An unconventional car dealership will be built in the Goldsmith neighborhood, a stone’s throw from an RTD light rail station in southeast Denver.
City Council approved on Monday new building guidelines for a patch of grass and dirt at 4700 E. Evans Ave., next to I-25, that allows a mix of homes, businesses and offices. But the only thing currently planned for the space is a Carvana used-car dealership with an 80-foot parking tower that the company markets as a “vending machine” for vehicles.
It’s not a vending machine in the sense that you can casually walk by, spot a car, insert money, and drive away in a new ride. No, the cars in the garage have already been sold online, and when customers pick them up, a human gives them a token that starts the process of retrieving the
Cheetos vehicle. The garage is a vending machine in that the process of retrieving the car is automated. But its primary function is to store cars.
Council members voted 10 to 3 to rezone the property, which allows the dealership but does not guarantee it. The rezoning also allows housing and included a stipulation that 10 percent of any homes built on the site must be built affordable relative to the area median income.
But Carvana’s tower of cars — it holds around 20 — will take up the whole site, Bret Sassenberg, Carvana’s senior director of real estate and development, told the council. There are no plans for homes or anything other than the glass garage, which made some councilmembers, including Paul Kashmann and Kevin Flynn, question the change.
Flynn said he was “having trouble seeing how this is consistent” with Denver’s plans to concentrate walkable development around good transit. The dealership is a stone’s throw from the Colorado and I-25 RTD station. Kashmann said the idea of affordable housing near transit is “very important” but that “it’s not gonna happen with this buyer.” He called putting an auto vending machine near the RTD station a “non sequitur.”
The Carvana dealership is on a car-heavy corner of Evans near I-25. City planner Libby Kaiser said the wide sidewalks and few driveways cutting through them will “feel more like a main street than the current pattern and building forms” on what is now an empty lot.
The parking tower would be built in the district of Councilmember Kendra Black, who said “Evans has never been a nice street in this part of Denver.” She welcomed Carvana but was not ecstatic to have a car-oriented business so near a light rail station.
“If we had the power and the means to build a perfect city, I would put an 8-story building of affordable housing there,” Black said.
Black emphasized that, technically and legally, the council is voting on a range of allowable building types, not a specific project. Yet almost all of the conversation Monday was centered around the business itself.
Black, Flynn and Kashmann voted to change the area’s rules despite their apparent apprehension. Council President Stacie Gilmore and councilmembers Jamie Torres, Robin Kniech, Debbie Ortega, Chris Herndon, Chris Hinds and Jolon Clark voted for the rezoning as well. Councilmembers Amanda Sandoval, Candi CdeBaca and Amanda Sawyer voted against the zoning change.
Nancy Barlow, president of the East Evans Business Association, said the used-car dealership will be good for business.
“I think they’ll add a quality to our corridor that we’re looking for as we’ve got a lot of developments (happening) right now and I think they’ll be good partners for the other businesses on our corridor,” Barlow said. “Plus I think that our neighbors will be proud of what this structure will look like as a gateway to our community.”