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Lakeside Wal-Mart: Wrong, But Not for the Reasons You Think

By Brent Butzin

In my first post here at DenverUrbanism, I’d like to discuss a proposal that has had neighborhood groups in northwest Denver up in arms for the last month or so, namely, the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter slated to be built across Sheridan Boulevard in the tiny town of Lakeside.  Residents have levied the usual array of complaints against the proposed Wal-Mart: traffic, unfair labor practices, and the impact the big-box retailer will have on small businesses, especially the neighborhood business district between 35th and 52nd Avenues along Tennyson.  Putting those issues aside, I think I have two better reasons for opposing this project.

First, what a wasted opportunity; this site is a gem!  Lakeside has nearly all of the elements you’d need for a successful dense, mixed-use, town center-style development: a large site, unified ownership, good traffic counts, and proximity to downtown.  Add to that the potential for waterfront development on Lake Rhoda – a rare amenity in arid Colorado – and the historic-but-struggling Lakeside Amusement Park next door – itself a diamond in the rough, especially if teamed up with a high-quality redevelopment project.  This site could almost market itself!  Lakeside is missing transit, but so are Highland Garden Village (the old Elitch’s site) and Belmar (the old Villa Italia Mall), both of which are phenomenal infill successes.  Put simply, a Wal-Mart is not the highest or best use at this site.

So what’s missing?  Supportive local government.  Lakeside needs the revenue that will be generated by the Wal-Mart to support its city services.  And undoubtedly it lacks the resources to support the infrastructure investment (through tax-increment financing, or some other mechanism) that a Belmar-style development would likely require.  Which brings me to my second objection to this project.  But first, let’s take a look at Lakeside.

According to the 2000 census, Lakeside had a population of 20.  DRCOG’s projected population for Lakeside in 2030 is, you guessed it, 20.  So I asked myself, does Lakeside really need a Wal-Mart?  Recent big-box developments in Edgewater and Sheridan were arguably justified to support each community’s 5,000+ residents (and the City of Sheridan, at least, did an admirable job with its South Platte River frontage).  A Wal-Mart Supercenter like the one proposed for Lakeside should generate upwards of $1 million per year for the city, based on a conservative estimate of $90 million in annual sales and Lakeside’s 2.1% city sales tax rate.  I am sympathetic to the high cost of providing services in small municipalities, having personally worked for a number of them.  But this Wal-Mart will bring in a whopping $50,000 per resident.  By comparison, Denver, which itself benefits from higher-than-average per capita revenues by virtue of being the region’s core city, operates on a paltry $1,400 per resident (based on 2010 projected general fund expenditures of $855.6 million and a 2009 estimated population of 610,345).

How can Lakeside justify this disparity?  Lakeside’s town attorney-of-record, Tim Flynn, was quoted in the Denver Post on December 11, 2010, saying, “Maybe at some point we will make more than is necessary to run our town, then we would roll back the sales tax.”  Colorado municipalities rely heavily on sales taxes for revenues, which regularly leads to direct competition between cities to attract much-prized cash-generating retailers, including and especially, Wal-Mart.  But what Lakeside’s town attorney describes is actually a tax haven.  We choose to fund local government through sales taxes because they are relatively unobtrusive; a few dollars here and there, rather than a bill every six months.  But in the end, somebody must pay for local government.  The metro area retail market can only support a limited number of Wal-Marts, and in tough times, no community can afford corporate giveaways.  The next time you drive Interstate 70, think about how your own community funds its vital services, and then consider Lakeside, our own little Cayman Island in the vast metropolitan sea.

Lakeside was formed in 1907 for a singular and outdated purpose: to escape Denver’s liquor laws.  Colorado has a long tradition of local control – it is engrained in our state constitution – and, by and large, home rule has served us well.  I certainly would be loathe to divest local governments of many powers (more on that in a future post).  But Lakeside is a statutory town and does not enjoy the protections and autonomy of a home rule city.  As an incorporated entity, it has also outlived its usefulness.

