DENVER – Xochi Ramirez said these are uncomfortable times.
She helped open La Botanica nearly five years ago, but doesn’t know how much longer the store, specializing in religious candles, miniature statues, tarot cards and herbs, will remain in business at 47th Avenue and Baldwin Court.
The city wants to buy 38 parcels of property, including the building housing La Botanica, so the National Western Center can expand.
The goal is to turn the Stock Show complex into a year-round agriculture-related attraction, focusing on research, competition, commerce, entertainment and tourism.
“It’s difficult,” Ramirez said, “because you plan out your life to be here… for several years, and then you have to move.”
She told Denver7 that La Botanica draws customers from Wyoming, Nebraska and even as far away as California.
She said she and her fellow owners are trying to find a new location in another metro area city, but it’s not easy.
“We’re going to lose a lot of clients,” she said. “Not everyone will want to drive to the other town.”
The City of Denver is doing what it can to help compensate property owners and to help provide tenants with moving expenses and rental assistance.
“We adopted the Federal Relocation Act as a guide,” said Kelly Leid, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of National Western Center. “It provides very specific protections.”
Leid said of the 38 parcels the city intends to purchase, ten are residential and 28 are commercial.
Residents of a rooming house apartment building, catty-corner from La Botanica, received a 90-day notice from the city last week.
Some worry that in spite of the city’s offer to help with moving expenses and rental assistance, to make up the difference in rent for a comparable property, they won’t be able to find an affordable place to live.
Leid wouldn’t say how much money the city is spending to purchase the properties, other than the money being spent is part of Measure 2-C, a voter approved $856 million project that extends a 1.75% tax on hotels and cars rentals indefinitely.
“The properties we’re taking today are required for right-of-way improvements,” Leid said. “We plan to start the demolition for the National Western Center this year.”
Leid said if tenants or property owners need more time to move, the city is willing to work with them.
He said the over-all rebuild of the National Western Center is an 8 phase project.
“We’ve said it could take as long as 10 years to complete the first two phases,” he said.
“Following next year’s Stock Show, we will actually start improvements on Brighton Boulevard from 47th to Race Court, to align with the opening of the eventual North Metro Line that RTD is building.”
The Master Plan calls for a new Arena, a CSU Equine Sports Medicine Clinic, and a Stock Yards Event Pavilion, as well as transit station and a shared use parking structure, among other amenities.
“It’s a complicated project,” Leid said. “There will be years of infrastructure improvements before a single building goes up.”
Leid said the city has purchased 65% of the parcels needed for the first two phases of the project.
He also said they’ll soon have a better idea about deadlines.
“This summer, probably in July, we will lay out our schedule for the program,” he said.
For Ramirez, it’s like waiting for a shoe to drop.
When asked what was the hardest thing about the coming changes, she replied, “Just having to say goodbye. When we moved to this area, we also moved our home, so we could be close to work.”
She said now, she’ll have to commute to another city, once La Botanica finds a new home.