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Buzz strong on cinema at SLOANS

Watch an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema video at the bottom of this blog.

Highlights:

  • About 200 people attended a developer open house regarding SLOANS last week.
  • An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be one of the anchors.
  • No 20-story buildings are currently on the drawing board.
A site plan showing where the new first-run theater, other retail and office building will be at Sloans.

A site plan showing where the new first-run theater, other retail and an office building will be at SLOANS.

It’s a coming attraction that is two years out, but residents and city official already are giving a big thumbs up to a new movie theater planned at SLOANS, the new name for the mixed-use community planned for the former St. Anthony’s Central Hospital site in northwest Denver.

An estimated 200 residents were wall-to-wall during a two-hour developer open house last Wednesday night, where plans for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema were first publicly unveiled.

“That was kind of the No. 1 buzz topic, for sure,” said Denver City Councilwoman Susan Shepherd, whose district includes SLOANS, which is north of West Colfax Avenue and south of Sloan’s Lake.

The prospect of a new theater at SLOANS already is a big hit with Brian Gansman, who lives minutes away from SLOANS, in a 114-year-old home in West Highland.

As CEO and co-founder of Gate2Plate, a development, marketing and brokerage firm that develops food products for Costco, Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and others, Gansman travels more than 100,000 miles a year domestically and internationally for his business, which is headquartered on the second and third floors above El Camino restaurant along West 32nd Avenue, near Lowell Boulevard.

“When I get home from all of my travels, the last thing that I want to do is get into a car to go somewhere,” Gansman said. “I would rather use my two feet to walk my four legged friends or to go out to dinner. Te new development by Sloan’s Lake will keep me on my bike and feet. No need to get into a car to drive across town to a movie theater.”

The first phase of the 19-acre site also will include a boutique hotel, luxury apartments, new retail and offices. For those interested in keeping tabs on the $300 million development,  EnviroFinance Group, the land developer of the 19-acre site, launched a web page called SLOANS, which details the history and progress of the mixed-use development.

Sloans could have as many as 1,750 residential units when completed, but EFG believes 800-1,200 units are more realistic. It could also have up to 500,000 square feet of retail, office and hospitality space.

2nd Alamo Drafthouse in metro area

The new movie house at SLOANS will have about 740 seats and eight screens. It will be the first in Denver and the second in the metro area. It will employ 100 to 150 people when it opens in 2015.

It opened its first last year in Aspen Grove in Littleton. That Alamo Drafthouse has about 960 seats and seven screens.

A site plan for SLOANS. Four of the seven blocks have been spoken for.

A site plan for SLOANS. Four of the seven blocks have been spoken for.

“I thought the reaction was really quite positive at the community meeting. Quite a number of people approached me and said they were really excited about it,” said Tom DeFrancia, a partner at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

“Since then, folks have been reading about it on online publications and the reaction is overwhelmingly positive,” he added.

The 31,000-square-foot building will mostly be dedicated to the theater, with a small restaurant. People will be able to eat and drink beer and wine during the screening of both first-run, independent and classic films. The theater will be in a new building at Colfax and Stuart Street being developed by Littleton Capital Partners and Weston Capital. It is being designed by OZ Architecture.

“We don’t anticipate any problems getting a liquor license, although obviously we will have to go through the process like everyone else,” DeFrancia said.

Film-free zone

He said the theater is in  what is known in the industry as a “film-free zone.” Movie distributors designate areas that are under-served, DeFrancia said.

As with almost all theaters, most of the business at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema takes place from Friday evening through Sunday.

During the week, the theaters will be available for things such as business and community meetings.

“Because we have the latest in digital video, audio and lighting technology, our theaters are a great place to have business meetings and show Power Point presentations,” DeFrancia said. “And because we have trays in our very comfortable seats, it is easy to take notes.”

According to an article in Entrepreneur magazine, a typical Alamo Drafthouse screen earns $917,000 per year, compared with $517,00 and $403,000, respectively, at AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment. Regal is the largest theater chain in the U.S. A dozen years ago, Denver industrialist Philip Anschutz stitched together the current mammoth movie house chain by merging three bankrupt theater companies.

