Denver officials are traveling to London and Amsterdam to talk with leaders there about marijuana, airport cities and urban growth.
Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver International Airport manager Kim Day and executive director of economic development Paul Washington will be joined by five other city officials.
The cost of the trip — which will be April 7 through April 11 — is being covered by DIA and the British Consulate, marking the first official trip to the United Kingdom by a Denver mayor since 1999. Washington’s portion of the trip, which is only to London, will be paid for out of the city’s general fund.
“The focus of the London portion will be on innovation, infrastructure and energy,” Washington said. “Denver is growing exponentially. That’s going to put enormous pressure on our infrastructure, and we want to remain smart in how we invest.”
He said the timing is key because of several large projects currently on the Denver’s near-term horizon — the Interstate 70 redesign, Brighton Boulevard and development along the South Platte River.
Specifically, city officials are interested in London’s “Tech City,” a business incubator-style initiative.
“Denver has been an active participant in helping to finance these innovation centers, but Tech City goes beyond that,” Washington said. “It looks at how to accelerate capital (for new companies).”
London officials have expressed interest in how Denver moved its international airport from landlocked Stapleton to undeveloped land to the east. London Heathrow needs to expand but is hemmed in by the city.
Denver is pushing development of an airport city on DIA property, hoping to draw businesses that place high value on proximity to the airport. Day is interested in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol as a more plausible airport-city model than some of the Asian sites her team has visited, a DIA spokeswoman said.
And while the airport-city conversation may have been the impetus for the Amsterdam portion of the trip, the topic of marijuana policy is something the two cities share, and couldn’t be passed up, said Amber Miller, Hancock’s press secretary.
“Amsterdam has had a number of changes to their laws, and having Dutch officials giving a timeline and understanding on the challenges and opportunities they’ve faced only helps us fine-tune our regulations,” she said.
While the Netherlands has tolerated marijuana use for much longer than Colorado, it is arguably less advanced than the Rocky Mountain state in its policy surrounding the substance.
Pot is technically illegal in the Netherlands, apart from the sale and use in specialty “coffee shops.” It is also illegal to have a grow operation or to smoke in public view in Amsterdam.