by John Kiljan
[updated March 21, 2015]
Dear CLRC members and friends,
Negotiations with the Buckingham group over the Ralston Creek North redevelopment have collapsed, and that will have a significant effect on coming redevelopment plans for the Triangle. Last July, the group, led by the Indiana-based Buckingham Companies, had been offered an exclusive development right by Arvada’s urban renewal authority in the part of the Triangle shopping center called Arvada Square. That’s the part located just across Ralston Road from the new Walmart Supercenter in the Arvada Plaza. Buckingham’s development proposal has been covered in an earlier CLRC article referenced below.
But at an Arvada Urban Renewal Authority board meeting on March 4th, the commissioners were told efforts to reach a final agreement with the group fell apart when Buckingham dropped out of the consortium of companies proposing to redevelop the site. This was the first public update by AURA on the Triangle since last December. AURA’s January meeting was disrupted by a citizen protest and the February meeting was cancelled afterwards.
Buckingham’s proposal had included a mix of new retail and about 350 new apartments running along Ralston Road from Garrison to Independence and overlooking Ralston Creek and Brooks Drive on the other side of the creek. The development offer to Buckingham was based upon a competitive solicitation that took months to narrow the applicants down to a single winner.
The runner-up during that solicitation was a Loftus-led group of local developers. That group was also highly complimented during their development presentation to the AURA board. And negotiations have now begun with Loftus to see if they are interested in renewing their offer.
That was the preferred direction of AURA Board of Commissioners at last Wednesday’s meeting, but the choice was not unanimous. Moreover, Loftus has said that they are not willing to participate in any new competition for development rights in Arvada Square. So Loftus’ participation is far from certain.
Since the rumors of Buckingham’s departure began, AURA has received unsolicited development offers for this part of the Triangle from two other groups, led by Drake and by Peregrine. The board also has an offer from the remaining two local partners from the original Buckingham group to put together a revised proposal without Buckingham. The board may well decide to hold a new competition altogether, and some board members seemed to favor doing that now.
What comes out of this is anyone’s guess, but it will start with an invitation by AURA to Loftus to renew their proposal from last July with revisions. That may happen as soon as a special March 18th meeting AURA hopes to have with Loftus. The meeting, if it’s held, should be open to the public — as the original selection meetings were in July. Why a revised proposal? It’s because a few things have changed since last July.
FLOODS, CONDOS, TOWNHOMES AND SENIOR HOUSING
The first of those changes is flooding. At the Wednesday meeting it was revealed that the newly widened Ralston Creek channel did indeed remove many homes and almost all of Arvada Square from the risk of flooding. But not all of the shopping center has been removed from the flood zone. Flood risk is not determined by the City nor by AURA. That’s the job of the US Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA and they make their flood-plain determinations after rechannelization is complete. And that’s who the banks listen to when deciding whether to finance loans on commercial or residential properties.
100-year Ralston Creek floodplain after park reconstruction
Apparently, some of the land next to the creek that Buckingham was planning to build on is still in Ralston Creek’s “floodway”. How big that area is and much it will cost to mitigate that flood risk is still unknown. To find out will take another engineering study that is going to take some time and money. And none of the remaining potential developers are willing to spend that time and money if there is not a reasonable chance that they will get a development contract.
The second change appears to be from the public feedback on the original Buckingham development proposal. Although the proposal for many new retail outlets has been well received, many local residents in nearby neighborhoods, such as Alta Vista, are not comfortable with the number of new housing units being proposed. And they are just as uncomfortable with the idea that these will be for-rent-only apartments. Apartments tend to have a much higher annual turnover rate than owner-occupied housing, and that affects a neighborhood’s sense of community.
Colorado’s construction defect laws currently make it uneconomical to build owner-occupied condominiums. But lower-density owner-occupied townhomes and duplexes are still possible. Moreover, by May of this year, there is some chance the current Colorado legislature may change the construction defect laws to allow more owner-occupied condominiums to be built.
