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- A new King Soopers is planned for Stapleton.
- The 58,000-square-foot store is in the Eastbridge neighborhood.
- Neighbors want an urban-style store, like in downtown.
A growing number of neighbors in the Eastbridge neighborhood of Stapleton fear that a new King Soopers will be a “suburban-style” grocery in a sea of parking that does not foster the type of walkable, New Urbansim-style development treasured by many residents in the community.
“This is a battle,” said resident Todd Ahlenius, a planner by training, and Eastbridge resident, who opposes the current plan for a 58,000-square-foot King Soopers on a 6.75-acre site at Martin Luther King Boulevard, Havana Street and Geneva Court.
He, and others, contend that the master developer of Stapleton, Forest City, is ignoring the “Green Book,” which is the sustainability master plan, for Stapleton. A top Forest City official disputes that assessment.
The proposed center does not meet the high standards Forest City has set for Stapleton, Ahlenius said.
“Stapleton has never been about meeting the minimum standards,” Ahlenius.
“That is like trying to achieve a “C” in class,” he said. “Stapleton has always tried to be the “A” student and has set the bar for high for itself.”
Along the same lines, he said Kroger Co., the Cincinnati-based owner of King Soopers, has come up with creative solutions in other parts of the country, even going as far as to put parking on the roof of a grocery store, when its core customer base was unhappy with the first design choice.
He said the urban-style King Soopers in downtown Denver would be much more appealing to neighbors than what is being proposed.
“We don’t want a suburban-style King Soopers in a sea of parking,” Ahlenius said.
“That is not the type of walkable, New Urbanism-style development we expect in Stapleton,” he continued. “People bought homes in Eastbridge, many in the $400,000 to $800,000 price range, specifically because they expected a walkable, more urban-style town center. That is what Forest City promoted in its literature for years.”
However, Forest City has looked at numerous other options, and this is the best fi possible, both economically and keeping true to the spirit of Stapleton, said Jim Chrisman, a senior vice president at Forest City.
He also said that the new grocer will have more than 20 percent fewer parking spaces than typically found around a King Soopers.
Chrisman said Forest City considered a number of “iterations” for the site, including a small grocer anchor with small shops around Geneva Court.
“That iteration gained no support from the small grocer market,” Chrisman said.
Forest City did not arrive at the current plan in haste or without putting a great deal of effort into other options, he said.
“Over several years we contacted every small grocer we could identify, some multiple times, and none were interested in the Eastbridge location,” Chrisman said.
The reason, he said, is apparently because there are not enough rooftops to the East and the north of the site, while King Soopers believes this size will work.
“This King Soopers will be modeled after their store located near Leetsdale and Colorado Boulevard,” Chrisman said.
Other than large, super-centers King Soopers has built, this will be similar to most King Soopers in the area, other than the Fresh Fare at University and Hampden and the downtown store on Chestnut Place, he said.
King Soopers does not plan to repeat the Fresh Fare concept, (which is similar to a Whole Foods), and the Chestnut store has a density that Stapleton lacks, he said. Some 6,300 people in 2013 lived within a 10-minute walk of the downtown King Soopers site, he said.
The Eastridge center also will include about 20,000 to 22,000 square feet of additional retailers, which will be organized at the western end of the site around a public plaza.
The Eastbridge center will be similar to the East 29th center, that also include a King Soopers and small shops, he said.
“But in this case, the shops will be organized around a public plaza instead of a public right of way,” Chrisman said. “Instead of walking along a street to access it you will walk within a contained plaza area.”
“This area will be safer for children to be in and the restaurant patio spaces should be quieter than those on East 29th,” he said.
At the same time, a typical King Soopers has parking for five cars per 1,000 square feet, while the Eastbridge store will be parked at 3.91 spaces, or a total of 227 spaces for the King Soopers and another 90 for the other shops, for a total of 317 spaces.
That is a 22 percent reduction in the typical number of spaces at a King Soopers. And it is 39 percent fewer total spaces than the 521 at the East 29th Town Center.
“This is the minimum number of spaces King Soopers feels is necessary to successfully operate the store and to keep cars from parking in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Chrisman said.
That is an important point, said Chris Herndon, the President of the Denver City Council, who represents the area.
“I think it is important to find a realistic balance,” Herndon said.
“We absolutely do not want a circumstance where there is not enough parking and so cars bleed into the neighborhood,” Herndon said. “Nobody wants that.
“At the same time, we want to make sure the parking lot is the correct size,” he said.
Herndon said he thinks a plan will be presented to the Planning and Community Development department this month. At that time, everyone in the community will know exactly what to expect, he said.
A middle-ground compromise can be reached with the community, Forest City and King Soopers, Herndon believes.
“I do believe there is a middle ground that can be reached that will be acceptable to the majority of the people,” Herndon said. “There already has been quite a bit of dialogue between the community and Forest City. I facilitated one of the meetings.”
Herndon said he understands the community’s concerns, not only as a councilman, but as a former resident of Eastridge.
“My family and I lived there until earlier this year,” Herndon said. “I hear what people are saying and understand their concerns.”
Resident Ahlenius, however, doesn’t seem nearly as optimistic and noted the clock is ticking.
“It is the 11th hour,” Ahlenius said.
Construction is expected to start next spring with an opening in the spring of 2016.
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