Apartments could rise on old Sports Authority site in Englewood

Residential units, parking garage proposed for location along Hampden

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/20/21

A prominent Englewood business site that fell to bankruptcy has seen redevelopment in recent years, and a push to add apartments there has returned with a vision that could help reshape the area near …

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Apartments could rise on old Sports Authority site in Englewood

Residential units, parking garage proposed for location along Hampden

Posted

A prominent Englewood business site that fell to bankruptcy has seen redevelopment in recent years, and a push to add apartments there has returned with a vision that could help reshape the area near city hall.

Nationwide big-box retailer Sports Authority once maintained its corporate headquarters across Hampden Avenue from the Englewood Civic Center. In March 2016, Sports Authority cited debt of $1.1 billion as the reason it filed for bankruptcy.

What followed was the question of what would fill the property. A rough idea for a development that could have included apartments, offices, retail, restaurants or even a distillery or brewpub arose, according to development officials’ vision from years ago. The site includes the Earth Treks indoor climbing gym.

Now, a plan for adding apartments next door could result in a four-story, 303-unit complex that would include its own five-story parking structure. The plan calls for a “wrap” design, meaning the garage would be hidden from view on all four sides by the residential units, according to an April 8 virtual meeting held by Fifield Companies, the developer behind the plan.

Along the trail

The property along Jason Street — 1070 W. Hampden Ave. — sits along the city’s western edge near Santa Fe Drive and the RTD light rail tracks, giving it a potentially crucial part to play in how the economy and pedestrian activity near city hall and the Englewood light rail station may look in coming years.

Fifield plans to donate money for the future Rail Trail pedestrian bridge over Hampden Avenue, a move agreed to by a previous developer, according to Joe Pitsor, a vice president for Fifield. Englewood’s planned Rail Trail is a pedestrian and bike path that would run along the light rail tracks.

“We think the Rail Trail with a pedestrian bridge over Hampden and other area pedestrian improvements would benefit both the entire Englewood community and our future residents at the same time,” Pitsor said.

The April 8 presentation said Fifield will put $300,000 or more toward the Rail Trail and other traffic improvements.

Asked what other projects the money would support, Pitsor said the specifics and locations are still being ironed out but could include “bulb outs” at some nearby crosswalks to slow speeding traffic through intersections “and make the pedestrian experience of crossing the street safer and more pleasant.” Bulb-outs are extensions to curbs, resulting in a narrower roadway width at intersections.

Speaking to how controversial new apartment proposals can be among Englewood residents, one person in the April 8 audience asked: “How does this plan help me as, I guess, a taxpayer with this whole thing? Does it help me, does it hinder me? How do I benefit?”

Kevin Farrell, president and chief operating officer for Fifield, pointed to the $450,000-plus per year in additional property tax revenue that the project is estimated to generate, as a benefit to the community.

Local businesses could also see a boon from the roughly 400 residents that the complex would add.

“It will really help the local economy to have those shoppers, people that can walk to those retail spaces” nearby, Farrell said.

A mixed-use development, such as restaurant space at the bottom and housing above, was floated as a possibility at an informational meeting about the property a few years ago — but that’s not part of the plan now.

“Given the current retail vacancy in nearby CityCenter (near city hall), we didn’t think building more competing retail would be appropriate,” Pitsor said.

Teachers, nurses in mind

Developers plan to give Englewood nurses and teachers the “first look” at leasing the apartments, the presentation said.

“We will work with officials at the Englewood school board to help get the message out to teachers, and officials at Swedish and Craig hospitals, so that they can communicate the offer internally to nurses,” Pitsor said.

One-bedroom, one-bathroom units at the complex — which could be named Englewood Station — are expected to start at $1,495 per month in today’s dollars, Pitsor said.

Traffic a sticking point

An informational meeting in May 2018 took place regarding the previous development proposal, following two meetings held in 2017. That was a planned unit development, or PUD, proposal at the same property. Planned unit developments allow for a mix of possible types of properties that a city’s normal zoning — rules for what can be built where — wouldn’t allow. The current plan is also a planned unit development.

The Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission, an appointed group of citizens, recommended that the city council approve the previous plan, but that PUD was denied by city council, according to a statement from the city.

“The discussion about the project prior to the vote by city council focused on the potential traffic impacts within the surrounding neighborhood,” the statement said.

A draft of a traffic and parking demand study for the current plan was performed in November 2020, according to the April 8 presentation.

Fifield’s team started working on the project after the start of the pandemic, “but the background traffic data in the 2020 study was reflective of 2019 pre-pandemic traffic levels,” Pitsor said.

The study determined that even with full pre-pandemic traffic levels, the area roadways and intersections can accommodate the proposed development, Pitsor said.

Parking is a “constant question,” Farrell said during the meeting, but the apartments would have more parking than they need, he added.

Onlookers on the street or sidewalk wouldn’t be able to see the parking garage “really from any side of the building” even though it would be slightly taller than the apartments, Pitsor and Farrell said.

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