Retail Recruitment with Activity Nodes

Last Updated 11/15/2023


Downtown Colorado, Inc. (DCI) is pleased to share the second webinar in our series for communities looking to create a downtown through retail recruitment. The opening webinar in this series featured Julie Jacoby, City of Thornton and Stephanie Otte, City of Westminster as they shared the top strategies for retail recruitment. DCI is pleased to moderate with the help of DCI board member, Jill Mendoza, Town of Superior Economic Developer for this dynamic and interactive webinar discussion.

The first webinar outlined a list of tips to help with retail recruitment, including understanding the vision, knowing your places, communicating the vision, knowing your market, having clear incentives, getting creative, and following the trends for expanding and sharing resources. 


As we dive into the idea of Activity Centers, there are a few ideas that are a baseline for finding the balance between political and public will and meeting the market. 

  • Cluster of Uses.  Considering the diversity of uses  and how that creates a critical mass of activity to bolster a thriving area.
  • Accessibility. Considering the road network, transit, and multi-modal options to come and go to the center at different days and times. 


As the primary planning document the comprehensive plan strives to bring together community input to formulate a vision. There are often challenges when the community cannot reach consensus regarding the land use, or is very prescriptive in shaping the vision for a parcel in a way that does not align with the market. Once a plan is developed it is important to educate everyone about the vision and be sure that the economic development community is very clear on the goals and types of incentives that can be communicated to the private sector.  


Zoning is the legal framework, and shapes what is possible to do in the area. With a new activity zone, more flexibility is needed. Often with planned developments, form based code, and overlay districts are different tools to support emerging districts. Planned developments, sometimes referred to as a Planned Unit Development (PUD) is zoning that segments development by clustering uses i.e. residential, commercial, etc. A Form-Based Code regulates development based on an outcome or target form. It helps to  foster target results and a high-quality project because form is the organizing principle, with less focus on land use regulations. Overlay zoning is a tool to create a special zoning district that is set on top of an existing base zoning and identifies special requirements in addition to those in the larger zone.


Nothing will be truly successful without strong partnerships. The buy-in from the public, from the elected officials, private sector partners, and others in the community is what makes for a great activity center. Some of the key discussion points included discussion around questions and answers from the participants. 

  1. HOW TO LEVERAGE LARGE USES. In considering how to create additional value add from things like indoor baseball stadium or top golf, we discussed the idea of pop up activities with food trucks or container shops to accentuate larger uses and create an incubator effect for new business.
  2. ENGAGING CHALLENGING PROPERTY OWNERS. Most communities encounter one more property owner who is over charging for leases and speculating that the market is more robust than the reality may be. The group discussed the idea of sharing the vision to help the property owner understand how they can contribute or detract from the larger community plan. Also pulling comparable lease rates or sharing some key uses that might add to the business mix in the area. 


The discussion was robust and well received by approximately twenty participants. DCI is planning the next discussion in this series to engage a private developer to share their perspective in creating a thriving commercial district. The next discussion will likely be in January or February of 2024. 

Happy Holidays!


Susan Wood, FAICP, RTD Planning Project Manager

The desire to make a meaningful difference – a thought Wood believes every planner carries – compelled her to return to school at 41 to pursue a master’s degree in planning at CU Denver. After graduation, she did land use work for Arvada, Lakewood, Greenwood Village, Douglas County and Jefferson County. She came to RTD 15 years ago to work on environmental planning for the Southeast Rail Extension and the Southwest Rail Extension, both part of the FasTracks program. It has been thrilling, Wood said, to be a part of “the biggest thing in the region” – projects that felt limitless in their possibilities.

Upon arriving in Colorado, she joined environmental engineering firm Roy F. Weston, enabling Wood to work on the closure of Stapleton International Airport and tour Denver International Airport before it opened. She thinks back to the excitement she felt walking through the terminal, envisioning it filled with passengers. She is working on a new policy guide for the APA on equitable economic development, and she considers that this work is done best when people are the focus.

Julie Jacoby, Economic Development City of Thornton

Julie Jacoby has served the Economic Development team in the City of Thornton for a decade.  As the Retail Administrator, Julie oversees the retail business attraction process which has included community-changing projects such as the Denver Premium Outlets, TopGolf, Main Event, King Soopers Marketplace, and the newly announced Candlelight Theater, and Chicken N Pickle.

Prior to joining the City, Julie’s extensive managerial and marketing career spanned a variety of industries, including retail, development, broadcasting, hospitality, education, and eight (8) years with General Growth Properties, Inc., one of the world’s largest shopping mall developers.  In 2011, Julie took her retail knowledge to the public sector, serving as an Economic Development Specialist for the City of Commerce City before joining her hometown team in the City of Thornton in 2014. Julie is an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), Economic Development Council of Colorado (EDCC), and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Julie holds degrees in Communications and Political Science from Valparaiso University, and her CEcD certification in Economic Development from IEDC. She has lived in Thornton since 2001 with her husband, Jeremy, and two daughters, Jessica and Johanna.

Jill Mendoza, CEcD, Economic Development Manager + Downtown Colorado, Inc. Board of Directors 

Jill Mendoza, CEcD, is the Economic Development Manager for the Town of Superior. Jill is a hybrid professional working at the intersection of marketing, economic and business development. She is an urban innovator who is passionate about building communities that enhance the quality of life and quality of place for their residents through community-based economic development strategies. A strategic-thinker with a keen interest in entrepreneurship, she facilitates public/private partnerships to leverage investment and improve the economic vitality of the communities in which she works. She places a strong emphasis on growing and cultivating vital relationships with community members, businesses, stakeholders, executive management and elected officials to ensure goals and objectives are achieved.

Stephanie Otte, City of Westminster

Stephanie started with the City of Westminster as a Community Assistant at City Hall in 2019. Stephanie recently joined the Economic Development team in 2022 as Business Navigator. In the role of Business Navigator, Stephanie is working with existing and startup businesses in the Westminster community. She is focused on introducing businesses to the multiple opportunities and resources that are available in Westminster. Stephanie provides business outreach specifically for locally owned businesses and restaurants. She engages in retail strategy and recruitment and is a trusted point of contact for the business community.

Stephanie has over twenty years of experience working in commercial real estate with a focus on retail and restaurants. She worked for multiple commercial developers as a property manager and leasing manager for several mixed-use projects in the Denver metro area. Stephanie is passionate about working with locally owned small businesses. She has been a Westminster resident for over ten years and enjoys working in her community. Stephanie has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management with an emphasis in Marketing from The University of Northern Colorado.

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