Just when the path seemed clear for a controversial redevelopment project — including a Walmart Neighborhood Market — to begin construction in the heart of Wheat Ridge, the world’s biggest retailer announced that it was pulling out of the …
Just when the path seemed clear for a controversial redevelopment project — including a Walmart Neighborhood Market — to begin construction in the heart of Wheat Ridge, the world’s biggest retailer announced that it was pulling out of the project.
The project, on the southwest corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and West 38th Avenue, was approved by the city council a year ago as 80,000 square feet of retail — including the Walmart Neighborhood Market grocery store anchor tenant — and 37 townhomes.
On July 7, the project developers Quadrant Properties, LLC, informed the city of Wal-Mart’s change of plans.
“First reaction, I was pleasantly surprised,” District 1 City Councilwoman Monica Duran said of the news. “We always felt we could do something better at that corner.”
Duran had been among community members that had campaigned against the project, specifically the Wal-Mart and the $6.2 million in tax increment funding that the city granted to Quadrant to help finalize the deal.
That opposition included a citizen’s ballot initiative in November 2015. The initiative — Ballot Question 300 — was successful, and requires larger redevelopment incentive deals like Quadrant received to require a vote of the people. Quadrant filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging whether Question 300 could be retroactively applied to its project. On June 15, a judge in Jefferson County District Court ruled that no, Question 300 could not legally apply retroactively to the Quadrant development deal, which was approved more than four months earlier.
In a released statement, Wal-Mart said the decision to pull out of the development was part of its “ongoing evaluation process of real estate projects.”
“In alignment with our long-term strategic goals, we made a business decision not to pursue plans to build the store,” Josh Phair, Walmart Public Affairs Director said. “However our commitment to our Wheat Ridge customers has not changed and we look forward to working with the City to identify other appropriate sites.”
Following the lawsuit, and news of Wal-Mart pulling out, City Manager Patrick Goff said Wheat Ridge’s relationship with Quadrant was fine. The developer would continue with the project, but in a different form.
“There’s really no other retail tenant that would make the project fiscally viable,” Goff said.
Quadrant’s option one would be to increase the amount of housing in the plan, specifically market rate high density residential.
Goff said Quadrant’s preliminary concept is a “liveable experience” area, with a mix of owned, and rented residential, commercial spots and park space. He said Quadrant did not yet have a timeline for how quickly the revised design could be reviewed or break ground.
“It really seems like Quadrant has listened to what the city wants at that corner,” Duran said.
One other Wheat Ridge project is still in limbo following the lawsuit ruling. A housing project at 38th and Upham that received some city redevelopment funding assistance might still be held up by Question 300 according to Goff.
Duran said that she was pleased with the Wal-Mart news, and that the lawsuit left Question 300 in place regarding future development deals.
“But whether you were pro 300 or against 300, let’s just start moving forward,” she said.