Southeast Denver councilman ‘a tad skeptical’ about plans to redevelop CDOT sites

Denver officials advanced plans Tuesday to work with Kentro Group on acquiring the land from the state.

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CDOT's Headquarters on Louisiana Avenue just off South Colorado Boulevard. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  denver; colorado; kevinjbeaty; denverite; cdot; virginia village; commercial real estate;

CDOT's Headquarters on Louisiana Avenue just off South Colorado Boulevard. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Councilman Paul Kashmann is doubtful Kentro Group will be able to pull off its current plans to replace the Colorado Department of Transportation’s headquarters in southeast Denver with senior housing, affordable homes and commercial space without disrupting the area.

The Denver Finance and Governance Committee allowed city officials to move forward Tuesday with plans to work with Kentro on acquiring the land from the state. Kashmann and the rest of City Council still have to green-light the deal between the city and county and the Denver developer.

Under the deal, Denver would put up an $894,250 deposit for the 11 acres at CDOT’s Region 1 office at 2000 S. Holly St. and 12 acres at the agency’s Central Office at 4201 E. Arkansas Ave. Upon closing, the city would immediately sell to Kentro and be repaid. The developer would be responsible for covering the rest of the $19.25 million land costs, according to the Denver Department of Finance.

CDOT could not sell directly to Kentro because state law requires that the properties be offered to government entities first.

Kashmann, who represents the Virginia Village neighborhood where the CDOT sites are located, supported the Finance and Governance Committee advancing the agreements among the city, state and developer.

“I look forward to working with Kentro and the community to create projects that serve the community rather than smother it,” he said. “I’m a tad skeptical, while it’s early in the discussion, the projects being proposed in the scope they’re being proposed will be able to be accommodated.”

Kashmann said one of his chief concerns going forward will be about creating a project that doesn’t add to the already challenging traffic issues in the area.

Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann at a meeting. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  city council; civic center; city and county building; politics; government; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;

Denver City Councilman Paul Kashmann at a meeting. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Christine Richards has lived in the neighborhood since 2010 and serves as vice president of the community association. People in the community are concerned about more cars on already busy corridors and how the new projects are going to integrate with the existing communities, she said.

“We’ve heard things about it, but now is the time we’re going to start having deeper conversations,” Richards said.

The Virginia Village/Ellis Community Association was scheduled to discuss the CDOT sites 6:30 pm Wednesday during the neighborhood organization’s quarterly meeting at the Virginia Village Branch Library.

To justify building its new headquarters CDOT said the properties it’s selling have safety issues, Americans with Disabilities Act deficiencies, asbestos and floodplain concerns. The co-founder and managing partner at Kentro Group, Dimitrios “Jimmy” Balafas, said Tuesday the firm was unsure about what the environmental costs of the sites would be.

“We’re trying to have the state stay on and be responsible for the cleanup, but we’ll have to continue our due diligence,” Balafas said. Overall the project could cost “north of $100 million,” he said.

City documents show Kentro is proposing to create “225 walkup housing units to be sold at market rate and develop 50 to 80 units of senior housing ” near South Holly Street and Evans Avenue. Balafas said Kentro is trying to buy the land where a gas station sits, north of the CDOT Region 1 office, near East Atlantic Place and South Holly Street.

About a mile to the northwest, Kentro is proposing to develop the western portion of the land at South Colorado Boulevard and East Arkansas Avenue for commercial purposes and the eastern portion for 150 affordable housing units.

“All neighborhoods need affordable housing at this point in the city. That’s not a question,” Kashmann told Denverite on Wednesday. “While I am skeptical about the challenges, I am excited about the opportunities.”

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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