No to apartments, yes to retailers that 'create a buzz'

Developers share project details for Englewood's vacant Kmart site

Posted 3/11/19

Amid some fears in the community that more multi-family housing could crop up at Englewood's vacant Kmart site, developers showed residents a plan for the property that involves a gym, retailers and …

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No to apartments, yes to retailers that 'create a buzz'

Developers share project details for Englewood's vacant Kmart site

Posted

Amid some fears in the community that more multi-family housing could crop up at Englewood's vacant Kmart site, developers showed residents a plan for the property that involves a gym, retailers and — ideally — local food or drink businesses.

“What's going to make a successful retail shopping center?” said Zeb Ripple, a partner at Capital Pacific, a company involved with the proposed project at the Kmart site. “Experience for the consumer: a sense of community, local tenants, something that's going to create a buzz.”

Experiential retail — business the internet can't easily replicate — is what's surviving in the brick-and-mortar world, Ripple told an audience of about a dozen residents at a public meeting to update the neighborhood on the project.

“That's the road map we're trying to follow,” Ripple said.

And apartments aren't part of that plan: At the meeting at the nearby Colorado's Finest High School of Choice on Feb. 28, an attendee asked if developers plan to build apartments in 10 or 15 years.

“Our lease is through the year 2070,” so that's not an option, said Jon Suddarth, vice president of real estate for The William Warren Group, which owns the brand StorQuest, the self-storage facility hoping to take up the back side of the former Kmart. “There's no intent to do that.”

Some residents have been concerned the vacant lot would become a “magnet for homeless activity,” with people parking and sleeping in cars, Ripple said.

“We fenced off the back. We started to have security services patrol twice a night, and they still do,” Ripple said, adding dozens of cars have been towed. “We're doing our best to control that.”

The site as a whole looks to bring an upscale look to the well-worn area at South Broadway and Belleview Avenue. Three or four tenants would take up small pieces of the building's northeast corner, with one or two other retailer-oriented users in mid-sized parts in its center. That's aside from StorQuest and Chuze Fitness, which has signed a long-term lease for the building's south side. Chuze has started construction and could open in June, Ripple said.

Those few tenants in the smaller pieces of the building would ideally be retailers or restaurants, according to the plan for the project.

The proposed mix of uses would require the City of Englewood to approve a planned-unit development application, which green-lights uses that aren't otherwise allowed for a property's specific zoning rules. That process will take months, and six to nine months of construction could ensue after that.

A public hearing and vote by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission — citizens who make development recommendations to city council — is expected in April. Another public hearing in front of city council and two rounds of votes by the council would follow that.

Because top-tier retailers are closing stores and shrinking their floor plans, Ripple said, the project opts for a strategy of making the retail spaces smaller by taking up the back of the building with the self-storage facility. That business can offset costs of redesigning the front of the building, and the project also aims to “green and beautify” the lot, he added.

Local food, bar and coffee establishments in the metro area may be candidates to occupy space at the front of the building, developers have said.

The developers also fielded concerns about the possibility of more of the building turning into self-storage if other types of businesses don't show interest. They'd be open to limiting the storage to about 60,000 square feet in the plan, Suddarth said.

The meeting followed a previous neighborhood meeting with the developers June 7 that discussed the plan. About 50 came to that presentation, which took place inside the former Kmart.

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