- Demolition continues where RedPeak plans apartments in West Highland.
- RedPeak has not yet purchased the three parcels in Highland Square.
- If neighbors win lawsuit, zoning may revert to R-4, which would allow 75-foot tall buildings.
A portion of the church building is being demolished on Lowell Boulevard where RedPeak Properties plans one of three luxury apartment building in the heart of West Highland.
Earlier in the month, a building on Meade Street, which also is part of RedPeak’s plan for a trio of buildings, was razed.
The third building, on a vacant lot on West Moncrieff Place, would have four stories, while the other two sites would have five-story buildings. All of the buildings would be extremely energy-efficient and sustainable. When completed, rents are anticipated to be about $2 per square foot, so the monthly rent would for a 700-square-foot unit would be $1,400. That is consistent with what a number of new downtown apartment buildings are charging.
Ten neighbors have filed a lawsuit against the land owners, a group headed by Tom Wootten. The Denver City Council also is named in the suit, which rezoned the parcels in June 2010 to U-MS-5, allowing five-story building on the sites. RedPeak initially was part of the lawsuit, but requested and was granted, a request to be removed from the suit, because it does not yet own the properties.
The lawsuit contends the current zoning is not consistent with Blueprint Denver, which considers the parcels in an area of “stability,” not in an “area of change.” It also notes that zoning along the nearby West 32nd Avenue corridor, which is a busier thoroughfare, permits lower heights than on the parcels on Lowell, Meade and Moncrieff. The lawsuit seeks to remand the zoning decision to the City Council “for rezoning consistent with the provisions of Blueprint Denver and in conformity with surrounding properties.” Blueprint Denver is a transportation and land planning document that provides a road map for development.
The West Highland Neighborhood Association, which officially opposed the U-MS-5 zoning before most neighbors were aware of it, has voted to joint the plaintiffs, on the condition that it be held financially harmless in the event the plaintiffs lose and are assessed any costs. However, the plaintiffs apparently have not yet agreed to let the WHNA join the lawsuit.
A question also has been raised in some corners if the WHNA would face any potential liability if Wootten decided to file a counter-suit against the plaintiffs.
A city official, who has been following the suit, said that if the neighbors win, the property likely would revert to its previous zoning of R-4, which no longer exists.
The previous zoning generally would allow 75-tall buildings on the sites, which could equate to a six-story to possibly even an eight-story on some parts of the property, according to the official, who spoke on the condition that she not be identified.
A number of observers in the real estate and development community worry that if the neighbors are able to change the zoning in court, it would have a chilling effect on future developments in Denver, hurting the city’s economy.
They also are concerned that it represents an attack on property rights and note that the rezoning took place after numerous public hearings. Indeed, neighborhood objections to developments are becoming so routine that a new acronym has been coined – CAVE, Citizens Against Virtually Everything, replacing NIMBY, or Not In My Back Yard.
Earlier, Laura Goode, who founded the grassroots opposition group called No High Rises in West Highland, said that is a groundless fear, because the RedPeak controversy is so unusual that it would not set a precedent except in the most egregious zoning cases. Indeed, Goode has repeatedly emphasized that she is not against development. Rather, she and dozens of other neighbors who have rallied against RedPeak, want what they would consider appropriate new buildings keeping in character with the charm of the neighborhood.
Among other things, the lawsuit contends the current zoning on the sites could lower property values in the neighborhood. However, the possibility of the buildings has not deterred record-sale prices in recent months in the area. Also, a number of academic studies in other cities have found that high-quality rental developments tend to raise the prices of nearby homes, not lower them.
Neither Goode nor Wootten could immediately be reached on Thursday. Public records do not yet reflect a sale from Wootten’s groups to RedPeak. RedPeak has the properties under contract and plans to buy them when it is ready to start construction.
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