In a 4-3 vote, Littleton City Council narrowly cleared the way Aug. 20 for the Meadows at Platte Valley, a development of 250 apartments and three acres of retail to rise at the southeast corner of Mineral Avenue and Platte Canyon Road. But an amendment initiated by Councilor Jim Taylor might quash the deal, according to Jim Wikstrom, project manager for Evergreen Devco Inc.
The amendment requires Evergreen to have two of the three retail acres built before renting its 150th apartment. Taylor said he meant to ensure the commercial portion was built to generate sales tax for the city, pointing out the entire 17-acre site was intended to be retail. He acknowledged that because the surrounding area wasn’t built with enough density to support that much retail, rezoning 14 acres to residential was appropriate.
“If it was left as zoned — and I was on that council — this would be a viable commercial area,” he said. “But it was not left that way.”
“If you want to kill the project, do that,” Wikstrom said. “‘If you build it they will come’ does not work for retail. Tying one to the other will kill the deal.”
Tyler Carlson, managing principal at Evergreen, is in charge of filling the retail spots. He said his focus is on creating a high-quality project to ensure its viability, not on sales-tax revenue — basically summing up the eternal conflict between municipalities that rely on taxes and property owners who rely on rent.
“Here’s the reality,” he said. “We don’t make money off of vacant dirt.”
Taylor’s amendment passed 4-3, with Mayor Debbie Brinkman and councilors Peggy Cole and Bruce Beckman dissenting.
Some residents are hoping Wickman’s prediction is correct.
“What I surmise is that the owner waited too long to develop his retail, and now he wants the citizens of Littleton to bail him out,” said Marty Brzeczek, who has been helping Citizens of Rational Development try to get an initiative on the ballot that would enact tougher procedural requirements for rezones like this one.
Charles Edwards, president of Fagin Resources Inc. in Dallas, is the property owner who is selling to Evergreen. His company has owned the land since 1985, when he bought it and the land that’s now home to the Pinnacle Apartments on the south and the Meadowbrook neighborhood of high-end homes to the north. He worked a deal with the city to annex the properties, and he agreed to make about $3 million in infrastructure improvements, including the extension of Mineral west across Santa Fe Drive. He’s paid more than another $1 million in interest since then.
“I can promise you we have tried every different way to get retail for this site and have not been successful,” he said. “We’re asking that our investment at least be acknowledged and rewarded, and we think this is the company and the project to be successful.”
One concern everyone has about the site is traffic, which neighbors say is already untenable. Even Charlie Blosten, the city’s public works director, agrees.
“You’re trying to put 10 gallons of traffic into a five-gallon intersection,” he said. “It really doesn’t work. … We just can’t do it all, so traffic is going to back up.”
Evergreen wants to put in a light at Mineral and its main entrance, which would benefit the Meadowbrook residents. Wikstrom says Evergreen’s studies show a light is warranted, but Blosten said those figures are more suited to urban settings. He said one might be justified in the future.
Evergreen’s plans include 10 two- and three-story buildings with units renting for $1,000 to $2,000 a month, along with a dog park, detached parking, pool and a clubhouse. The retail parcels will face the northwest corner along Mineral and house small commercial ventures, along the lines of a bakery, day care or sandwich shop, said Carlson.
Abby Sinnett thinks that sounds pretty good. She told council she grew up in Littleton and wanted to stay when she first got married a few years ago.
“But we just fell a little bit short here in Littleton, so we moved to Highlands Ranch,” she said. “Looking back, this is exactly what we were looking for.”