Some duplicative services are inevitable in a complex metropolitan system like ours.  But the bizarre and unnecessary inefficiency of Lakeside is without equal in Colorado.  This Wal-Mart is now a foregone conclusion.  But it is bad precedent, and we should not be afraid to take extraordinary measures to prevent this undermining of our metropolitan tax base from becoming a commonplace tactic in the great race to the bottom.

I welcome your comments and, yes, criticisms, and I look forward to many fruitful exchanges here at DenverUrbanism.

~~~

Brent Butzin is an attorney practicing in Denver.  He recently returned to Denver after 18 months advising local governments for the U.S. State Department in Iraq.  Brent graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where in 2007 he was awarded the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s annual award for excellence in land use planning law.  Before law school, he worked as a consultant providing planning and civil engineering services to municipalities, special districts, and developers across Colorado.  He holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering and a Bachelor of Environmental Design from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  Brent’s interests include a broad range of issues related to land use planning, regulation, and policy, but especially the nuts and bolts of local governance that produce the development forms we love (or hate). As a member of the DenverUrbanism Team, he will respond to issues in the news and attempt to offer fresh perspectives from those in the mainstream media.

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42 Comments

  1. Ryan says:

    I am very glad to see this post up.

  2. rob says:

    Leave it to a lawyer to quote how bad this Walmart is for everybody. I think it’s just sour grapes that you’re not going to get any of the sales tax revenue generated by this walmart. It took years for the small town of Lakeside to get this walmart to agree to build at the location in question. And you think that for some reason a Belmar style development would be great here? Why? The neighbors would still complain about traffic and noise, etc, etc. And what developer is going to want to build here and take on the investment of a full scale Belmar project? Hmmm? Im sure there are so many of them waiting to take on Arapahoe Square aren’t they? Leave little Lakeside alone and let it do what it wants. If those 20 residents want walmart, let them have Walmart. And all those whiners who hate Walmart and their unfair labor practices will probably be first in line when that store opens. It’s happened before and it will happen again.

    • The Dirt says:

      Leave it to an anonymous troll to lead their straw-man arguments with a personal attack. See what I did there? Hmmm? What exactly is your point, from an urbanism standpoint? What is so beneficial in an urban sense by building a giant big box store next to lake front property? What is so beneficial in an urban sense for building acres of parking lot that front a developing urban corridor? What primary mode of transportation is this development going to promote? Are people from the surrounding neighborhoods going to be walking to this Walmart or are people going to be driving? What is good about 20 people controlling the destinies of 2.5 million? Let me just say that you’re such a hero for standing up for little old Lakeside! Keep up the good work! So say we all!

  3. The dirt says:

    As always, very well argued and balanced, Brent. Here’s a statement that is much more biased. A 20 person town that choses development that enriches the few at the expense of their neighbors is a cancer. What I’m looking for now is what to do about it. What can ordinary citizens do about this and what is the legal mechanism for nullifying Lakeside’s status as a statutory town? Are they breaking any agreements with the city of Wheat Ridge by not consulting with their neighbors on such an impacting development?

    • Ryan says:

      Walmart is the root of all suburban evil and kills every single small business around it. Walmart is a virus / cancer / whatever you want to call it. How you can tell is that there is not a single Walmart close to / by / near downtown and I don’t think there ever will be. I will always support locals to the best of my ability before I dare to turn to a big box. I hope Lakeside gets dissolved by Wheat Ridge. 20 people running a town inside of an almost 3.5 million people metro area is the most asinine thing. I really hope there is something we can do as citizens to nullify Lakeside’s status as a statutory town.

      • Dave Barnes says:

        1. “Walmart is the root of all suburban evil”. Well, technically, Lakeside is a suburb of Denver.

        2. “is not a single Walmart close to / by / near downtown”. Strange as I am pretty sure that there is a Walmart at Stapleton which is only 4+ miles from downtown Denver. Seems “close” to me.

