Campus & Community / News

High rise near campus to begin construction in mid-May

Construction of an 11-story retail and apartment project on the southeast corner of South University Boulevard and Evans Avenue has moved from the slow lane to the fast track and will get under way as soon as mid-May.

The first step in the life of what is tentatively called the Shops and Apartments at Observatory Park is demolition of six properties along South University Boulevard. These will include the red-brick Wesley Apartments at 2100 S. University Blvd. as well as the former Pioneer Apartments at 2156 S. University Blvd. and University Manor at 2142 — the one-time home of former DU Chancellor David Shaw Duncan.

“We’re very aware of University and Evans traffic patterns and we’re going to try very hard to work off the street,” developer David Elowe says. “We have a desire to avoid disruption. We’ll do our best to do things at night.”

When the site from South University east to the alley is clear — about 20 days after demolition begins — Shaw Construction will begin hammering together a 213-unit, market-rate apartment building. The project will include 25,500-square-feet of street-level retail shops, interior parking above and below ground and studio, one, one-plus and two-bedroom rental apartments.

“We’re the un-student housing building,” Elowe says. “We’re doing everything we can to appear not to be student housing.” Rather, his development partnership, Urban West Group, plans to market the building to young professionals working in the Tech Center or downtown Denver and to empty-nesters who choose to rent.

“It’ll be an A-class building with granite counters, wood floors and that soft loft appeal, not harsh industrial,” Elowe says.

Amenities will include pool, hot tub, barbecue area, workout room with showers, an outdoor gathering area and community and conference rooms.

Ground-floor retail space will have room for four to eight retailers of national prominence, including some form of Chicago-style urban market.

“We’ve had a lot of national interest,” Elowe says. “Once the dirt begins to move, we’ll see action. It’s just a matter of who and when. There’s been a lot of food service demand, but it won’t be one giant food mall.”

Elowe and various partners have been tinkering with the project since 2007, with uncertainty over financing being the principal obstacle. That fell away earlier this year when Elowe and partner Dan Ezra passed on seeking HUD money and found a private construction loan from PNC Bank instead. They closed in late February and it’s been full speed ahead ever since.

“It’s like you’re treading water for two plus years and then swimming as fast as you can,” Elowe says.

The one constant was his confidence in the project, which began in 2007 with an agreement with neighbors in the University Park Community Council and continued with a rezoning to mixed use that the city of Denver granted in 2008.

“It’s the right project in the right place in the right market,” he said. “I’ve always been confident. It’s a challenging environment right now. But I’m bullish on our location.”

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