Representatives of The Villages of Belleview — the apartment complex proposed to replace the Columbine Square shopping center at Federal Boulevard and Belleview Avenue — started reaching out to neighbors July 9 and found themselves met with resistance.
“You’re ruining our little town,” said Littleton resident Betty Harris, during the first of three informational meetings that week at Horizon Rocky Mountain Church. Harris is active with Citizens for Rational Development, a group that is actively opposing a plan to build apartments across the street from the Littleton Courthouse.
“Change is tough on all of us. We’re all human,” countered Charlie Mallon, representing CMCB Enterprise Inc., the company that has owned the property on the southwest corner of Belleview and Federal for 24 years.
Columbine Square was once home to All Stars Sports Bar and the Burger King-turned-Big Papa’s BBQ. Both are now vacant, as is about half of the 80,000 square feet of retail space at the site. The Horizon church and Littleton Preparatory Charter School both have plans to relocate from Columbine Square to more permanent quarters. The school, which has been located in a former Safeway store, is building on the Norgren property at Delaware Street and Powers Avenue in Littleton’s northeast neighborhood.
Mallon stressed that CMCB, owned by the family of 1990s tennis star Michael Chang, intends to retain ownership of the property as a legacy asset. The company wants to tear down the 15-acre shopping center and replace it with 346 apartment units housed in 20 three-story buildings. Planned amenities include a clubhouse, pool, self-service bicycle repair station, walking path, fitness room, juice bar, tanning room and a business center for residents’ use.
Despite that long list, Mallon makes no bones about the fact that these will be nice apartments, not luxury potential condominiums like the ones planned near the courthouse. There, 250 units are planned on 4.5 acres; rent will range from $1,050 to $3,000. The Villages of Belleview will rent for $800 to $1,250, said Mallon.
“This is not going to look like Disneyland,” he said, explaining he’s striving to make the project complement the neighborhood. “This is not going to look like a five-star hotel when it opens up. That’s not how I do things.”
One woman who didn’t want to be identified worried the low price would attract “riffraff” and urged the developer to upgrade the complex into a “hip” mixed-use project.
“I don’t think anybody suggests you maintain a ’70s strip mall concept, but to get community support, you need a mix of retail and residential,” agreed John Watson, who is currently running for city council.
Mallon said his original goal was to lure the remodeled King Soopers that was built across the street to the site, thus stealing it and its sales tax away from Englewood. Failing that, he tried to work with the owner of the U.S. Bank pad to incorporate some retail, but the bank has a 15-year lease the owner is unwilling to part with.
“Long-term tenants went across the street, and that’s a fact,” he said.
The Arapahoe County Elections Facility and O’Toole’s Garden Center are not part of the site, but Adele O’Toole is none too happy with CMCB’s plan.
“It takes away four of our five access points, so it cripples us,” she said. The only one left will be on Federal, and she worries her customers will have difficulty navigating her often very busy front parking lot — not to mention her delivery trucks.
Neighbors can have their say at two public hearings. Because the property will have to be rezoned from commercial to residential, the case will go before both the planning board and city council. Those aren’t yet scheduled, but Mallon said he hopes to have demolition completed by the end of the year.
“We want to build it, lease it and keep the occupancy rate high,” he said.