Attorney Steve Anderson bought the old sheriff’s building in 2003, remodeled it into modern office space and moved in. But since 2006, he’s invested a whopping $1 million into planning that ultimately could see it torn down.
“I don’t think the building belongs here,” he said. “It needs to be something so much better than what it is.”
He believes people deserve to live on the hill and enjoy the view across downtown Littleton to the mountains. To that end, he wanted to build apartments that would have incorporated the building, which is on the city’s list of historical merit.
Enter the neighbors, who launched an all-out assault that led to the plan’s demise.
Anderson still wants the site redeveloped, and he’s selling it to Alliance Residential, pending council’s approval of the necessary rezone from commercial to allow a 250-unit complex.
Re-enter the neighbors. They’re still not happy, despite Alliance’s Andy Clay having worked with them for the last nine months. He’s scaled the project way back from the 325 units he originally wanted, breaking the one big building into two smaller ones and adding breezeways, setbacks and sloped roofs in an effort to better match the character of the neighborhood.
“It’s giving me the solid impression that no matter how much we work with this small group, we may not be able to satisfy them,” said Clay. “But that’s not the question. The larger issue is, will it satisfy the larger community, and this is good for the community as a whole.”
Anderson has felt the same since his first go-round.
“There’s this interminable and insatiable desire by this very small, finite group of people that they’re going to dictate what happens on this property,” he said. “I’ve owned it, I’ve funded it, I’ve had to continue putting money into it. As I’ve tried to respect others, and I have respected others, I’m not sure that’s mutual.”
The two have even heard that if council approves this project, the group will try to stop it through a public vote or a moratorium of some sort. It frustrates them that some don’t seem to understand private-property rights.
The only reason the public gets any say is that there is a public hearing when council votes on the rezone, which is scheduled for July 30. If Anderson wanted to, he could replace his building with pretty much any commercial use right now — a car lot or a fast-food restaurant, for example. As it is currently zoned, there are no height restrictions, no minimum setbacks, not even any open-space requirements.
Anderson and Clay also get a little tired of being portrayed as the big, evil corporation at odds with the little guy. Anderson has lived in the Denver area since 1971 and in Bow Mar since 2006. He says he chose Alliance based on Clay’s local roots and integrity.
“If they lose Andy and this company and this project for this site, they’ve lost a golden opportunity and done great damage to their city,” he said.
Clay said Alliance hired him specifically because of his local ties.
“I’m not perfect. We’re not a perfect company,” he said. “But one thing that I count on and have built credibility on in Denver throughout my life is that people have to be able to take me at my word.”
Anderson says he’s not sure what he’ll do if council denies the application. But he wants to do what he thinks is best for the city, and he thinks residential is the right answer to attracting people and vitality.
“There have to be new generations,” he said. “There has to be regeneration. There has to be new life and ideas, without which the city’s going to be left in the past and broke,” Anderson said.
While those in opposition turned out a large crowd to speak during the planning board’s public hearing (that board voted to reject the project, but council has the final say), only a handful turned out in favor. Anderson and Clay both suspect that in this city of about 42,000 people, there is a silent majority.
“I hope that in considering the project, the city council will hear with pro rata volume the 41,900 people that don’t show up because they’re in support of it,” he said. “I hope city council can set aside the differences of the few and see that what’s in front of them are another 41,900 people who are not objecting. The only inference you can draw from this is that we have their consent.”