        3. “hope Lakeside gets dissolved by Wheat Ridge”. Where do you get the idea that Wheat Ridge can dissolve Lakeside? Lakeside is one of 157 statutory towns in Colorado and any attempt to dissolve Lakeside would be met with resistance from all 157. Bow Mar and Columbine Valley are both statutory towns and you are crazy if you think that they would submit to any reduction in their rights.

        4. “20 people running a town…is the most asinine thing”. Where do you draw the line? Blackhawk only has 114 people and is a Home Rule Municipality. Should we dissolve Blackhawk because 100 people do not a CITY make?

  4. Dave Barnes says:

    @Rob,
    I agree with you.

  5. Thomas Gagliano says:

    http://suburbaninfill.blogspot.com/2007/02/lakeside-center.html

    Looks like this person wants Mixed-Use project @ Lakeside back in 2007…The blog seems inactive for a long time.

  6. Alex says:

    Living in the northern exurbs as I do, I have seen Erie, Lafayette, and Dacono quibble with each other over which municipality gets to control which possibly tax-lucrative plot of land, or which town must be forced to pay for a traffic light to ease traffic congestion going to a different town. Having seen these struggles, it has occurred to me that one or more of these towns might be well served to give up the struggle and simply become part of one of the others.

    Likewise, the above article suggests that it might be in everybody’s best long-term interest if Lakeside were absorbed into one of the surrounding municipalities; at the very least, this would spread the sales-tax dollars generated by this new Walmart around a bit more equitably throughout the surrounding community.

    When do many dozens of small municipalities in a Metropolitan Area make sense, and, when they do not, how can they be fairly dissolved? Might be a good idea for a future blog post.

  7. Aaron says:

    I agree that a Walmart there is not in sync with Denver’s goal for the area and probably a bad decision in the long run for not just Denver but Wheat Ridge and in decade or so Lakeside as well. But the reason these municipalities exist is that no municipalities are perfect we need some competition to keep things in check when other cities overreach like with the liquor law example that originally was the reason for founding Lakeside.

    Municipalities throughout the metro area have blocked Walmarts and Walmart finally found one that was okay with it. Only time will tell if Lakeside approving Walmart will be beneficial to the metro area as a whole and prove that the cities blocking Walmart made a mistake and overreached. I wouldn’t bet on it being a beneficial experiment for the area but let Lakeside learn it’s lesson the hard way and maybe the next go around they will be more likely to go with a more urban approach to developing the area.

    My guess is that Walmart is mainly targeting the demographics/psychographics on the west side of Sheridan anyway and they will not cannibalize too much sales tax revenue from the city and county of Denver. So although the Walmart might have some impact while Lakeside does it’s thing it won’t be the end of the world.

  8. […] new super Wal-Mart in Lakeside…The world’s biggest retailer plopping down in Colorado’s smallest […]

  9. Brian says:

    Just out of curiosity, doesn’t IKEA Target do the same thing with putting local stores out of business and committing urbanist faux pas’? IKEA and Target are not generally regarded as a bad thing because they treat employees relatively well. I think the corrupt business practices are the problem with Walmart rather than the fact that they put stores out of business or aren’t urban enough. Walmart has been shown to not fairly compensate workers, and they use their size to get unfair advantages from the government that smaller stores cant compete with. Governments sets the rules for what kind of businesses it wants to foster. Walmart can be corrupt and create local Monopolies because the penalties are not steep enough and the opposition is not big enough. I may be wrong, but I don’t think Walmart would be the “competitive” giant that it is without government corruption paving their way which is why the Walmart debate is brought up by an attorney instead of an urban planner. Its interesting to hear the argument that having a Walmart is a sort of economic pollution for neighboring counties that may warrant some remuneration.

  10. Ken says:

    This discussion doesn’t have to necessarily be anti-Walmart. Aside from the tax revenue and regional planning/governance issues Brent raises, one of my biggest problems with this project is the physical form this proposed project will take: a single use big box sitting in the middle of a sea of asphalt. There are great examples of large-format retailers fitting in nicely within a mixed-use higher density development: the the new SuperTarget at Belmar is a perfect example. Walmart is now even planning smaller urban stores for Belmar-type developments nationally. So this Lakeside project could still include a Walmart and yet be a win-win for everyone if it were part of a more dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented environment. But that’s not what we’re going to get, and that is what makes this project doubly troubling to me.

