Sports Authority site won't see apartments soon

316-unit proposal heads back to drawing board after encountering resistance

Posted 1/28/19

The view of Englewood from South Santa Fe Drive and U.S. Highway 285 could include a four-story apartment building in the future, but only if it clears the hurdle of the Englewood City Council, which …

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Sports Authority site won't see apartments soon

316-unit proposal heads back to drawing board after encountering resistance

Posted

The view of Englewood from South Santa Fe Drive and U.S. Highway 285 could include a four-story apartment building in the future, but only if it clears the hurdle of the Englewood City Council, which voted for an initial rejection of the plan at its Jan. 22 meeting.

“There are some folks in the city that have concerns about density,” said Dave Cuesta, city councilmember, at a public hearing for the plan Dec. 17. “Why is this good for an existing Englewood resident right now?”

Tim McEntee, a developer involved with the project, said that by the city's own information, it's below the threshold of residents Englewood needs to be healthy.

“You need rooftops,” said McEntee, a director with Wood Partners, pointing out that more residents would help the city's tax revenue. The plan “would help your retail rebound with those 600 residents.”

So goes the argument for the Alta Englewood Station apartments, a proposed building wrapping around a five-story parking structure, dependent on approval by city council. It's a special kind of project called a planned-unit development, or PUD. They require a nod by the council because they make exceptions to the zoning — rules for what can be built where — in a given area. The CityCenter Englewood shopping development, including the Englewood Civic Center, was a PUD, as were the Oxford Station apartments at Oxford Avenue, along with others.

The 316-unit, 4.2-acre parcel would sit on South Jason Street just south of West Hampden Avenue on the site of the former Sports Authority corporate headquarters, currently an industrial-zoned area. The site falls between Earth Treks — billed as the nation's largest indoor climbing gym — to the south and a self-storage facility to the north.

With Councilmember Amy Martinez absent, city council unanimously halted the Alta Englewood Station plan based on concerns about an overflow of parking, as well as walkability — the development touts its proximity to the RTD Englewood Station, but the way there requires crossing the busy, six-lane U.S. 285/Hampden Avenue highway.

City staff's presentation mentioned a weakness in the lack of pedestrian walkways, Mayor Linda Olson said at the Dec. 17 meeting. Wade Burkholder, a city planning manager, said that would be addressed in the project's upcoming traffic study.

Going further, Mayor Pro Tem Rita Russell was wary of a residential property on the site at all.

“I have some huge concerns about the light industrial area,” Russell said at the Jan. 22 meeting. “I do believe that is one area of the city we have to protect. It's our greatest potential income maker.”

Parking proved to be a main concern for the council, and Olson criticized the Englewood Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of the project having fewer parking spaces than what the city usually requires.

The city generally sets a bar for multi-family housing of 1 1/2 parking spaces per unit and one more space per every five units for guest parking — in this case, 544, according to information from Burkholder to the council. Alta Englewood's draft plan shows 471 spaces. The PUD can override the city's usual standards if approved, according to a project document in Burkholder's information. The lower parking-space number is based on examining five similar multi-family housing developments in the Denver metro area that serve light rail stations, the city's information added.

City staff members argue that the development would support the retail base and give people opportunity to live close to work — the site would be close to the CityCenter shopping area, office areas and the city's medical district. Bolstering that idea is the site's proximity to light rail at RTD Oxford Station and Englewood Station, Burkholder's information added.

City staff members also envision a bicycle-and-pedestrian trail adjacent to the light rail line — parallel to Santa Fe Drive on the city's western edge — with bridges over Oxford, Hampden and Dartmouth avenues, and the Alta Englewood Station apartments could have easy access to it. The trail has no timeline for completion, but the city's infrastructure plan suggests partial funding for bridges, Burkholder's information said.

Olson said currently, she doesn't see much walkability for the apartments.

“Without the infrastructure being clear, I still see people driving cars,” Olson said.

Council sent the plan back to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and it comes back to council after the commission has a chance to potentially modify its recommendations.

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