Community groups aren’t ready to support proposed development on 17th and Newton
“It’s just over the top, figuratively and literally.”
Developers from Zocalo Community Development have a long way to go if they want neighborhood support for the proposed 515,000-square-foot development that would take the place of the surface parking lot surrounding Sloan’s Lake Medical Center.
As it stands now, two local neighborhood associations are pushing back against Zocalo’s plan, citing issues with affordability, equity and amenities.
The board of directors of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors (WeCAN), the largest neighborhood group in the area, would like to give Zocalo the letter of support the company requested, but says it just can’t if the developer continues to move forward with its proposed plans.
The neighborhood organization put together a diverse working group to review the proposal, but issues of socioeconomic segregation and transit accessibility have given them enough concerns to hold off on giving the go-ahead.
The notion that a 16-story tower full of luxury units would receive the lakeside view while the proposed affordable housing is tucked away on the corner of 16th and Newton rubbed many residents the wrong way, according to WeCAN’s board of directors.
WeCAN does see some representation of the requests they previously submitted to the developer reflected in the plan, including not opening Meade Street through the development for thoroughfare traffic from Colfax and adding pedestrian-friendly walkways. But pressing concerns like the inadequacy of the proposed parking structure and the lack of health and wellness amenities as prescribed in the original development plan remain top priorities for the board of directors and working group.
For the Sloan’s Lake Neighborhood Association (SLNA), the proposal is beyond repair, and they have already issued a resolution declaring their opposition of Zocalo’s current development plan.
“It’s just over the top, figuratively and literally,” Larry Ambrose of SLNA said. Not only is he concerned about the proposed heights in the development, he is also concerned about creating density in an already crowded area.
“Traffic is already very intense because of development. Traffic is sometimes lined up from Federal to Sheridan without this being complete yet,” he said.
Both WeCAN and SLNA have reservations about Zocalo using tax-increment financing, known as TIF, to finance the affordable housing. It would mean collecting tax money from property owners in the area for the development, and both groups say that puts an unfair burden on the surrounding residents.
Ambrose also worries that this kind of massive development will create an elitist feel in the neighborhood, which is a source of much consternation in an area that has been heavily gentrified during Denver’s housing boom. He’d like to see lower price points for the affordable housing in the development, as well, and says he’s brought up all of these issues with the developer.
“We’ve been working with the fellow for a year and a half,” Ambrose said. “He seemed to be listening to us, but there was nothing in the plans that conformed to any of our requests.”