    That fact that Lakeside doesn’t have the resources or expertise to guide and assist a Belmar-like project through the process (even if they wanted to) only reaffirms Brent’s point that perhaps having a municipality of 20 people in the middle of a major metro area isn’t a good idea.

    • Shane says:

      True. However, it seems if that municipality of 20 has a large plot of “develop-able” land that they will receive taxes from, they could obtain a loan on the future taxes to pay for a consultant to help them formulate the best option for them. If they were smart, they might even form a commission with their neighbors so that their input is taken into account, and if they wanted to give up some of the cost, give them a stake in the property development (or at least give them the ability to provide input to the decision of what will be developed) for fronting costs.

  11. jimluk says:

    I drew this up a few weeks ago when there was a similar discussion over on the skyscraper page forum.

    http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showpost.php?p=5089715&postcount=5805

    I think that the Walmart could be used as a catalyst for a Belmar style development. The city of lakeside is obviously short on resources but with Walmart sales tax revenue they could do quite a bit more on the planning and infrastructure side, provided they don’t refund all the money to Walmart as proposed.

    Instead of arguing for or against a Walmart that is all but a sure thing why not use the Walmart as a the first step in a more comprehensive solution. At any rate talk of hostile annexation or virus/cancer/etc just creates a wider divide to be bridged.

  12. Dan says:

    This thread seems to have evolved two themes: big box (Walmart being especially bad) and small towns surrounded by or adjacent to big towns.

    Big box. I don’t shop at Walmart either, for what it represents, it’s business practices, etc. However, I suspect that those who do absolutely have to, since price is the major draw for Walmart. And I expect these people don’t have the bandwidth to think anything bad about having a store convenient to them that caters to the size of their pocket book. Big box is the name of the game today – with Home Depot, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, Ikea, and so on. It strikes me as elitist to “not have one in my neighborhood”. After all, this section of the city is not exactly wealthy – in fact it is barely hanging on to middle class status. Some towns and cities have handled big box development admirably – witness Arvada, Edgewater, Denver (at Alameda and Broadway), Sheridan (at Santa Fe and Oxford), Superior at US36, etc. Walmart has shown a willingness to understand their impact and invest accordingly in the surrounding infrastructure and be sensitive to traffic, night lights, landscapes, exterior design, signage, etc. – maybe they’ll do that at Lakeside.

    Small towns. In the 50’s, 60’s and ’70’s, big bad Denver was on an annexation tear, gobbling up town after town – government’s version of hostile take-over. I don’t know the details, but this activity was stopped by legislation. Now Denver is restricted to it’s current boundaries (though by some political trickeration it was able to overcome that limit in the ’90’s and annex a strangely shaped piece of land into Adams county and build Pena Blvd. and DIA). The result is you still have these small towns leftover, mostly inside and completely surrounded by larger towns and cities. Witness Glendale, Edgewater, Mountain View, Bow Mar, and Lakeside, among others. These towns benefit greatly from all the infrastructure developed around them without having to pay for it. But clearly, there was no taste for annexation, so these towns are still here. In addition, the residents of these towns show no desire to become part of a bigger municipality, otherwise they would have done it already. You could try to strong arm them, they would probably defend themselves and find a lot of free help in doing so.

    While this development is not my preference (I live in West Highland), I absolutely respect the decision of these Lakeside residents. It is their town, not ours. As Ken suggests, they are about about to receive a lot more revenue than before – they might be willing to engage some of you planning professionals for future consideration so you can provide some influence on the result.

    • Mark B says:

      Annexations by Denver were stopped by the Poundstone Amendment, written by the uber-Libertarian state representative from Greenwood Village, Freda Poundstone. It was really all about keeping white suburban children living in unincorporated Arapahoe County from having to participate in the forced integration of the Denver Public Schools (mandated by court order in 1969 and eventually overturned).

