The following letter was sent by the SUN board to the Stapleton Design Review Committee and also to Joel Starbuck, Assistant Director of Real Estate and Russell Dispense, President of King Soopers, Inc.
Eastbridge Design Stakeholders:
Stapleton United Neighbors (SUN) is the registered neighborhood association for Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood. SUN is charged with representing Stapleton residents on important matters and serving as a voice for their concerns. Given the strongly negative response in our community generated by the proposed King Soopers store at Eastbridge Town Center, we have taken an official position on this project.
The most recent design shared with the public by King Soopers, during a Zoning and Planning (ZAP) meeting on October 14, 2014, includes a 58,000-square-foot store, 192 parking spaces (in addition to the 114 parking spaces for retail development on the west end of the property), and a 14-pump gas station at the northwest corner of the intersection of 29th Drive and Havana Street. In the most recent community survey conducted by SUN, 74% of all residents and 98.5% of Eastbridge residents said the plan does not fit their vision of a town center. Only 38% of all residents and 32% of Eastbridge residents strongly or somewhat support the plan, but many of those supporters expressed serious reservations.
48% of all residents and 83% of Eastbridge residents are opposed to the inclusion of a gas station in the project. It is also important to note that 89% of all residents say a gas station should be at least 300 feet away from any homes or daycares. The gas station proposed by King Soopers would be situated directly across the street (less than 100 feet) from the 29th Drive Rowhomes, and diagonal from the Botanical Apartments. The noise, light, and traffic generated by the gas station would pose a major threat to the quality of living for the hundreds of residents who live there, and will without doubt negatively affect their property values. Credible concerns about the safety and potential health risks of locating a gas station so close to people’s homes have also been raised, including a 2011 report suggesting an increased risk of cancer among children who live in close proximity to gas stations. SUN is firmly against the inclusion of a gas station in the town center plan.
An earlier concept plan, introduced by King Soopers during the September 9, 2014 ZAP meeting, eliminated Geneva Court. SUN is pleased to see that the October 14 concept plan reintroduced Geneva Court because that street is the only north-south connection between 29th Drive and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Removing Geneva Court would seriously reduce circulation in the neighborhood by creating a stretch of roadway more than a quarter mile long with no north/south access, thus forcing more traffic onto Havana, Iola, and Fulton.
Eastbridge is not an isolated exurban or suburban environment, where strip malls and their vast expanses of surface parking are standard practice. Perhaps the most obvious feature in all the concept plans that have been shown to the community is the large surface parking lot. Only 18% of all Stapleton residents surveyed say the parking lot is not too big. The parking lot design conflicts with several provisions of the Stapleton Rules and Regulations. Section 4.4.1 states: “Sites requiring large areas of surface parking should attempt to distribute parking into smaller areas broken up by intervening areas of landscaping, open space, and buildings wherever possible, rather than aggregating parking into continuous street facing strips.” Section 4.4.2 states: “No more than 120 parking spaces shall be permitted without interruption by a landscaped median no less than 12 feet wide.” Finally, Section 4.4.1 states: “The maximum allowable length of the parking area in front of retail buildings is 125 feet.” In the concept plans released to date, the parking lot measures roughly 200 feet by 200 feet and is largely uninterrupted.
The parking lot also poses a significant barrier for anyone not driving a motor vehicle. Section 2.2 of the Rules and Regulations states: “Walkways shall be provided to separate pedestrians and vehicles, and shall link ground level uses…. Clear and safe pedestrian routes shall be defined through parking areas to provide pedestrian access between buildings with minimum conflicts with vehicles. Where walks cross drive aisles, they should be clearly marked with signage, special paving, landscaping, or similar methods.” The proposed parking lot precludes safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access between the King Soopers store and the retail development to be constructed on the western end of the site. Even the inclusion of a path like the one in the September and October 2014 plans will place pedestrians and bicyclists in direct conflict with vehicular traffic during their entire journey.
The problems arising from the size and layout of the parking lot are a direct product of the size of the proposed King Soopers store. Only 20% of all residents surveyed say the store is not too big. At over 58,000 square feet, the store is completely out of context with the surrounding land uses, and too large for the project site. One major consequence is that the building cannot fit on the project site without being oriented such that the rear of the building, with its accompanying loading docks, utilities, and trash receptacles, directly abuts Havana Street. That layout conflicts with Section 4.2 of the Rules and
Regulations, which states: “No development shall be permitted to place or orient buildings, parking, circulation, or service facilities on a lot in such a way to treat primary street frontage(s) as a rear lot line.” It also conflicts with Section 5.1.4, which states: “Service areas and storage areas shall not front onto streets and open spaces. Such areas shall be located to the rear or side of buildings, screened from view from the street and/or open space.”
Ideally, the rear of the King Soopers store should be faced by the rear of another building, which is exactly how the existing Stapleton King Soopers is situated. In fact, a smaller grocery store would fit very well on the Eastbridge project site. But because King Soopers is attempting to squeeze an oversized store into such a small space, the design runs afoul of the Stapleton Rules and Regulations.
Finally, the only safe street crossings to the site from either the north or south side are at Havana Street. But because it is likely that far more people will prefer to access the site from farther west, it is vital that signalized street crossings be placed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and 29th Drive. While we realize this is a matter that is subject to City approval, we believe it has a much higher chance of receiving that approval if the developers actively advocate for it and perhaps even offer to help fund it. Without signalized street crossings, it will be impossible for the project to provide “convenient access for all modes of transportation” as set forth in the Rules and Regulations.
It is not the intention of SUN to try to inhibit appropriate development in Stapleton. However, the current plan for the Eastbridge Town Center is severely substandard and out of context with the neighborhood. SUN therefore encourages King Soopers to rethink its approach by offering a more creative proposal that hews more closely to the applicable design standards. We believe doing so will result in enthusiastic support from the community. SUN also respectfully encourages the Stapleton Design Review Committee to reject any design that does not resolve the issues outlined above.
President, Stapleton United Neighbors
Copies of the letter were sent to Jim Chrisman, Forest City; Tyler Carlson, Evergreen Development; and City Councilman Chris Herndon