on his windshield to keep that junk out of the lot.
He saw how different it was from China in 1981, when President Ronald Reagan was shot. He expected chaos, but he went to work anyway and was shocked at the empty streets. Back in China, people would have rioted. By the time the 9/11 attack happened nearly 20 years later, Lee wasn’t worried.
“This country has such a strong foundation,” he said. “It is very strong. No one person can do anything to take it over.
“I feel safe here.”
He still tries to fit in as much as he can. He studies English at home, even though daily conversations aren’t really a problem anymore.
“I love audiobooks,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t understand all of it, but I love all of it.”
Lee left for China the first part of November. He returned in mid-January. That’s a long time to spend in a country that he once risked his life to escape, but China is much different now: Not many, he said, are cold or hungry.
“I don’t have any hatred at all,” Lee said. “It’s my home. My ancestors are all from there. They forced me out. They probably do me good, you know?”
Yes. China forced him to take a chance. He eventually got that chance, and now he is happy to give others a chance. All people need is a chance, he said. What they do with it is up to them.
He now owns a home, one he bought in 1996, with a deck he built with wood he gathered from the trash pile at construction sites, and a gate he made that tells people “welcome” on one side and “so long” on the other, and a big white truck out front, with a secure door. A hailstorm shredded his treasured garden last season, but that’s the kind of stuff that happens to homeowners. Hail, he said, is his biggest worry now.
“Dealin’ Doug” Moreland of TV commercial fame announced Tuesday that he would build a four-brand dealership in the Motorplex at Centerra in east Loveland.
A press release from McWhinney, developer of Centerra, said the Moreland Auto Group had purchased 15 acres of land at the southern end of the Motorplex, which borders the west side of Interstate 25 just south of Crossroads Boulevard.
The dealership, as yet unnamed, will sell and service Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram vehicles, according to the release. The project is in the design phase and will open in 2021.
“The location, visibility, selection and surrounding amenities are why customers come here from across Northern Colorado and beyond to shop for and service their vehicles,” Moreland said in the release.
The new dealership will bring to 12 the brands sold at the Motorplex, the release said.
United Launch Alliance, based in Centennial, has landed a nearly $442 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to launch three space missions.
The Air Force said Tuesday that United Launch Alliance won the competitive bid for the three missions. The missions will launch on the company’s Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
“ULA’s commercially developed Atlas V rocket has been a workhorse for national security, science and commercial missions since 2002, launching 79 missions with 100 percent mission success and builds on the heritage of more than 600 Atlas program launches,” Tory Bruno, the company’s president and CEO said in a statement.
The first mission will be the Space-Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit-5 in March 2021.
The award of the grant to ULA and a $297 million grant to Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, supports the “mission of delivering resilient and affordable space capabilities to our Nation while maintaining assured access to space,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said in a statement.
ULA said it has successfully delivered 132 space missions. The company launched NASA’s lander InSight, which landed on Mars, in November.
Lockheed Martin Space in Jefferson County designed and built InSight, or Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It’s the first mission that will study the interior of Mars.
A mother-daughter team that owned a pair of now-shuttered Cherry Creek title insurance companies have pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in escrow funds from their clients and are to be sentenced in April.
The women – Elizabeth Newell-Williams, 66, and her daughter, Michelle Hernandez, 46 – each pleaded guilty on Jan. 28 to a pair of felony theft charges in Denver district court.
District Judge Edward Bronfin is scheduled to sentence them on April 1, court records show. The case was prosecuted by the attorney general’s office, which would not disclose the possible penalties the women face for each guilty plea.
The indictment alleged the women pocketed more than $733,000 from policyholder escrow accounts.
They each pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing more than $100,000 but less than $1 million, and a charge of stealing more than $5,000 but less than $20,000, court records show. The other 12 charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
The two were free on bond but were not formally arraigned until the day they pleaded guilty, court records show – more than seven months after they were indicted.
The investigation into their conduct began in early 2016 when the Colorado Division of Insurance revoked their licenses after an employee flagged regulators about the financial irregularities. For months the two women maneuvered millions of dollars between various bank account in order to give the appearance that all was well.