      The annexation of land for DIA was the result of a successful election in Denver and Adams counties (mandated by the Poundstone amendment)–Denver can annex land, but a majority of voters in the affected counties have to approve. There was no “trickeration” about it, although there was plenty of short-sighted opposition to the airport idea at the time.

      • Aaron says:

        The whole de-annexation of the DTC portion of Greenwood Village by the courts was a complete mess and that was as much to do with the amendment as anything. Yes the schools where a motivating factor for the residents of Greenwood Village that where part of the de-annexation but at the time going from Cherry Creek High School to a Denver high school was a huge step down. Maybe I am naive but I think the quality of the schools had more to do with it than the will to have ‘white flight’ suburban segregation.

        Either way I think the Poundstone amendment actually helped Denver in the long run it forced the city to focus on managing existing resources as it was harder to acquire land to sprawl out.

        • Asseenontv says:

          You are correct – the quality of the schools had everything to do with it. However, being annexed by Denver at the time subjected your children to court ordered busing, meaning your child could be forced to attend a school across town. Who in their right mind wants to bus your kid miles to a school through weather etc., or drive to pick them up should they get sick? Parents generally choose to live near their schools for a myriad of reasons and the court-ordered busing was simply a disaster.

          • Mark B says:

            Aaron and TV make a good point about the Poundstone amendment, and I can’t fault any parent who prefers CC schools over DPS. However, in 1972, Denver still had a good school system (I was there–I had great teachers, all the way through, with the exception of the 2nd and 3rd grades).

            And I agree: the amendment helped Denver focus on the area it had. Which is one reason why Denver is a far better place to live than, say, Houston.

    • ohwilleke says:

      FWIW, the City of Lakewood (not Lakeside) was incorporated with the express purpose of preventing further annexation by Denver of the unincorporated parts of Jefferson County that were adjacent to it, a bit like the more recent incorporation of the City of Centennial. The provision of municipal government by the City after this end was accomplished was basically an afterthought.

      “I absolutely respect the decision of these Lakeside residents. It is their town, not ours. As Ken suggests, they are about about to receive a lot more revenue than before – they might be willing to engage some of you planning professionals for future consideration so you can provide some influence on the result.”

      FWIW, the residents wishes have nothing to do with anything. They didn’t in reality decide who their municipal leaders would be and didn’t call the shots. The sole property owner of the city decided that and effectively controls the municipal government. Most likely the residents are short term rental tenants, many of whom are probably not registered to vote, who could care less one way or the other and have very little stake in this decision.

      The revenue impacts are likewise basically irrelevant. The municipality has complete freedom to impose property taxes or sales taxes other taxes as it sees fit, and the tenant residents who don’t pay property taxes and so don’t care about those. Basically, Lakeside’s owner is free to decide how much of the income stream from the properties in the municipality should be dedicated to governmental services, set tax rates accordingly, and to pocket the rest.

  13. Corey says:

    Hopefully, with all the tax revenue Lakeside will eventually raise with the Walmart they will develop the large parcel of land with the abandoned racetrack and the few run down houses at the corner of Sheridan and 44th into a vibrant mixed-use development. I have always thought there is tremendous potential there for an amazing mixed use development due to its location adjacent to a lake, neighboring the increasingly thriving Berkeley neighborhood of Denver, and easy access to I-70. Incorporating the amusement park into a mixed use development could create a very unique, desirable neighborhood and renovate and preserve the historic amusement park as well. Maybe having the Walmart development is a necessary evil to provide the revenue to develop the rest of the vacant or underutilized land in Lakeside into something great. The Walmart is actually replacing two “big box” stores (a Target and a Avanza grocery store) that were previously there. Also, the mostly low-quality commercial buildings on the south side of 44th Avenue in Mountain View could be redeveloped as well. Mountain View is absolutely broke, so this could be a boon for them.

