How to develop the area surrounding the Mineral light rail station in Littleton is a question the city is hoping a consulting firm can help answer.
Since starting work on the project in February, Progressive Urban Management Associates has been gauging what land uses Littleton would benefit from in the area within a half-mile radius of the station.
“Compared to these processes in other communities, Littleton folks are engaged,” said Brad Segal, president of P.U.M.A., noting that more than 100 residents attended open houses early in the process.
Segal and P.U.M.A. vice president J.J. Folsom addressed the Littleton City Council and planning board in a joint study session on June 28.
About 50,000 cars per day pass the station on Santa Fe Drive, and about half that many on Mineral Avenue, Folsom said.
Although the traffic at the site would likely lead to the development of big box stores if developers were left to their own devices, Segal made sure to add that the plan would likely exclude big box stores, and buildings would likely top out at three to four stories.
A grocery store could anchor the site, along with a parking structure and pedestrian-scale retail stores.
Councilmember Peggy Cole questioned whether people parking at the station to use the light rail would create adequate demand for further retail uses,
“Why do we think people would necessarily spend money rather than just dash home?” she asked.
But Folsom said P.U.M.A.'s research has shown that people who park at the station to use the light rail would like amenities at the station, including coffee shops, day cares, dry cleaners and restaurants or bars.
The presence of the light rail station makes the site valuable, Segal said.
“Five years, seven years, 10 years from now, as the whole metro area continues to infill and develop out, these transit sites are going to become increasingly valuable,” he said.
Planning board alternate Lynne Kreueger noted that typically, land around light rail stations develops quickly.
In addition to the station, the proximity of the South Platte River and the City Ditch opens the site to new development possibilities, with examples being a company that manufactures kayaks using the river for testing, with the possibility that open space could be included as part of development.
More ambitiously, Segal said that people at community meetings had brought up the idea of turning the City Ditch into a riverwalk lined with shops. Segal and Councilmember Bill Hopping noted that cities like Pueblo and Oklahoma City had turned unlikely features into riverfront attractions.
“The Arkansas River was in a pipe,” Segal said, referring to Pueblo.
The next community meeting addressing the plan will be at Hudson Gardens on July 26, while the planning board will address it at meetings in August and September and it is scheduled to come back to the council for final approval on Oct. 4. P.U.M.A. has also been contracted to develop a plan for the downtown Littleton station.