Title companies typically hold millions of dollars in escrow for real estate clients, money that is used to pay for final water and utility bills or other closing costs, including paying off mortgage balances.
The companies were underwritten by Alliant National Title Insurance Company in Texas and consumers impacted by the thefts were repaid.
State Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar in October 2017 revoked the pair’s license and ordered them to pay $346,354 in restitution, and a $145,000 civil penalty, records show, much of it to repay Alliant for the costs of auditing the companies’ books.
The former employee-turned-whistleblower told investigators she knew of at least two instances where escrow accounts didn’t have enough money to pay off a mortgage at the time of closing
Hernandez and her mother co-founded Williams Title in 2004 in the basement of Williams’ home. Foresight was a subsidiary of Williams. At the time they closed, their websites said they were retiring.
Weld County evaluates restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other facilities that handle food on a scale of five categories, from unacceptable to excellent. As part of the county's scoring index, officials evaluate facilities on factors such as cooling, reheating, cooking refrigeration and hot-holding equipment, cross-contamination between raw foods and ready-to-eat foods and employee hygiene, according to the county.
An "excellent" evaluation means the facility had no violations. Secondary critical and non-critical violations could exist.
Facilities that received a "good" evaluation could have one serious violation or one or more secondary violations.
A "fair" evaluation means the facility could have three serious violations or secondary violations.
A "marginal" evaluation means the facility could have four serious violations or secondary violations.
An "unacceptable" evaluation means the facility could have more than five serious violations or secondary violations. If an imminent public health hazard exists, the facility would be required to take immediate corrective action or close.
The following restaurants and facilities were evaluated from Feb. 13 to 20, 2019.
Feb. 12: Almansitas Mexican Food, 2727 23rd Ave. — Good
Feb. 15: Batter Up Cakes, 802 9th St. — Good
Feb. 13: Qdoba Mexican Eats, 4626 Centerplace Drive — Good
Feb. 15: Safeway Fuel Center, 3550 10th St. — Excellent
Feb. 14: Subway, 725 25th St. — Excellent
Feb. 13: Taco Bell, 3503 10th St. — Excellent
Feb. 13: Taco Bell, 4638 Centerplace Drive — Good
Feb. 13: Wendy’s, 4644 Centerplace Drive — Good
Feb. 19: Evans Senior Center, 1100 37th St. — Excellent
Feb. 19: Tamales From Heaven, 3219 23rd Ave. — Excellent
Known for its collection of black-diamond ski routes, Colorado is home to a handful of sought-after diamonds of another sort in 2019: four- and five-diamond-rated restaurants.
Bestowed each year by AAA, the prestigious diamond ratings date back to 1985 when the organization formalized its system for inspecting and categorizing restaurants across the country. In the restaurant world, earning four diamonds means AAA inspectors believe a restaurant is “distinctive.” Earning five diamonds means the place is “leading edge,” according to AAA.com.
Eighteen Colorado restaurants were deemed four-diamond worthy in 2019, AAA Colorado announced in a news release last week. Just one — the Penrose Room at the Broadmoor hotel and resort in Colorado Springs — earned five-diamond praise.
“The panoramic rooftop view is one splendid element of this restaurant’s elegant ambience,” a AAA inspector wrote of the Penrose, one of nearly a dozen dining options at the decorated resort. “Audible gasps are heard when artfully presented desserts arrive at the table.”
Colorado 18 four-diamond restaurants in 2019 are:
Element 47, Aspen
Grouse Mountain Grill, Beaver Creek
Mirabelle at Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek
Splendido at the Chateau, Beaver Creek
The Flagstaff House Restaurant, Boulder
Summit, Colorado Springs
Colt & Gray, Denver
Edge Restaurant & Bar, Denver
Guard and Grace, Denver
Palace Arms, Denver
Alpenglow Stube, Keystone
Keystone Ranch Restaurant, Keystone
The Cliff House Dining Room, Manitou Springs
Game Creek Restaurant, Vail
Only 2.1 percent of the almost 32,000 restaurants AAA assessed across the county for its 2019 list earned four diamonds. Just 67 restaurants, including the Penrose Room, earned five.
