“I’m not going to let our neighborhood turn into LoHi. That is not going to happen on my watch.”
Those may sound like fighting words from District Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, who today elaborated on a letter that she sent on Tuesday afternoon to Mike Zoellner, president of RedPeak Properties, in which she indicated that she would like his company to voluntarily reduce the height of buildings to three stories instead of the five-stories allowed under the current zoning on parcels he has under contract in the heart of West Highland.
But in an interview with InsideRealEstateNews, Shepherd emphasized that what she would like to do is find a solution that economically works for RedPeak, addresses the concerns of groups such as No High Rises in West Highland, without an adversarial downzoning against the wish of the landowner, Tom Wootten, which some believe could have a chilling effect on development throughout the city.
“What I want is a win-win-win,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd said that she is especially concerned about height of buildings on West Moncrieff Place and Meade Street. The Lowell site already includes a 60-foot tall church.
Shepherd said that she has spent a lot of time looking at the history of the rezoning, the rational of the zoning change to U-MS-5 from R-4, speaking to members of the community and has had multiple conversations with officials from the Denver Community Planning and Development agency, which recommended the zoning change that was approved by City Council in June 2010, before she took office.
“Error in judgement”
“I am troubled,” by the zoning change that allowed five-story buildings on Moncrieff and Meade, she said. “I am not confident that the right decision was made there. I think they made an error in judgment.”
However, she said it would be better if RedPeak voluntarily agreed to construct buildings with lower heights and less density, than force the issue. If Shepherd sought a rezoning, she would need to recuse herself from voting and it would require a super-majority of 10 of the remaining council members to pass.
“I have decided which way legislatively I will proceed,” if Zoellner isn’t willing to agree to such a major change. “I have carefully thought about this and I will take some legislative action,” if needed. However, she refused to say exactly what that action will entail.
May not pencil out
One big issue is whether RedPeak can make the numbers work if it would drop the height of the buildings on even two of the sites. While an official from RedPeak said they are not ready to respond to Shepherd’s letter yet – Shepherd asked for a response by Jan. 18, when a coalition of stakeholders meet to discuss design issues – a member of that team who represents the West Highland Neighborhood Association, said that RedPeak has indicated it needs in the neighborhood of 150 units to make the luxury apartment community work economically.
Previously, Zoellner told InsideRealEstateNews that if they built substantially fewer units, the market would not support the type of rents they would need to charge. (However, RedPeak is expected, for the first time, to release preliminary elevations, or drawings, of the proposed buildings.)
Shepherd said she believes Zoellner would like to do the right thing.
“I do think RedPeak is a very good developer and I am really happy we are dealing with a Denver-based developer with deep ties to the neighborhood,” Shepherd said. “If we were dealing with an out-of-state developer from California, I’d feel a lot less confident that any type of compromise could be reached.”
At a WHNA meeting at Tuesday night, members approved two resolutions seeking the downzoning of those three parcels, as well as much of West 32nd
Avenue. One measure that narrowly passed calls for an overlay district, limiting the height to 35 feet from Irving to Perry Streets and West 30th to West 33rd avenues.
Several sources told InsideRealEstateNews that another alternative might be to try to launch a citywide ballot measure to ask voters throughout Denver to downzone those parcels.
“I’ve heard that, too,” Shepherd said. “That is not an initiative I would put forward. I’m not how interested other neighborhoods would be in getting involved in something outside of their own neighborhood.
Meanwhile, she noted that she is not bad-mouthing Lower Highland, or LoHi, but it’s not the model for growth in West Highland.
“LoHi is a very nice, fun neighborhood,” Shepherd said. “But it has had its share of problems (most notably a lack of parking.) I support moderate, incremental growth. I just don’t want us to become another LoHi. We all want to retain the beauty and charm of West Highland and Highlands Square.”
More interested in buying than renting in West Highland? Please check out this COhomefinder.com link.
To view more preliminary massing drawings of RedPeak’s proposals, please visit this link.
Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com< class="related_post_title">Related Posts:>