Centennial city leaders voiced strong and unanimous support Tuesday night for a plan to allow the streets of the SouthGlenn Mall to add significantly more housing while reducing the square footage dedicated to shopping — a reflection of the rapid adjustments that business owners here, and nationwide, continue to make amid the ongoing upheaval in the retail industry.
The council has done all but proceed to a final vote, which will not take place until Monday. But it was clear from comments from every council member on Tuesday that they would vote in favor next week.
The centenary discussion comes less than a month after Littleton narrowly approved a redevelopment plan for the Aspen Grove shopping center that will allow up to 2,000 residential units where none currently exist. It also allows the commercial space to be reduced by half.
And last month, East West Partners announced plans to bring to life a 13-acre area west of Denver’s Cherry Creek Mall, an effort the developer says will include a “significant residential” component.
David Garcia, director of policy at the University of California, Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, said what’s happening in the Denver metro is part of an “emerging trend” in the country, where the evolution of the retail landscape fits with acute housing. shortage in many urban areas.
Earlier this year, several California lawmakers introduced legislation to make it easier to convert commercially zoned properties to residential use to address the state’s housing shortage, he said. Metro Denver has its own housing crisis to deal with.
“There is such a demand for housing,” Garcia said. “It follows the trend of trying to make the best use of existing land.”
At The Streets at SouthGlenn, a 77-acre outdoor shopping district laid out on a street grid with familiar brands like Whole Foods, Best Buy and Snooze, the maximum number of housing units allowed would increase from 350 to 1,125, while the minimum amount of retail space as outlined in the mall’s agreement with the city would increase from just over 900,000 square feet to 621,000 square feet.
There are about 750,000 square feet of retail space in The Streets at SouthGlenn now and just over 200 housing units, said Don Provost, founding partner of Denver-based Alberta Development Partners. The Alberta-owned mall opened a dozen years ago on the southwest corner of East Arapahoe Avenue and South University Boulevard, replacing the long-abandoned SouthGlenn Mall , which had been there for decades.
He said SouthGlenn’s reconfiguration is necessary in a retail environment that has been battered by consumers moving their dollars online, a phenomenon that has only accelerated during a pandemic that is making face-to-face transactions more difficult. face to face.
“There’s been an acceleration over the last 15 years, and especially over the last five years, with online shopping,” Provost said. “We want the existing retail business (at SouthGlenn) to thrive. The heart of retail remains.
The plan to add hundreds of homes to the streets of SouthGlenn is largely about finding a way to best fill the space opened up by a recently closed Sears store on the site and a Macy’s which is due to close in March – two formats of big-box retail that have fallen out of favor with shoppers.
Alberta partners with Northwood Investors, owners of the empty Sears building. Construction of the new homes could begin late next year, with new residents moving in in 2023 or 2024, Provost said.
“We must look to improve the long-term viability of SouthGlenn,” he said.
And that means figuring out what the mix of stores, entertainment and residences needs to be to “make this retail business more productive,” said Neil Marciniak, Centennial’s director of economic development.
The Streets at Southglenn contributes about $3 million a year to Centennial’s overall $40 million sales tax, Marciniak said. While he said cities “live and die” by their sales tax levies, their malls must evolve with the larger market.
“What is this appropriate mix to prepare for the future?” said Marciniak. “All malls need to look at their tenant mix, their land use mix. Consumers want an experience.
“The mixed-use model across the country is a difficult formula to understand.”
And not always an easy sale. Alberta consulted with its neighbors for about three years before submitting its plan to Centennial City Council. Despite setbacks and multi-level building heights to make new apartment buildings less intrusive to the surrounding neighborhood, not all residents are happy with Tuesday’s outcome.
Linda Nixon, president of the Southglenn Civic Association, continues to worry about the overcrowding and traffic these new residents will generate. The mall is largely surrounded by single-family homes built in the 1970s and 1980s.
“You talk a lot about cars,” she said. “It will totally increase traffic.”
But Andrew Spaulding, a longtime resident of the area long before there was a town of Centennial and who worked at the former Southglenn Mall, said Alberta worked diligently with the community to alleviate the impacts.
“We hope it’s less intrusive than other developments in the city, where they build right up to the street,” he said. “It’s one of those – it happens, how can we soften it? I think at the end of the day it will be a benefit to the community.