    At any rate, if in the future there is any move to demolish Lakeside Amusement Park I will be the first one to chain myself to the rollercoaster. Lakeside is over 100 years old and is a historic treasure. The steam train recently turned 100 years old. I absolutely love the art deco structures and neon signs of Lakeside. If it isn’t already, the place really deserves to be on the state and national historic registers. It would be a huge tragedy to lose this place.

    I truly hope Lakeside has the vision to redevelop the remainder of their under-utilized land, and preserve their great amusement park, as a unique development that maximizes the site’s tremendous potential.

    One other thing. Do any of the 20 residents of Lakeside actually own their houses? There are only about a 1/2 dozen houses along Sheridan Blvd. I would be surprised if any of them are owner occuppied and not very low-priced rentals.

    • Adam says:

      That’s exactly the point. By planning a large auto-oriented Walmart, you basically eliminate the opportunity for anything good to happen on the racetrack site. The Town of Lakeside does not have any vision or planning of any kind. The more this type of suburban crap is tolerated, the less potential the entire surrounding area has for redevelopment. Walmart will be there for 30 years.

    • ohwilleke says:

      Lakeside has basically one property owner who owns all or almost all of the property in the city, including the Wal-Mart site, the amusement park site, Heritage College and at least most of the meager housing. I don’t know if she lives in her city or not. The twenty residents are predominantly or entirely her tenants and in practice she is, directly or indirectly, the dictator-queen of the municipality. To my knowledge, there has never been an effort by any of her tenants to stage of “coup” by running a candidate whom she does not support for any city office.

      In a way, Lakeside is the perfect political science experiment. How would a municipality handle land use issues if there was perfect identity of interest between land owners and the government.

      Thinking about the Wal-Mart land use decision in Lakeside from the perspective of normal governmental decision making processes misses the point. The decision has already been made by the person who calls all the shots, and it might even be an unlawful interference with contract for her to use her influence in the municipality undermine her own deal indirectly to gain some personal advantage at this point. Municipal ordinances, including zoning ordinances, exist for the sole benefit of the municipality’s sole landowner and can effectively be modified at will subject to state law and constitutional considerations of retroactivity. State law requires that one goes through certain motions and allow notice and hearing before formally acting, but this is a done deal, and those who think otherwise are naiive.

      The owner can build anything she wants there. She chose to put a Wal-Mart there for the term of the lease, because she couldn’t find any other option that she was willing to take the risk on.

      She is not a young woman. She isn’t interested in taking on a major multi-use development and she probably has immense built in capital gains in the property that make it very costly for her taxwise to liquidate the property (the unrealized capital gains are eliminate for tax purposes by operation of law if she holds onto the property until her death, but capital gains taxes are due on them if she sells it and doesn’t reinvest it in investment real estate under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code), in addition to the fact that no other property in the world offers the same level of comity for local government regulators for the landlord, giving this parcel special value to her. Her heirs may be more ambitious and have bigger plans for the place, but right now, that is not her priority.

  14. Mark B says:

    Lakeside is just another American community that has no sense of its history, and no ability to learn from it. A Walmart on this site will ultimately suffer the fate of what was built on this same site 55 or so years ago: the Lakeside Shopping Center. It was the third major suburban shopping center built in the Denver area, the first two being Cherry Creek (yes, not in a suburb technically, but not downtown) and University Hills. It was anchored by the Denver Dry Goods and Montgomery Ward, and was home to about 50 or so smaller stores. In the 1970s it was enclosed, and a Target built as a third anchor.

    This is RECENT history. Is there no one alive in Lakeside that can see how unsustainable (and ultimately temporary) this land use will be? Walmart has one advantage over the Lakeside Mall in that a mall is dependent on easy freeway access, and this site’s access from I-70 is actually rather poor and inconvenient–while Walmart can just pull traffic from surrounding surface streets.

    As for the comment that it’s relying on people living west of Sheridan–yes and no. I live in West Highland, and I see plenty of Walmart bags in dumpsters (which I have to open when I’m walking my dog, for the usual reason) in the area west of Lowell and a block or two on either side of 32nd.

    • ohwilleke says:

      Lakeside is not just another American Community. It is almost unique.

