Only eight people spoke during the planning board’s July 8 public hearing on the Littleton Village proposal for the old Marathon site, and the general tone was supportive.
“I’m looking forward to having coffee at one of the restaurants, looking at the sunset going down over Mount Evans,” said Paul Raab, who lives just a few blocks from the site, which lies on the east side of Broadway at Dry Creek Road. The city will benefit from the additional revenue, jobs and services, he said.
In addition to the sales and property taxes the site will generate, Littleton City Council is expected to vote on implementing impact fees during its Aug. 16 meeting, said senior planner Jan Dickinson. Those are fees developers pay to offset any negative effects a project might have on the community at large, such as on infrastructure or public services. Watt Investment Partners, Littleton Village’s developer, will also make improvements to Broadway and Dry Creek Road as part of the project.
The board voted unanimously to send a favorable recommendation on to city council, which is expected to hold a public hearing and final vote at the end of August. It approved the current zoning and site plan in 2006, and the only significant change that Watt Investment Partners wants to make is to turn a diagonal street into a straight one to create a more traditional shopping experience.
“Our main objective was to improve on the existing plan and make it more economically viable,” said Jennifer McElyea, managing director. To that end, they squared off the site plan, moved the smaller retail shops closer to Broadway and improved access.
Plans for the 77-acre project include 250,000 square feet of commercial property and up to 500 apartments and 400 single-family homes, including a mix of townhouses, patio homes, cluster homes, detached homes and whatever else the builders deem marketable. The zoning allows up to 900 residential units total, but the developers don’t expect to have that many.
The proposed commercial portion is oriented toward Broadway, with boutique shops in front, medium-size boxes — like Kohl’s or a grocery store — behind. In the middle are a 3.5-acre park and two high-end apartment buildings, limited to no more than four stories. Single-family homes will fill the east side, backing up to the existing residential neighborhood.
Several of the board members said they hope the development will connect to the broader community, especially since the park will sit at what’s nearly the highest point in the city. They also suggested incorporating the site’s history somehow, in deference to the many current residents who worked at Marathon Oil over the years.
Marathon moved out of the complex in 2000, and Denver oil tycoon David B. Richardson bought the land for $14.5 million in December of that year. After battling away a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in 2004, neighbors initially expressed cautious optimism about the mixed-use, “new urbanism” project he proposed, similar to East 29th Avenue in Stapleton. It became more and more controversial as it worked its way through the public process, however, with residents concerned about things like density, traffic and infrastructure.
But the economy tanked before construction began, and the land has been dormant ever since.
Planner Mark Rudnicki was on the board during the first two go-rounds.
“I’m getting tired,” he joked. “If we approve this, please build the thing.”
He urged the Watt representatives to include housing that would appeal to empty nesters and utilize architecture that reflects the rest of Littleton.