City studying retail corridor changes, mobility options

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Businesses focused on providing experiences, not products. Public places that attract crowds. Better connections to neighborhoods and trails. “Mini-main street” concepts intended for pedestrians.

These are among the features of retail centers that could see support from the City of Centennial’s upcoming plan to breathe life into its shopping corridors.

“Vacancies felt in shopping centers nationally and in our own Centennial backyard point to the conclusion that we have too much retail space, and often times the wrong kind of retail space, to accommodate the next generation of retail,” an excerpt from a city newsletter reads.

Consumers’ shift to buying more online and spending money on experiences rather than traditional goods is “profoundly affecting” the retail industry, the newsletter says, and the city is undergoing a multi-year effort to put in place a reinvestment strategy for its retail corridors. Five will be studied: University Boulevard first, followed by Smoky Hill Road, County Line Road, Arapahoe Road and the Interstate 25 corridor. The order is subject to change, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman. Generally, the city will examine the full length of the five corridors within the city’s boundaries.

Along with new retail concepts, the city’s strategy may consider opportunities for new design standards and mixed-use areas, such as including restaurants, entertainment establishments, housing and office uses, among others.

Meanwhile, also underway is a study of the Colorado Boulevard corridor from Orchard to County Line roads to provide more mobility options and offer better trail connectivity for bicyclists and pedestrians. The study will identify potential projects along the road, which could mean added bike lanes or looking at opportunities for more transit stops, but the outcomes are unclear at this point, Wittern said.

What comes of the studies could affect the future of the city’s economy and tax revenue for years to come. Here’s a look at how they’ll unfold and how residents can participate.

Tackling risks

Neighborhood retail centers are scattered throughout Centennial, and “every center is at potential risk due to macro-level trends,” according to a city council planning document.

To confront the challenge, the city began studying the University Boulevard corridor in 2019 by interacting with shopping center owners, analyzing trends and market factors, and conducting a survey of shoppers’ experiences in the corridor, Wittern said.

In December, members of city council, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, city staff, design and retail experts, shopping center owners, and developers toured the corridor’s shopping centers and discussed opportunities for next steps, according to the newsletter.

“This is the first corridor retail strategy development of this kind that the city has undertaken,” Wittern said. 

City staff are reviewing ideas to draft possible strategies as a framework for discussion with community members along the corridor this spring, according to the newsletter.

“No formal recommendations will be presented to city council before we have further engaged with the community,” Wittern added.

The planning process will likely produce a variety of strategies to spur reinvestment, and it is not currently known what the city would invest or what its exact tools will be, Wittern said.

For more information, contact the city’s Economic Development Department at www.tinyurl.com/tuvwls3.

‘Corridor experience’

An informal meeting about the Colorado Boulevard transportation study took place Jan. 21 at the King Soopers at University Boulevard and East Dry Creek Road, according to the city’s website. A more formal public meeting about the study is anticipated for this spring, Wittern said.

“The solutions will focus on safety, the corridor experience, active living, connections to the existing trail network, bicycle facilities, access to transit, regional collaboration and collaboration with Littleton Public Schools,” the site reads.

One of the project’s goals is to gather input about uses of the corridor, and a public meeting is expected in spring 2020.

The project team will identify short- and long-term improvements that could be implemented. The study is anticipated to be complete in summer 2020, according to the site.

The study is a part of the city’s comprehensive plan, Centennial NEXT, the site says. A comprehensive plan can affect a city’s priorities for development, parks and open space, and transportation.

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