The theater chain is famous, notorious to some, for its no tolerance policy regarding the use of mobile phones for texting and talking. (See video at the bottom of this blog.)

The Alamo Ale Drafthouse, designed by Oz Architecture, will bring a movie theater to Sloans.

The Alamo Ale Drafthouse, designed by Oz Architecture, will bring a movie theater to SLOANS.

Until the theater announcement, much of the spotlight on the site has regarded the possibility of a 20-story building being constructed on West 17th Avenue, across from Sloan’s Lake.

Height divides ‘hood

That issue has divided the neighborhood, with some vehemently opposing it as too big and in the wrong location, while others welcoming the density and the impact it will have on West Colfax, comparing it to the 27 and 22-story towers at the Pinnacle at City Park South, a a luxury condo development that many observers played a crucial role in cleaning up East Colfax Avenue and the retail Renaissance along that corridor.

“Height and density and view planes are important, but the main thing that the city is focusing on at St. Anthony’s is the catalytic opportunity it brings to the neighborhood,” she said.

She said that 25 percent of the people along the West Colfax corridor are “living in poverty,” and SLOANS will present many of them with never available before employment opportunities.

“Wouldn’t it be great if someone in the neighborhood got a job as a dishwasher in one of the new restaurants there and move up to managing it,” Shepherd said.

She noted the recent shooting and hostage station at a 7-Eleven at West Colfax and Perry Street illustrates the problems along the corridor.

“I’ve been in that convenience store,” Shepherd said. “That is scary. I think bringing really nice, classy restaurants and the theater and homes to St. Anthony’s will all bring more eyes on the street.Those of us who live in the south side of the district don’t have the nice retail areas at 32nd and Lowell and along Tennyson Street. We’re driving to Belmar to see a movie and that is taking money out of Denver and spending it in Lakewood.”

Setting the record straight

Cameron Berton, a senior vice president at the EFG company that is preparing the land at SLOANS for development, said the feedback he received during after the developer open house was overwhelmingly positive.

“I think people were especially excited about the prospect of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the boutique hotel in the Kuhlman building,” he said. That hotel is being developed by Larimer Associates, the developer of Larimer Square. It is being designed by JG Johnson Architects.

Asked if he received any negative comments, Berton said: “I don’t think I got anything that was truly negative, but I did get some questions about the height, generally, and specifically about the 20-story question.”

Earlier in the month, the city approved what is known as a General Development Plan, which would allow up to 20 stories on a portion of the site. However, the City Council would have to approve a zoning change to allow a 20-story building. No such plan is on the drawing board at this time.

Bridges will connect the Trammell Crow Residential buildings designed by JG Johnson Architects at Sloans.

Bridges will connect the Trammell Crow Residential buildings designed by JG Johnson Architects at SLOANS.

Architect Jim Johnson points to the Kuhlman building he is designing at Sloans.

Architect Jim Johnson points to the Kuhlman building he is designing at SLOANS.

“A lot of folks learned at the meeting that there are not any plans to develop a 20-story building and so I think that put them at ease,” Bertron said.

The site is currently zoned for a maximum of five stories and not all of the development in the first phase will be that tall.

For example, Trammell Crow Residential will develop a luxury apartment community that “will primarily be four stories, and will reach five stories in some places,” Berton said. Those apartments also are being designed by JG Johnson Architects.

“At the meeting, I was able to explain that the role of the GDP is to anticipate possible future development and is not a vision document or zoning, but rather provides a framework of what could happen,” Berton said.

Councilwoman Shepherd said the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is not only going to be a hit for the development and the surrounding community, but with her.

“I am beyond thrilled,” said Shepherd, who noted that she studied film and telecommunications at the University of Oregon and has long loved independent films.

She is also pleased to finally being able to talk about it. She has known Alamo Drafthouse  was coming for months, but had to keep it under wraps until it was officially announced.

.Watch this Alamo Drafthouse video.

Interested in buying a home in Sloan’s Lake? Please visit COhomefinder.com.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at  JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.