Housing affordability, business viability on Centennial city officials' minds

Annual 'State of Our City' address from mayor also highlights park, trails updates

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The cost of housing has become an all-but-unavoidable issue for city officials in much of the Denver metro area, and Centennial is examining how local policy might fit into conversations about affordability.

Centennial city officials recognize that the “strength and desirability of our neighborhoods is great,” Mayor Stephanie Piko said as part of her remarks in an annual speech.

“Many residents have greatly benefitted from rising home values, but the downside to the increasing cost of housing is how it can limit access for many young families and professionals to our community,” Piko said.

In 2021, the city launched what it calls a “housing study” to better understand housing issues in Centennial, define housing needs and look at priorities for city policies related to housing, according to a fact sheet from the city.

The city is “examining potential housing and development options that can hopefully lower costs and increase opportunities for attainable housing in our community,” Piko said.

At Centennial’s 16th annual State of Our City event on May 12, the mayor highlighted the city’s unfolding effort to address housing affordability and discussed other high-profile issues and initiatives in the city.

'The District' at high cost so far

One point of pride that city officials underlined is The District, the development formerly known as The Jones District, a 42-acre swath of land on Mineral Avenue just north of IKEA that is planned to include a mix of office, residential, retail and hotel spaces. It sits near the RTD Dry Creek light-rail station.

The mayor called The District Centennial’s first “transit-oriented development,” a property that will offer “diverse housing opportunities” and unique retail and office opportunities.

Chances appear slim for that housing diversity to include affordable housing. A six-story apartment complex called The Glenn was completed on the land, a short drive south of Dry Creek Road, and has remained notably expensive.

At The Glenn apartments at 9300 E. Mineral Ave., a one-bedroom unit had been listed at $1,655 per month, the Centennial Citizen reported in April 2021. Another one-bedroom model was listed at $1,870 per month as of that time.

A one-bed, one-bath unit was listed at more than $2,100 as of May 17 this year, according to the apartment complex’s website.

Dan Metzger, the chief operating officer at The District’s developer, Brue Baukol Capital Partners, said his team didn’t know as of last spring whether The District will include any affordable housing, such as subsidized or otherwise below-market-rate units.

There is no requirement in the city’s Land Development Code — the city’s rules for property development — for a new residential development to provide a specific affordable housing component, according to the city’s website.

See more information on the city’s ongoing housing study process here.

Supporting local economy

The mayor also highlighted the city’s Spark Centennial program, an effort “that is working on customer expansion, building engagement and ultimately increasing sales,” Piko said.

As the shift in American consumerism toward preferring experiences rather than products or things has presented challenges for retail shopping centers, Centennial has responded with the Spark program.

It’s more than just an effort to lend a hand to local shops — local governments depend on sales-tax revenue, and when the economy changes, cities find themselves hoping businesses can keep up.

City officials kicked off the Spark Centennial program in 2019 to fund pop-up, or temporary, events. The program intended to bring the community together and call attention to shopping centers in the city, some of which have struggled with closed grocery stores and other shuttered retail shops.

Another prong of the effort, the Spark Centennial Experience Accelerator program, provides mentorship and funding to “inspire business owners and entrepreneurs to reshape their business value by building meaningful customer connections through for-sale experiences,” the city has said in a news release.

The city is looking at a “retail reinvestment strategy” to place its retail shopping centers at a “competitive advantage and attract the type of retail that supports and is supported by our community,” Piko said.

Park sees big renovation

Centennial’s map includes a network of parks and trails maintained by multiple agencies — South Suburban Park and Recreation District, Arapahoe Park and Recreation District and Arapahoe County Open Spaces — along with some spaces maintained by the city itself.

In cooperation with those partners, the city has been able to “provide our community with something it has always cherished,” Piko said, referring to parks and trails.

The city has continued to work to expand its east-to-west trail system via the Centennial Link Trail, and coming soon is the north-south expansion of the Lone Tree Creek Trail, which will offer an “under Arapahoe Road” crossing opportunity and access to Cherry Creek State Park, Piko said.

The city’s flagship park, Centennial Center Park along Arapahoe Road east of Peoria Street, is undergoing an additional $4.5 million investment that will provide a garden, open field, additional venue, restroom facility, and a parking and food truck court, according to Piko.

The park sits near the Centennial Civic Center, the city hall, and is located at 13050 E. Peakview Ave. The city typically hosts annual summer events at the park, such as concerts, for the public.

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