Potential petition aims to change Streets at SouthGlenn vision

Critic conferred with anti-growth leaders in Greenwood Village, Lakewood

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What started as a groundswell of concern over redevelopment plans for Centennial's flagship shopping development has now evolved into a potential petition effort to steer the vision in a different direction.

“We are not opposed to the redevelopment, but we don't want the current flavor being offered,” Ron Phelps, leader of Neighbors for the Streets@SouthGlenn, wrote in a newsletter to that group. “It simply does not fit our suburban neighborhood area.”

Phelps and at least hundreds of other area residents take issue with proposed changes at The Streets at SouthGlenn outdoor mall, where a recently closed Sears and a Macy's that is expected to close in coming years are clearing the way for new plans.

A petition was not yet submitted to the city for approval to engage in signature-collecting.

As of Dec. 18, developers had not yet formally submitted their plans to the city — and the city can't make a decision until they do — so there is nothing to petition at this point, according to Allison Wittern, Centennial spokeswoman.

The 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.

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 are primarily concerned about the potential for more traffic around the mall, which sits at East Arapahoe Road and South University Boulevard, a major intersection in the south metro Denver area. They also object to the possibility of apartment buildings across the street from the less dense neighborhood nearby.

Roughly 400 people filled the seats at a rocky Nov. 19 meeting at Powell Middle School, where city staff and developers sought to collect feedback on the plans. The meeting often faced loud interruption, underscoring the continued frustration toward the project. It followed a March 19 informational meeting inside SouthGlenn's empty former Sears, where more than 100 showed up.

Phelps, a recent Centennial City Council candidate who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Councilmember Candace Moon in November, said in his Dec. 11 newsletter that several weeks ago, his group began conversations with leaders of Greenwood Village's “Save Our Village” effort, which helped defeat a plan in that city that would have allowed for denser development near the RTD light rail Orchard Station in June 2017.

Phelps' group also has conferred with the movement behind the recent Lakewood anti-growth initiative, which voters approved this summer. That measure limits new home construction and requires Lakewood City Council to hold a public hearing and vote to approve residential projects with 40 units or more.

It's not the first time Phelps has mentioned a potential petition effort: He said back in April that his group may organize such a move. Now, with more than 460 people on his newsletter mailing list, he urged his audience to support the push.

“We believe that it will be necessary to gather the petition signatures to force a special election that will have ballot language that assures any redevelopment will fit with the suburban, neighborhood culture we currently enjoy,” Phelps wrote in the newsletter.

After months of updating his newsletter followers on the process for potential redevelopment at SouthGlenn, Phelps said the tipping point in his decision to run a petition was the Nov. 19 community meeting at Powell. He says he's met or spoken with developers multiple times about their plans for SouthGlenn.

“We've grown weary of giving the city and (Northwood) the benefit of the doubt and trying an approach that invites — we thought — better opportunities for cooperation,” Phelps said. “The group's steering committee is angry and not feeling very collaborative at this point.”

Because developers want to change the mix of types of properties allowed at SouthGlenn, their plans need the city's approval. The city council's vote on the plans, after they're submitted, is expected in 2020.

Speakers at the Nov. 19 meeting 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 a 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% of the trips from the Streets at Southglenn currently travel between the development and each of the neighborhoods surrounding the project site.”

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