Redevelopment plans for a Littleton shopping center that sparked a citizens' petition, triggered an election referendum and led to a lawsuit against the city are forging ahead.
On March 16, nearly 50 Littleton community members joined a virtual neighborhood meeting to hear updates on the future of the Aspen Grove mall where developers are seeking to add new housing and amenities.
"Our goal remains to create a vibrant, retail mixed-use center for Aspen Grove," said Brad Haigh, whose company, Norris Design, is working with the mall's owner, Gerrity Group, on the redevelopment.
But Gerrity's vision for the mall's future faces uncertainty. After a rezoning of the mall to allow for residential use was narrowly approved by city council in November, thousands of residents opposed to the plans petitioned against the rezoning, ultimately forcing council to punt the decision to a city-wide vote scheduled for this November.
Following this, Littleton resident Linda Knufinke filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming that November was too far away for a referendum election and violated state law, though Littleton's city charter exempts it from Colorado's referendum election rules.
Still, Haigh said Gerrity is moving forward with an application for a master development plan, which would essentially allow pre-planning for the redevelopment to begin even as the new zoning remains stalled. This ability was unlocked for developers when council approved sweeping new land-use guidelines in October to promote more mixed-use projects like Aspen Grove.
The development plan will still have to be approved by the city's planning commission before receiving final approval from council, which could take eight to 18 months according to Haigh.
Under the development plan, Haigh said Gerrity is proposing 500 housing units to be developed on the south end of the mall near the light rail station. According to the plan approved by council in November, the roughly 33-acre mall could see up to 2,000 new housing units, an amount that some community members have said is too much.
The new units would come with a maximum height of 85 feet, Haigh said, something that has also caused contention among nearby residents who fear the height would obstruct their views of the Rocky Mountains, though Gerrity has said it will not.
During the virtual meeting, Haigh said any changes to the development plan, such as changes in proposed housing density, would be shared with community members moving forward.
"Our goal is not to be hiding stuff," Haigh said, adding that there will be a future neighborhood meeting to discuss more updates.
He also fielded questions about store closures in the mall, which Haigh said were a real threat the area faced. The mall has been plagued by years of declining sales tax revenue, an issue exacerbated by COVID-19 and a leading motive for Gerrity's plans to overhaul the area and jumpstart its economy.
"Closures are a risk that we face," Haigh said.
"We're looking to make sure that this is a vibrant retail center," Haigh later said. "So adding the mixed-use element, the restaurants, the high-end retailers, the grocer will create that energy that we need to keep the existing tenants."
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