Since the announcement in April that King Soopers is considering a full-sized store in the Eastbridge neighborhood of Stapleton (at MLK and Havana), a community conversation has been in progress on social media, in meetings, and through written correspondence with Forest City.
Community Advisory Board president David Netz sums up the options, “only apartments, sale of the land in pieces, no development at all.” Speakers at the community meetings reflected that range of options: “It’s not what I envisioned, but I’d rather have a big King Soopers than an empty lot or more apartments.”
“It’d be nice to have this walkable small little store but I understand, not just from what I’m hearing from folks at Forest City, that the business realities of something like that being viable don’t seem likely. I would rather have a grocery store of some sort here versus more apartments and more housing.”
“My biggest concern is that this is essentially a conventional suburban strip mall design and the concept is wrong because we’re not a conventional suburb here…I live right near this and I’d rather see that land stay vacant for decades than have this built.”
“I think a lot of us envisioned a town center, and we wanted a grocery store, but I don’t think we wanted this. My question is, is there a choice? Can there be mixed use housing and maybe a small market?”
A number of speakers asked if the community could work together with Forest City and King Soopers to find a compromise, saying “We’re asking that they please work with us. Whether it be the parking or the types of products that are being served within the store. We want to be part of the process. We’re not being consulted from the standpoint of what do the residents want.”
Jim Chrisman, senior vice president of Forest City replied, at the May 19 meeting, “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re here.”
But in response to the revised plan submitted by Stapleton United Neighbors, he stated, “The plan will not work and I know that from experience.” Chrisman explained that the Denver zoning code’s minimum parking requirement is low and only works in downtown locations.
“When people can’t park there they stop coming. When people stop coming the store downgrades the products they have. And when that happens shops go down and now you have a failed center. And what’s that going to do to your property values?”
Chrisman went on to explain that the parking ratio in the plan (4 spaces per 1000 square feet) is necessary to get financing and leasing for the development.
CAB co-chair David Netz says he reviewed parking at other urban grocery store sites. “The Safeway at 6th and Corona is about the same size of store and has about 4 spaces per1,000 sf. It does not have capacity to handle parking and has had complaints about overflow parking. The Trader Joe’s on Colorado is only 17,000 sf with 2.5 spaces /1,000 sf and the overflow has created unhappiness with the neighborhood.”
Forest City says they have tried to bring in a smaller natural foods grocer. They have owned the Eastbridge property for eight years and drew up a plan for a smaller grocer, but the grocers they have talked to are concerned about the lack of rooftops northeast of the location. Chrisman explained that grocery stores are primarily concerned with their long term viability. “If they don’t feel like they can draw enough people to support their store, you can give the land and it doesn’t matter.”
Forest City’s current proposed plan has 22,000 square feet of retail in addition to the grocery store, enough space for 7-8 businesses. Some residents asked for more other in Eastbridge. Chrisman replied that by comparison, the 29th Ave. Town Center has 54,000 square feet, but, “We’ve subsidized many businesses to keep them there and still they’ve failed—and two miles to the west they can capture more people.”
Stapleton United Neighbors is planning to continue the conversation about the grocery store and plans to meet with Councilman Chris Herndon, Forest City, and King Soopers in June.