The Penrose Room held fast as Colorado’s only five-diamond winner from last year. After consistently adding restaurants to its ranks in recent years, Colorado lost a four-diamond winner in 2019. Chefs Club by Food & Wine in Aspen did not make the cut after being featured on the list in 2018. The 18 restaurants listed above are previous winners.
The shrunken list is a testament to how rigorous the inspections are, AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said.
“Properties really need to be making continual, year-round improvements to stay on the list,” he wrote in an email, “and meet the highest standards out there to get on it for the first time.”
Market timing is hard to pull off when it comes to investing in stocks. But for home sellers, there are times of the year when prices get bid higher and properties move faster, according to a report from Zillow.
In metro Denver, that “magic window” runs from May 1-15. Sellers who list in that period make on average 1.1 percent or $4,300 more on a sale. Homes sell six days faster than typical.
The first half of May is also the best time nationally and in many other cities to sell. But the peak window can stretch from April into early July, depending on location. And in a few markets, like Las Vegas, a premium time to sell doesn’t exist.
“Sellers time their listings to optimize their sale in all sorts of ways,” Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s director of economic research and outreach, said in the report.
Some sellers are looking to get the highest price they can, while others time a sale to their own purchase, she said. Sell in May, a dictum for seasonal stock traders, also seems to apply in the housing market.
Zillow also found that Thursday was the best day to list a property in metro Denver. Nationally, it is on Saturday.
When Colorado began to consider expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, some advocates pitched what they believed would be a key benefit: Hospital prices and premiums for people covered by private policies would drop once more people were insured.
The theory was that by increasing Medicaid payments and reducing Colorado’s uninsured rate, hospitals would no longer need to shift as much of their costs to individuals with private insurance, thereby bringing their rates down.
But in the decade since the state expanded Medicaid, costs have not gone down for Coloradans with private insurance and overall health care expenses have yet to be reined in, according to two reports released in recent weeks.
Instead, Colorado hospitals’ costs grew 60.3 percent during a nine-year period, while payments to hospitals for the care they provide exceeded that, jumping by about 66 percent, according to a draft report by the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
“Medicaid expansion was definitely not a failure, but it also did not bring down costs for people outside of Medicaid,” said Joe Hanel, managing director of communications for the Colorado Health Institute.
“Hospitals made strategic decisions and the strategic decisions enabled profits to go up and expenses to go up,” said Kim Bimestefer, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
Had hospitals taken steps to curtail costs, as much as $11.5 billion in savings could have been extended to Coloradans with private insurance during the nine-year period that ended in 2017, according to the state agency.
The association said in a statement that costs continue to be shifted to those on commercial insurance plans, in part because government payers — such as Medicare and Medicaid — pay less than the cost of services provided. And now more Coloradans are covered by Medicaid.
“Colorado hospitals recognize that the cost of health care for Coloradans are unsustainably high,” said Colorado Hospital Association spokeswoman Julie Lonborg in an interview. “And we are absolutely committed to being a solution to that.”
“I think that we would say,” she added, “that the debate around cost shift is probably less important than the focus on what we ought to be doing to lower health costs.”
The recent findings that health care costs have not dropped since Medicaid was expanded is noteworthy in that it is coming from a state agency, Hanel said. The institute released its own report on the topic last week.
“For the longest time, the idea of the cost shift was one that was promoted by, well, senior officials in our state governments and a lot of advocates for expanding Medicaid,” Hanel said.
There was a “hope” that these policies would curb costs, but it was not a “well-designed hope,” said Cari Frank, a spokeswoman with Center for Improving Value in Health Care.
“There’s no motivation for them to bring down costs on the commercial” insurance side, Frank said, adding that “from a business perspective, it makes tons of sense for them to continue to do what they are doing.”
The prices set by hospitals are also influenced by “market dynamics,” such the rates facilities negotiate with insurers, according to the report by the Colorado Health Institute.
“We’ve really begun to realize we have a problem with prices in our health care economy,” Hanel said.
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