A big-box hardware store is not what Denver city planners and locals had in mind when they dreamed up the diverse, vibrant development that might surround the 41st and Fox rail station in Globeville on the edge of Sunnyside.
Tough luck, because Home Depot is under contract with the owner of an equipment rental lot at 805 W. 39th Ave., which butts up against the RTD hub. The giant corporation can move right in under current city rules, as long as it has its plan for things like traffic, sewage and flooding infrastructure.
Now Home Depot is considering putting apartments on its roof to jell with the vision for a compact, walkable, transit-oriented neighborhood that puts homes, jobs and daily needs in one place. Chris Nevitt, Denver’s manager of transit-oriented development, estimated the number of homes in the hundreds — though it’s early and unclear how feasible it is. The company has partnered with a developer, he said.
“I know people may be anxious, but if we pull this off, we will have the most urban Home Depot in the United States,” Nevitt said.
Some people are, indeed, anxious.
Katherine Cornwell of Sunnyside took to change.org and started a petition demanding Mayor Michael Hancock and the Denver City Council pause all development “other than transit-oriented development” around the station immediately.
She wants to see a diverse block of homes, services, shops and jobs that let people get on without a car. Cornwell, a former Denver city planner, says the project undermines taxpayers’ investment in rail.
“None of us understand how it could be an urban enough form to work in that area,” Cornwell said. “The idea that we would squander this opportunity is astounding to a lot of people.”
One of those people is Bill Hare, co-chair of Sunnyside United Neighbors’ Planning and Community Development Committee. The neighborhood group has not officially stood against the project. He’s “open-minded” about homes atop the store, but doesn’t trust that parking will be sparse enough to shun traffic. He thinks more parking stalls will magnetize cars and sap walkability.
He also thinks the city was “frustrated with the momentum of development” and is “dumping a Home Depot in that space because its easy,” he said.
Not everyone is against the Home Depot, though that side is certainly louder. Armando Payan with the Globeville Civic Association likes the idea of putting jobs for low-skilled workers on a transit line, he told Denverite.
It’s not totally up to the city.
If the hardware giant buys the lot and meets Denver’s criteria, it can open with or without apartments on the roof.
The Atlanta-based company must submit a plan to suppress car trips — offering employees fare passes, for example — as well as a document that proves the project won’t strain local infrastructure.
In other words, Home Depot has rights.
“It always sort of depends on which side of an issue you are on,” Nevitt said. “People hate having the government telling them what they can and cannot do with their property, but they love having the government tell their neighbor what they can and cannot do with their property.”
Count Ace Hardware at 38th and Osage as a neighbor — a 13 minutes walk away — that has reasons not to be thrilled with a big-box retailer setting up shop nearby. No one’s shaking in their boots, though.
“We would put our service up against theirs and be happy with the competition,” said Alex Frohn, who manages the store. “Neighbors love the locally owned business that we are. They tell us they prefer coming here versus going to Home Depot, so I would think this neighborhood in particular would vote against that.”
The question, of course, is whether or not neighbors get a vote.