Marathon marathon continues

Marathon Oil moved out of the 77-acre site on Broadway between Dry Creek Road and Fremont Avenue in 2000, and the location has not seen much activity since then.
Marathon Oil moved out of the 77-acre site on Broadway between Dry Creek Road and Fremont Avenue in 2000, and the location has not seen much activity since then.
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About 100 people lived through a flashback of 2006 on June 11.

The topic was the same — the former Marathon property at Broadway and Dry Creek Road. The scene was the same — a neighborhood meeting at South Suburban Christian Church on Broadway. Many of the faces were the same — residents of Centennial and Littleton alike. Many of the comments were the same — too dense, too much traffic, too much noise, too tall, too encroaching.

Even the proposal is almost the same, except for one change that requires the developer to get Littleton City Council’s approval via a public process.

If not for that one change, Watt Investment Partners of Santa Monica, Calif., could simply pick up shovels and start digging, and there is nothing anyone could do to stop them. Council approved the current zoning and site plan in 2006, and the only significant change Watt wants to make is to turn a diagonal street into a straight one to create a more traditional shopping experience.

“It’s important to make the whole development work,” said Jennifer McElyea, managing director. “You need to make sure the site is balanced, otherwise the whole project won’t be viable. … It’s important to create a community and spaces people want to be in.”

Plans for the 77-acre project include 250,000 square feet of commercial property, and up to 500 apartments and 400 single-family homes, including a mix of townhouses, patio homes, cluster homes, detached homes and whatever else the builders deem marketable. The zoning allows up to 900 residential units total, but the developers don’t expect to have that many.

Some neighbors are thankful for that, at least.

“Nine hundred living units on 75 acres is ridiculous. It’s asinine,” said Troy Betka.

The proposed commercial portion is oriented toward Broadway, with boutique shops in front, medium-size boxes — like Kohl’s or a grocery store — behind. In the middle are a 3.5-acre park and two high-end apartment buildings, limited to no more than four stories. Single-family homes will fill the east side, backing up to the existing residential neighborhood.

Watt representatives denied rumors that they want to purchase homes on the north side, level them and install either pedestrian or vehicle access.

Putting to rest another rumor that former city councilor Tom Mulvey sent out to his extensive email list — that a Super Walmart was going in on the east side, next to the Oakbrook neighborhood — Jim Maginn, Watt’s president, said no retailers have committed as yet. Regardless, the current zoning limits buildings to no more than 96,000 square feet, not big enough for a true big-box store.

Maginn said he won’t really start marketing the space to retailers until and if council approves the change.

“If this doesn’t get approved, you’ll be talking to the fourth developer,” he said.

Marathon Oil moved out of the complex in 2000, and Denver oil tycoon David B. Richardson bought the land for $14.5 million in December of that year. After battling away a Lowe’s Home Improvement store in 2004, neighbors initially expressed cautious optimism about the mixed-use, “new urbanism” project he proposed, similar to East 29th Avenue in Stapleton.

“The city wanted mixed use on this property,” said Nicole Ament, a local attorney representing Watt. “This is a very traditional model of how that works. That higher density is required to make it active.”

Realtor Kay Watson was the sole voice of support for the project from the public during the meeting, saying lots of people fear the unknown.

“This provides options for housing that we have a shortage of,” she said.

McElyea said the plan will be in front of the city’s planning board in July, then on to two city council meetings for final approval in August. All three meetings will include opportunities for the public to speak.

The proposal in its entirety is available on the city’s website, on the community development page under “Project Activity List.” If approved, construction could start early next year.