Taking Retail to the Streets

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Denver is the city of eye candy. Panoramic views of glorious mountain ranges, skies made bluer by the altitude, rugged architecture, a dramatic downtown skyline—all act as visual magnets to draw residents, tourists and businesses to Colorado’s capital city.

Southglenn Mall was an eyesore amid the eye candy. Built as a classic enclosed suburban mall in 1974, the once-thriving center disintegrated in the latter 1990s after Park Meadows Mall opened six miles away and caused a significant shift in south-metro shopping patterns.

And, yet, among the ruins was still the core value of premier real estate. Located at the intersection of two major arterials—Arapahoe and University—about five miles west of the bustling Denver Tech Center, Southglenn was a vision waiting to be realized. Chicago-based Walton Street Capital purchased the mall for $52 million in 1999, brought in joint-venture partner Alberta Development Partners, based in nearby Greenwood Village, Colo., in 2005, and a plan was hatched to create a destination befitting the city that surrounded it.

“Southglenn Mall was about as distressed a property as you would see in the U.S.,” said Don Provost, founding principal of Alberta Development. “But we had a compelling vision for what the property ultimately will become—a true mixed-use, multi-anchored destination.” Getting there has been nothing short of a major challenge. Existing anchors J.C. Penney and Dillard’s were acquired and then razed along with the mall’s interior. Remaining were a Sears’ box at one end and a Macy’s at the other—both remaining and each undergoing a major rehab.

Emerging from the rubble is The Streets at SouthGlenn, an open-air project that blends 202 luxury for-rent apartments with Class-A office space with entertainment and significant retail that includes Whole Foods Market and Barnes & Noble flagship stores, and a powerful junior-anchor lineup. Then there’s the eye candy.

“What we are creating is a great place, one that combines the sensory perception of hardscape, landscape, light fixtures, music, hanging baskets, architecture, storefronts, trees, banners—the entire project when woven together creates not a singular reaction, but a total experience,” said Provost. A city-block-long park called The Commons will feature a 30-ft.-high cast-stone European fountain that is temperature-controlled to work year-round, a dramatic raised-hearth outdoor fireplace, an intimate bistro-style coffeehouse fashioned after Tavern on the Green, and mature trees transplanted from other parts of the property and joined by other lush plant materials. Fifteen-ft.-high book sculptures will adorn the library lawn. A children’s area will feature authentic playground equipment, and an ice rink designed for public skating will fill the center of The Commons during the winter months.

Department store anchors Macy’s and Sears have remained open throughout the redevelopment, and Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Staples and Macy’s Furniture Gallery will open in fall 2008. The remainder of the project, including the office and residential components, will open in May 2009.

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