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The first retail establishment — a Starbucks — is slated to open this spring at Littleton Village, the sprawling mixed-use development at Broadway and Dry Creek Road, roughly three years after ground was broken on the residential portion of the site. Other uses, including a medical office building and a large hotel, are in the works.
Other retailers attached to or interested in coming to the site have come and gone in recent months, but developer Jack Buchanan, whose Loch Lomond LLC holds a nearly half-ownership stake in the site's retail and commercial portion, said he's hopeful for the future.
“We've had our struggles,” Buchanan said. “But we're feeling like there's a plan that things can move much quicker. Retail has been suffering for a bit, but we're seeing activity come back.”
Buchanan said he and a business partner have been negotiating with a handful of big-name hotel chains to bring overnight lodging to the site, to the tune of 115-125 units.
“It'll drive traffic for the other retail we've got coming down the pike,” Buchanan said.
He added that his company is also working on plans for a medical office building.
Comings and goings
Meanwhile, other potential users at the site have backed out or seen their contracts canceled. Kneaders Bakery, which bought a retail parcel on the site, has pulled out and sold their lot, Buchanan said. Del Taco, which planned to build close to Broadway, saw their contract canceled, and an AT&T cell phone store that was slated to open next door to the Starbucks backed out, Buchanan said.
Buchanan said he is planning on submitting formal plans to the city for another retail building soon, and has had interest from several restaurants, and has been in talks with specialty grocery stores. Once completed, the Starbucks will be sold to an investor from California, he said.
Buchanan's group owns roughly 20 acres of the site 77-acre site, though only about 13 acres are buildable, with much of the rest consisting of roads and parking areas. The rest of the site is a variety of housing, ranging from single-family homes to a large condo building currently under construction.
Some of the parcels on the site are now owned by different entities, and several for-sale signs line the property's eastern edge.
“It's a little of a chicken-and-egg game,” said Tom Ethington, principal at Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors, which owns just under an acre of the site, “kind of in the middle.”
“Retailers like synergy,” Ethington said. “As momentum picks up, it will help the other parcels.”
Ethington said he has seen “significant interest” in the 0.81-acre parcel, currently for sale for $1.3 million. “We've got a couple retailers interested,” he said.
Tough times for brick and mortar
City Manager Mark Relph said he understands residents of the development are frustrated with the speed of progress.
“What they were told might happen on the commercial side has been slow,” Relph told a community meeting organized by city councilmember Carol Fey on Jan. 21. “They're disappointed because they were expecting things to happen a lot sooner. They were hoping for upscale restaurants and shops.”
Relph said residents often ask him what the site's “master plan” spells out, but he said it doesn't quite work like that.
“What the city approved was not a master plan in the traditional sense, but a development plan that allows a lot of flexibility on land use types in different parts of the property,” Relph said. “Commercial, retail, office — all those uses are allowed. The owner-developer is allowed to move those around depending on the marketplace.”
The “changing face of retail” in an era where lots of purchasing is migrating online has rendered large-scale developments like Littleton Village sluggish, Relph said.
“Commercial developers' focus is much narrower and they're much more conservative financially,” Relph said. “They're not willing to take the risk of putting out large big-box development.”
The site needs an anchor to draw smaller retailers, he said, which hasn't happened yet. Relph added that the site is challenged by a limited area for parking.
“The idea when it was approved was that because it was this urban-type setting, that we could use transit to offset the need for parking,” Relph said. “That makes sense in downtown Denver, but the transit option is something that needs to be developed.”
Buchanan is optimistic.
“Things have had rough aspects, but we're past that,” Buchanan said. “We're feeling good about our relationship with the city, and the market's getting better.”
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