The AURA board also seems to be concerned about the demographic studies done by the City that show a very large increase in the number of seniors who will be looking for suitable housing in the coming decades. Senior housing and senior-friendly apartment units are typically more expensive to build because they require things such as elevators, carports, wider doorways and bathroom fixtures that other apartments don’t.
So, in any new proposals, AURA is now asking for an analysis of the revised floodway risk, more owner-occupied housing, some senior housing if the developer thinks the market can support it, and, if there are no changes in the current defect laws, to have for-rent apartments built to standards such that they can later be turned into owner-occupied condominiums. These changes should also result in lower density housing development and should be welcomed by nearby residents.
But those changes may also be more expensive to implement and AURA is only allowed to provide development incentives until 2028 (12 more years) when its renewal authority expires. Urban renewal authorities only rarely get to offer development incentives for the full 25 years the law allows.
The upcoming board meeting with Loftus could prove to be interesting.
[Update:] The board meeting with Loftus on March 18th was indeed interesting. Although Loftus said it was surprised at the renewed offer to negotiate for Ralston Creek North, they came prepared and had a good rundown of what would have to be changed since last July’s competition. Possible environmental problems, the need to relocate existing utilities and accommodate the part of the floodway that now runs through their earlier proposal topped the list of concerns.
Loftus said they thought that owner-occupied town-home construction was very possible, but that it would have a lower overall density than AURA had first asked for — perhaps yielding only half the original number housing units. The board members said that they were now okay with that based on early community feedback on the Buckingham proposal.
Owner-occupied senior housing would be much more difficult though. Such units are more expensive to build and much harder to sell. Loftus gave examples of that kind of housing that they built earlier that took years to sell. Rental senior housing was much easier and they would consider bringing in an expert to advise them on whether that could be feasible.
A site for a public pool or public recreation center now doesn’t seem possible. The site Loftus had hoped to acquire for that purpose has increased in value by another million dollars. However, the 24-Hour Fitness proposal to move into part of the old Safeway building does still seem doable. But it would be an adults only facility.
AURA gave the nod to Maureen Phair to come back to the board next month with a proposal to start negotiations with Loftus on site north of Ralston Road.
There were no changes on the status of the Walmart development except to say that construction has already begun on the AutoZone part of the project and moving the US Bank drive-throughs. Walmart itself now expects to begin construction some this summer. [End of update]
SO WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH WALMART AND THE OTHER URBAN RENEWAL PROJECTS?
Across the street, the latest update is that AutoZone will break ground on its new site on March 23rd. They had to special order a new storm sewer as an unanticipated expense and AURA has agreed to reimburse IRG $200,000 to cover that cost.
Walmart expects to have all its approvals in place by May 4th and they will close soon after that. IRG will then begin their hazardous-material abatement and demolition work on the site. That will be followed by the construction of the actual Walmart building.
Park Place Olde Town has finished much of their critical concrete work and is now concentrating on framing the rest of the building.
Solana (between Grandview and 56th Avenue) has overrun its cost projections. It will now cost MKS Residential $83.4 million to build the new apartments. They have recently received City Council approval and still hope to break ground this summer, with the first units opening up for lease this fall.
The developers for the Olde Town Hilton Gardens Inn hotel are hoping to submit their development application to the City later this month after one additional public meeting.
The latest that Marc Williams has heard on the opening of the Gold Line is that it will be sometime in the fall of 2016, although some are more optimistic about an earlier opening.
AURA has posted its Summary of Working Projects. That summary sheet is copied here. Executive Director Maureen Phair pointed out that the projects on the list represent $222 million in private investment coming to Arvada in the next couple of years.
AURA project summary
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
The CLRC has posted many articles on Arvada’s urban renewal projects that readers can find by doing a word search on our website. One recent article related to Ralston Creek North (Arvada Square) developments can be read at
and you can read about Buckingham’s proposal for this area in this article
Nancy Young also attended the March 4th AURA meeting and her lengthy notes can be found by scrolling through the CBA, SAW and LTA-AAP Facebook sites. Those notes also cover AURA’s streetscaping plans for this part of Ralston Road.
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.
Our main website is at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004
March 6, 2015
[minor edits on March 6, 2015]