Redevelopment plans for Aspen Grove shopping center were narrowly approved Tuesday night by Littleton City Council, allowing the owner to apply for residential buildings and significantly reduce commercial retail space.
The council voted 4-3 to approve plans to build a 32.7-acre mall at 7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, which is owned by California-based Gerrity Group. The plans will build up to 2,000 residential units and reduce existing retail space to 125,000 square feet from the current 270,000 square feet.
Mayor Jerry Valdez and councilors Kelly Milliman, Patrick Driscoll and Mark Roudnicki voted in favor of the plans. Council members Scott Melin, Pam Grove and Carol Fey voted against.
One of the key topics was the amount of retail space.
Gerrity Group managing director Kevin Gerrity said during the meeting that about 150,000 square feet of existing space is occupied by tenants, and that some of them do not have long-term leases.
Although the plans set a minimum of 125,000 square feet, he said the company expects to save more.
“Our goal and our priority is to support as much retail as possible, as much high quality retail as possible in the future,” said Gerrity. “One of the main goals of the plan is to introduce alternative use cases to improve the quality of the retail that we have, and as we have stated over the past few years, that quality is declining.”
Melin said he was not happy with the reduction of more than half of the retail space. He said he supports projects that combine retail and residential buildings, but what Aspen Grove has been proposing could hurt the city’s sales taxes.
“I don’t want this property to be converted from a commercial to a residential property with a proposed minimum of 125,000 square feet, well, at the time, I’m voting no,” Melin said. “I need guarantees that there will be more commercial square meters in this area.”
In response, Kevin Gerrity said the company would be ready to install a minimum of 200,000.
“We could raise this amount, but that means we are focused on this minimum amount in the long term,” he said.
When Melin asked why Gerrity was hesitant to raise requirements when the company expects the number to exceed 125,000, Gerrity replied, “We’re talking about setting requirements for us. There are currently no square footage requirements on the property. We find ourselves in a situation where we do not have the flexibility to make changes over a very long time. “
Melin demanded 125,000 square feet of retail space from Aspen Grove for at least the first two years after construction began and at least 212,500 square feet thereafter. But this movement did not receive support from the rest of the council.
“Residential real estate does not bring us any financial benefit to society,” said Melin. “I need to make sure that this development brings us healthy amounts, sustainable sales tax amounts.”
Colby Young, Gerrity’s vice president of asset management, told BusinessDen by email on Wednesday that the company will review every real estate planning area with retail and residential space.
He said real estate development slowly, one section at a time, will allow the company to develop and attract suitable tenants as the retail concept changes. But he said the zoning changes mean “There will always be over 125,000 square feet of retail in Aspen Grove.”
As BusinessDen previously reported, as recently as 2007, the mall generated more than $ 2.5 million in tax revenue for Littleton a year, according to materials produced by the city. But this figure tended to decline, and in 2020 during the pandemic fell to just over $ 1.5 million.
The City calculated that the property renovation would boost annual sales tax revenue to $ 2.34 million, saying neighboring homes would attract high-profile tenants and increase sales per square foot. The city estimates that if the property is not renovated, annual revenues will continue to decline to about $ 900,000.
Roudnitsky, one of four in favor, said he supports new use cases and plans to increase open space in Aspen Grove, especially given its proximity to the RTD Mineral Avenue light rail station. He said that updates are needed.
Roudnicki said residents’ fears of increased traffic on South Santa Fe Drive are unfounded, and that city transport experts have taken those concerns into account.
“Why is this site the embodiment of a traffic problem that already exists and will only get worse?” he said.
Gerrity Group plans to build buildings from 30 to 85 feet tall, and the company, which paid $ 82 million for the property in 2016, said it wants to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate the mall. The firm pointed out that the eventual development may also include a hotel or other housing.
At a meeting in July, Gerrity said the renovation would be a slow project. He said that many retailers have stopped doing business, taking up little space.
“(The plans) simply illustrate what could be done over a long period of time to meet the changing needs of retailers and the community,” he said. “The nature of retail we are seeing right now as COVID is changing very quickly.”
One of the goals of the Gerrity Group, stated in the project application, is to create a “variety of housing options” for different age groups and income levels, although board members indicated that there is no formal requirement for them to build anything. other than the market. -high housing.
“Gerrity Group is reviewing a range of affordable housing options with experts such as (South Metro housing options),” Young said in an email. “Since Littleton has not adopted regulations governing the development of affordable housing, there is currently no real way to make any commitments. However, we will continue to work with the city and other agencies to better understand and help meet the city’s needs for affordable housing. ”
Roudnicki said limited-income housing requires subsidies, and Littleton does not yet have a system requiring such housing. Melin said he hopes this will happen early next year, as the state passed legislation allowing cities to require new developments in housing for people with limited incomes.
Aspen Grove’s tenants include Williams Sonoma, Ulta, Pier 1 and Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.