      No other community in America has the same sense of its history. The owner of all the property in the city has seen history first hand for longer than 95%+ plus of the population has been alive, and has owned the property or had a family member who owned the property for a very long time.

      When you’ve been getting Social Security checks longer than most people manage to stay married, sustainability isn’t a priority, and making land use decisions that are merely temporary is a way of gracefully leaving the next generation with more freedom.

      • ohwilleke says:

        Also, just to be clear, I have never been a lawyer for the owner of the property in Lakeside. I was a lawyer in nearby Wheat Ridge for several years and became familiar with the situation in that capacity in the course of the kind of idle speculation about the future of the neighborhood that lawyers sometime engage in over lunch.

  15. Dave Barnes says:

    I don’t understand how Belmar is “good” and this Walmart is “bad”.
    I find Belmar to be sterile and artificial.
    Belmar is full of national chains and not so full of local “mom&pop” businesses.

    • Chad says:

      Belmar is “good” because it has a high density of uses. While Belmar may have been usurped by large number of national chains (and has recently gotten worse by selling out to Target, BestBuy and Nordstrom’s Rack) There are offices, restaurants entertainment options and residences sharing the site. The Walmart site will have Walmart. I can park my car at Belmar, go to the gym, stop at the bank, pick up a new pair of jeans and have a coffee, with out moving my car (better yet, i could take a bus there or I could live there and not commute at all). The Walmart site won’t have any of these other amenities. Furthermore, while Belmar may seem a bit sterile, I have to say it looks a lot nicer than the average Walmart and is more inviting to visit. Given the choice would you:
      A. Walk down the main street of Belmar. or
      B. Walk up and down the parking lot at a Walmart?
      I would guess that your answer would likely be A.

      One more item. The reason Belmar is “not so full of mom&pop businesses” is that the rents necessary to pay for all the new construction are too high for them. If you’ve noticed where mom&pop stores are located in Denver, they’re usually in 50+ year old buildings. These buildings paid for themselves long ago and now the rents only need to cover maintenance and are therefore much lower. Only after 20 years or so when Belmar comes of age will the mom&pops be able to afford to successfully operate there. That of course will remain to be seen, but it has a much better chance of happening than say on the Walmart site.

      • Dave Barnes says:

        You have mentioned MY biggest problem with these PLANNED environments. No “class D” space. You want a pizza joint? Then you need some cheap space.

        Another problem, for me, with the Belmars is that the entire space will move in lockstep down from class A. That is why I prefer South Pearl, Tennyson, Kearney, etc.

        This entire discussion will be moot in 21 years as Walmart will have deserted Lakeside after 20 years.

      • Mark B says:

        Belmar is seven years old. It may seem sterile now, because one developer has controlled its development, but Continuum Partners deserves credit for a generally high quality of design and the use of durable materials, and I expect the project to age well. They’ve made a few unfortunate decisions, and I’m sorry that the new Best Buy and Nordstrom Rack buildings feature a surface parking lot facing the intersection of Wadsworth and Alameda, but I applaud them for bringing those national chain retailers to the project.

        If the development has suffered over its young history, it’s because the two retail anchors aren’t quite enough to cause the whole to really develop momentum. I shop at that Whole Foods Market every week, but its location at the end of the development keeps me from wandering far. Dick’s, the vast sporting goods store with no evidence of having any employees other than cashiers, is never busy. The three new anchors will allow the retail part of this project to finally take off. Belmar is, by far, the best suburban infill development in our metro area (and it’s less than 15 minutes from downtown!).

        And while I support local every chance I get, very few people can get by shopping 100% at locally-owned businesses. The presence of these three at Belmar will allow the locally owned shops (and yes, Belmar has several) to benefit from the exposure of being located near these national stores.

        If you want examples of truly unsustainable development, look at Northfield (I-70 & Quebec), Southlands (E-470 & Smoky Hill), and Orchard Towne Center (144th & I-25). Now THOSE single-use places are sterile! And in 30 years they’ll be in the same place as Cinderella City, Villa Italia, University Hills Mall, Northglenn Mall, Lakeside Mall, and all of the other dead malls of Denver: in that great retail graveyard in the sky.

