The florists on Leetsdale Drive just east of Forest Street have an ambitious vision for their stretch of a busy, beige arterial.
Monday, City Council voted 11-0 to grant a request for a change of use at the Washington Virginia Vale site to allow residential as well as office and retail development.
In its application for the zoning change, the family that owns Newberry Brothers Florist and its business partner said the five-acre site could be the kind of compact, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood city officials often propose as the Denver ideal.
“The rezoning will open the door for a pedestrian-friendly, mass-transit friendly site,” according to the application put together with help from the public affairs firm CRL Associates.
According to the florist’s website, Paula Arnold’s father, Weldon Newberry, started what would become Newberry Brothers Florist at 5301 Leetsdale after World War II. Her mother, Elizabeth Newberry, built the wedding and floral side of what had been a greenhouse business. Now Arnold owns the business with her son Kien Arnold.
The site near George Washington High School to the east and a King Soopers to the west includes a building that houses Newberry Brothers and other businesses and several vacant lots.
Cars and the No. 83 bus roar along Leetsdale Drive past monochromatic strip malls and office complexes that are home to fast food restaurants and neighborhood bar-and-grills, nail salons, doughnut shops, yoga studios, medical and dental clinics. The Mexican consulate and cultural center is across the street from Newberry Brothers. An apartment complex sits on the southwest corner of Leetsdale and Forest and a multifamily development is just up the street on Forest, behind Inga’s Alpine Tavern.
To the north, brickface and stucco single-family homes sit comfortably back from tree-lined Dakota Avenue. A school and places of worship are tucked among the houses.
The Preservation of Residential South Hilltop Neighborhood Association had expressed concern about the possible impact on traffic and noise. The registered neighborhood organization began negotiations with the Newberry development team last year. The organization and property owners have agreed, among other provisions, to height restrictions and that traffic would enter and leave any new development only from Leetsdale and that no hotels would be part of the project. The association spoke in support of the rezoning on Monday.
And neighbors sent messages of support, saying they looked forward to more retail and residential diversity.
In other zoning moves Monday, City Council voted 10-3 to grant a request from a developer for a change to allow for high-rise, multifamily housing on what is now a warehouse site at 4230 Elati in Globeville, near RTD’s 41st and Fox commuter rail station.
Correction: An earlier version of this story placed Newberry Brothers Florist on the wrong side of Forest Street.