Disorderly Streets at SouthGlenn meeting shows continued frustration

About 400 filled room at rocky update on mall redevelopment, traffic study

Posted 11/21/19

Heckling a speaker off the microphone. Applause at comments that pushed back against developers. Groans at images of what the new project could look like. Laughter at the idea that traffic in …

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Disorderly Streets at SouthGlenn meeting shows continued frustration

About 400 filled room at rocky update on mall redevelopment, traffic study

Posted

Heckling a speaker off the microphone. Applause at comments that pushed back against developers. Groans at images of what the new project could look like. Laughter at the idea that traffic in neighborhoods would be negligible.

A community meeting to provide an update and collect feedback on proposed redevelopment at The Streets at SouthGlenn mall often faced loud interruption, underscoring the continued frustration area residents feel toward the project despite several efforts by the City of Centennial to involve and inform the public.

“Traffic is going to go somewhere, and where it's going to go is Easter (Avenue), right by our elementary school, by our country club. People are going to find a way around,” said Dale Rottschafer, 52, to applause from the crowd.

Roughly 400 people filled the seats at the Nov. 19 meeting at Powell Middle School. It followed a March 19 informational meeting inside SouthGlenn's empty former Sears, where more than 100 showed up.

At the outdoor mall at East Arapahoe Road and South University Boulevard, the recently closed Sears property is owned by Northwood Investors, which wants to add apartments there. Alberta Development Partners wants to put apartments and office space, and possibly retail and entertainment establishments, where Macy's stands.

Developers want to revitalize the mall, which is fighting vacancies and facing down a Macy's that is expected to close in coming years. Because they want to change the mix of types of properties allowed, their plans need the city's approval.

The mall is a top source of tax revenue for the city, but it's pulling in a smaller proportion of funds than it used to.

Residents nearby largely see the proposal as adding unwanted density and traffic to a mall that already abuts one of the largest intersections in the city.

Officials at the meeting — which included city staff and the developers — tried to reassure the crowd they care about their concerns.

“I live in the Southglenn neighborhood,” said Jeff Dankenbring, Centennial's public works director, adding that he worries about traffic too.

Between the Sears and Macy's properties, 1,071 new residential units could be added under the proposal, including 148 that are currently allowed but not yet built, according to the city. SouthGlenn already has 202 units in the Portola apartments, and new units would likely be high-end like at the Portola.

Northwood's plan is for five stories, and Alberta's appears similar based on renderings shown to the crowd. Both developers want to raise the allowed height on both properties from 50 feet to 75.

The current allowable heights at SouthGlenn vary across the site, according to the city's website. No building height is allowed to exceed 100 feet. The current tallest is the office building north of the former Sears at 85 feet. The proposal also would decrease the mall's amount of required retail space.

Renderings show trendy designs with multi-colored buildings and string lights suspended between them, and another fountain down the block from the existing fountain is possible, said Donald Provost, founding principal with Alberta, at the meeting.

The speakers didn't deny that traffic would increase but emphasized a key statistic from a traffic impact study by Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig, an engineering and planning firm.

The study found that along Arapahoe Road, University Boulevard, Easter Avenue and Race Street — which form SouthGlenn's perimeter — most areas along SouthGlenn would see less than 10% increase in traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours as a result of the proposed project.

It also looked at “cut-through traffic” in nearby neighborhood streets, noting: “A review of existing traffic counts indicates that less than 5 percent of the trips from the Streets at Southglenn currently travel between the development and each of the neighborhoods surrounding the project site.

“We believe that the potential for traffic from the new development to travel through the adjacent neighborhoods to avoid congestion is low,” the study read.

Based on projections of traffic growth that would occur even if the project was not to move forward, the study recommends traffic mitigation measures. These include implementing “split phasing signal timing” for protected left turns from the north and south on Vine Street at Arapahoe, and converting the University and Davies Avenue intersection to a right-in/right-out intersection to reduce “the above average number of approach turn crashes.”

Updates and explanations on the process and proposal, and an archive of documents related to SouthGlenn's redevelopment over the years, including the current traffic study, are available on the city's website at www.centennialco.gov/southglenn.

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