  16. in-dependence says:

    Here’s more of the story…from a slightly different viewpoint.

    http://www.zacharyurban.com/1/post/2011/01/what-does-it-cost-to-buy-a-wal-mart.html

  17. Nikki says:

    This site was the former home of a Target and Avanza grocery store.
    Will WalMart will make a huge difference in the demographics of the neighborhood?
    I’m generally not in favor of the WalMart, but just sayin’… Could there be an elitist undercurrent here?

    • Ken says:

      At least from my perspective I wouldn’t say an elitist undercurrent, just an urban undercurrent. I loathe a big box in a sea of asphalt at that location. It could be so much more, but still include Walmart.

  18. Dawn says:

    I appreciate this perspective and would ask Brent: what is your second objection to this development? I was told by the developer that they did consider a mixed-use project but the economy tanked and they couldn’t afford to do it. Since Stan Kroenke is also in the mix and is married to a Wal-mart heir, it seems like this was the plan they fell back on. It’s sad for all of us who live around the area. There are 4 Wal-marts within a few miles of us already – there simply isn’t the need for another.

  19. In the hood for 15 years says:

    This is a load of crap. I’m glad that Wal-Mart is going into that space. Better than looking at mountains of busted up concrete for years

    I’m just tired of people that don’t live in Lakeside bitching and complaining. It’s a done deal. The owner makes the decisions. Yes, she is the queen. She is the one that has decided to let the racetrack go fallow. She is the one that has decided to put trailers on the corner of 44th & Sheridan. The property belongs to HER. Not all these busy-bodies with no say-so.

    The last thing I would want to see is another “high-density” urban experience at this location. Lake Rhonda is pristine because there is a fence around it (also privately owned.) An urban waterfront development smells like shit to me. Want a lake? Walk across Sheridan.

    News flash: this location was a mall with two-levels for decades. Avanza, Target, Montgomery Wards, Food Court, GMC, Woolsworth, ect…..Yes, this site is a gem. I would rather see one main tenant that 40 smaller ones. Wal-Mart has every right to be there.

    All the whiners would peeing their pants if this was an IKEA store. Hypocritical.

  20. Elisa says:

    Brent,

    I totally agree with you…couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you for posting this.

  21. Terri says:

    I would like to mention that any developer, whether big corporate giant or not…better have some environmental concerns and awareness and not build into the racetrack area.
    There are foxes, coyotes, raccoons, you name it on top of feral cats that live in the property area.
    Enough is enough….any corporation or business should develop an eco friendly space with trees, also protecting what trees are there, watch out for wild life, do wildlife impact studies and work with wild life and local animal rescue folks to ensure no wild life is harmed or dislocated in the name of development. Do the right thing for once and think of the impacts on animals …..I have rescued over 250 cats and kittens and an occasional skunk on the race track for Rhoda, unpaid I must add, and to me, by developing this area, it can displace and impact a lot of animals. Whomever builds here, please consider the ever shrinking eco systems of animals including homeless cats, and work with people to help them…and plant many many trees….trees are the lungs of the earth!!!!! Please consider eco friendly building materials and donate to the local agencies and volunteers who help any animal or wild life in need. DO THE RIGHT THING!

  22. Stosh says:

    I have always thought Lakeside would make a great high density mixed use development as well. The amusement park is a historic piece of Denver and must remain in some capacity forever in my opinion. I feel it could seamlessly be incorporated into maintenance free condos with possibly a retirement community associated as well with ground floor retail. As far as I am concerned, a Wal-mart is fine if it is a means to the beginning of redevelopment and not a means to an end of this precious property. Lake views should be reserved for those who will appreciate them and not for the back side of a retail store but both are possible in tandem. A new city park incorporated with the amusement park would also be a good use. P.S. I have many wonderful childhood/adulthood memories at Lakeside and I hope for many more.