Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

High-rise east of DU could include a grocery

A bold new vision for the southeast corner of University Boulevard and Evans Avenue that could include a supermarket took a large step forward Aug. 20.

The Denver Planning Board unanimously agreed to recommend rezoning for seven properties starting with the Wesley Apartments — a two-story, red-brick building at 2100 S. University Blvd. — and continuing south along University Boulevard.

The rezoning still has hurdles to clear, including final approval by Denver City Council, but the Planning Board’s endorsement is considered key.

If the zoning is changed to RMU-30 as requested, the decision would give developers David Elowe and Philip Caplan the green light to tear down the existing structures and put up an eight- to10-story luxury apartment building with interior parking and ground floor retail.

“The best case scenario we would love is a Whole Foods,” Elowe told the planning board when asked about retail space in the project. “Will that be the case? We don’t know. If it’s a Whole Foods, it takes most of the space. If it’s not a Whole Foods, it’s restaurants that are a little more upscale than quick-serve restaurants. (It’s) hard to say.”

City staff members emphasized that rezoning the property is a prudent planning step even if Elowe and Caplan never end up turning a single shovel. Caryn Wenzara, senior planner for Community Planning and Development, said that changing the present R-3 residential category is consistent with city plans, including the new University Park plan that is up for final approval by City Council on Sept. 8.

“The University Park plan calls for a higher density at this corner and specifically says eight- to 10-stories,” Wenzara said.

Rezoning would also force greater scrutiny of development due to the prominence of the corner, Wenzara said.

“This is a real important gateway to the community, as well as a heavily traveled corridor, so we want to have that higher level of design review for this site,” she said.

Elowe and Caplan have emphasized that their development is market driven and still evolving. Wednesday they said the emphasis is on luxury units that would “activate the corner to provide services for the neighborhood that are currently not there,” Elowe told the board.

The rezoning proposal includes waivers that would let the developers build to the sidewalk instead of having a setback and would limit the height of the building to 120 feet instead of the 140 feet permitted. Both conditions were agreed to after negotiations between the developers and the University Park Community Council.

Wednesday’s decision moves University Manor, an Art-Deco style 1930s-era apartment building once occupied by former DU Chancellor David Shaw Duncan, closer to demolition. Present intentions are to raze the two-story building at 2142 S. University Blvd. to accommodate the 44,000-square foot-development.

The other properties to be razed for the project are the Wesley Apartments at 2100 S. University; four single-family residences built from 1898 to 1910; and the former Pioneer apartments at 2156 S. University, built in 1960. All are owned by the developer, except for 2156, which is under contract to sell to the developer pending the rezoning.

“We are fortunate that we have a developer who is a neighbor who is willing to continue discussions with the neighborhood as he progresses with his project,” University Park resident Bill Wynn told planners. “We’re delighted with this application.”

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