- La Loma in Jefferson Park could be replaced by 15-story tower.
- Tower on La Loma site would have 713 units.
- Apartment tower would be far the largest in Jefferson Park.
A 15-story, 713-unit apartment tower is proposed to replace the popular La Loma Mexican restaurant in Jefferson Park, Denver Real Estate Watch has learned.
The $100 million-plus tower would have more than twice as many units as the current largest apartment community in Jefferson Park, a 325-unit development at 2785 Speer Boulevard.
Tessler Development, through a company called L&L Developments Inc., based in New York City, in late December with no fanfare filed a preliminary site plan with Denver’s Community Planning and Development for the proposed tower on the La Loma site and surrounding parking lots.
Several efforts by DREW to reach Bryant Smith, who is listed as the contact for L&L on the site plan, have been unsuccessful.
City Councilman Rafael Espinoza, who lives in and represents Jefferson Park, learned about the planned tower at West 26th Avenue, and Alcott and Bryant streets several months ago from the group’s attorney, Tom Ragonetti, Espinoza said on Monday. Ragonetti could not immediately be reached.
Although the R-MU-30 zoning for the La Loma site was approved by the city about a half dozen years ago, Espinoza is frustrated by the size and density of the proposed tower, even though it is allowed under the zoning.
“Unfortunately there will be people completely un-impacted by this project that will say “what’s the big deal?” Espinoza said.
“I assure you that the quality of life will be replaced, and only those who lived there past and present will know what that was,” Espinoza said, if the proposed tower is built.
“It will be hardest for those that choose to ride out the redevelopment and associated blocked access and construction noise,” Espinoza continued.
“But if you like traffic congestion, street parking issues, and won’t miss the spectacular panorama of downtown from there, you’ll do fine,” Espinoza said.
Espinoza’s first home was in the mid-block of Bryant Street, across from the iconic La Loma, which been a fixture in Jefferson Park…and Denver…since 1973.
The Jefferson Park United Neighbors, the Registered Neighborhood Organization for the northwest Denver neighborhood at the edge of downtown, gave the R-MU-30, zoning change its blessing in 2009.
“In my opinion, this is the right place to put density,” Espinoza said about the La Loma site.
The entire site has 116,808 square feet of land, or 2.68 acres, according to the site plan submitted to the city.
However, since JPUN supported the rezoning request, hundreds of apartment units have been built in Jefferson Park, as well as dozens of three-story townhomes, Espinoza noted.
Also, the new zoning code requires less parking, which allows more residential density on sites, he said.
“We’re suppose to have balance,” Espinoza said. “Instead, we have more density than we wanted, especially in our core.”
In 2009, the Brinkerhoff family, which sold the property last year for $17.5 million to Tessler, provided what they labeled as two “schemes” for the redevelopment of the site.
Scheme 1 called for 12, 3-story townhomes, 180 1-bedroom apartment units and 27,942 square feet of restaurant and retail space.
Scheme 2 had 13, 3-story townhomes, 219 1-bedroom apartment units and 24,156 square feet of restaurant and retail space.
Those plans are completely different from what is currently being proposed, Espinoza said.
“Personally I would have liked to have seen massing more on par with St. Anthony’s Block 1 proposal,” Espinoza said.
On Block 1, across from Sloan’s Lake, Nava Real Estate Development plans to develop a 12-story condo tower.
The La Loma redevelopment is “dismissive of the neighborhood to the west,” Espinoza said.
The La Loma restaurant was founded in 1973 in a small brick home a block west from it current location.
In 1981, Sonny and William Brinkerhoff opened the new location at West 26th Avenue and Bryant Street. The restaurant was created by combining three homes that were built in the late 1800s.
Mark Brinkerhoff, William’s son, said La Loma will be moving to another location in a new building it will construct on about an acre it bought near the Denver Downtown Aquarium, about a 2-minute drive from the current location. Boss Architecture, based in LoHi, will design it. La Loma also is leasing the former Trinity Grille space in downtown Denver, across from the Brown Palace Hotel.
The proposed 15-story tower on the La Loma site would be designed by Shears Adkins Rockmore. SAR declined to comment, other than to say that final renderings are not yet available.
However, a person familiar with SAR’s work, which includes high profile projects such as the 9th and Colorado redevelopment, said the firm is an expert at integrating even large projects into urban neighborhoods and the La Loma site development will be no different.
Espinoza said he would prefer for-sale condo units as opposed to rental units in the La Loma tower.
“For-sale condo units would require a large number of affordable units,” under the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, he noted.
The ordinance requires the developers of for-sale projects of 30 or more units to set aside 10 percent of them as affordable. Market-rate rental communities, such as this one, are not required to earmark any of the units as affordable.
On a personal level, Espinoza has been a long-time patron of La Loma’s.
“When I lived across the street from La Loma in 1999, it was my place,” Espinoza said.
“And my mom used to go there with her teacher friends decades before that.”
If La Loma leaves the neighborhood, “I will miss the tortilla plate and the…margaritas, but nither of those things are good for me,” Espinoza laughed.
Interested in buying a home in Jefferson Park? Please visit 8z Real Estate to learn what is available.
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