Cherry Creek: Our Next Phase of Life
My husband Bruce and I purchased our property on Monroe after downsizing about 8 years ago. We’d always wanted to retire to Cherry Creek. My kids, now in their 20’s, were born in Denver and we lived in Hilltop; they went to Temple Emmanuel preschool, and we spent a lot of time in Cherry Creek. We moved to Boulder for work, but we always
knew that we’d return after the kids went to college. When we found our home, we carefully looked at the Cherry Creek Area Plan and the zoning behind our house. We felt that buying here was making a good investment – our biggest investment – in this property. Together, my husband and I updated the property, putting our hearts, time and money into it to make it our dream home.
The November Meeting: Neighbors in Shock
Last November, we went into the developers’ presentation about the redevelopment of the “town center” area behind our home with excitement. We hoped that redevelopment of the “town center” area would increase both our quality of life and property values. But like others, we were stunned by the content of the meeting. The developers hadn’t gone to adjacent neighbors to gather input or discuss their plans before this meeting - which is the first step recommended by the Denver Planning Board for developers of any property. Like others in the room, we felt blindsided by the 5-story proposal and what felt like an ultimatum – no 5-stories, no town center.
We didn’t speak up during the meeting, though later we heard that those who did were referred to our city council representative Chris Hinds as a “few loud dissenters” – so we felt our point of view, which was strongly represented in that meeting, was misrepresented, labeled and marginalized.
We left the meeting realizing that if the proposal were to go through, we’d lose both the quality of life we’d invested in and our property values. We walked home with neighbors who were equally shocked, and realized we had a common feeling of needing to defend ourselves.
How Would You Feel?
At this point, I’d like you, who don’t live adjacent to Madison and Bayaud, to imagine how we felt knowing that:
A 70-75 foot wall might be built behind our properties, removing most of the sunlight from the rooms we spend most of our time in; for many of us, our family rooms – for many in LeJardin, their front yards as well
And that hundreds of additional cars as well as commercial and city vehicles would be added to our alleys and streets – resulting in significant additional noise, traffic, congestion and pollution
I would ask you, what would you do and how would you feel? If you’ve fought your own rezoning battles, I’d ask you to think back on those moments, where you felt your property or neighborhood was in jeopardy.
Organizing a Defense
Our first step was to talk to other adjacent neighbors, and because of their support and interest, we started to organize. Word spread quickly and now we have neighbors throughout CCE who oppose the rezoning. Their motivations are driven by the rampant development our neighborhood – we have more zoning requests in our little 2 square mile neighborhood than any other neighborhood in Denver.
In January, one of our members met with the developers and their architect, who confirmed that they weren’t open to compromising on the five-story requirement. They also stated that they’d proceed with their rezoning request with or without neighborhood consent. So – how was that supposed to make us feel or act? We were compelled to continue our efforts – not efforts that we relish but instead efforts that are engendered by the need to defend.
Today, We Agree on Three is a united group of over 100 concerned neighbors and who represent a large portion of the CCEA membership. We have a Steering Committee, which makes overall decisions, and about 40 volunteers that have agreed to take on tasks according to their interests and skill sets.
Some of us are adjacent neighbors, but many are not. For those on Monroe within 200 feet of the proposed development, there are 44 properties with an estimated current market value of just over $32M. This number is even larger when the Madison and Monroe properties that share the alleys are included.
At What Cost Five Stories?
As we move forward, I would hope that we all look to our better angels to treat each other with empathy and respect. I understand there are members on the board who have been planning for a town center for many years. It’s in the Cherry Creek Plan and it’s been a point of discussion at least since I moved here 8 years ago. I understand that developers have businesses to run and that they want to make a profit with these endeavors.
But what cost are we willing to bear under the constraints of the 5-story ultimatum? Are you ok with a high-rise abutting residential property? Would you be ok with removing most of the light from 40-60 homes and yards of your neighbors? Would you be ok with 300 cars added to their alleys and everyone’s streets? How about
neighbors losing their property values? How about neighbors feeling compelled to move? How much are you willing to sacrifice because you want a coffee shop or an ice cream parlor or any type of retail that really can’t be guaranteed? Especially when we live within a mile of 63 restaurants and bars and 14 coffee shops – and possibly even more being added a few blocks away with the Broe project a few blocks away, where 300 new apartments and ground floor retail will be added?
It seems that there must be a better solution, one worth waiting for, particularly in this
economic climate, when we shouldn’t be under any urgency or pressure to make a permanent change that will affect so many and so much, and when all the neighborhood gets from the deal is more density and perhaps a few stores that may or may not be realized. Particularly when there are currently 56,000 square feet of empty retail space in Cherry Creek North – even before the pandemic.
I also pose this question. Has anyone considered an alternative like creating a legacy project – something truly beautiful and long-lasting – that both the developers and the community would be proud of putting their names on for generations to come? An alternative that would allow the developers to balance their financial incentives and constraints with a project that benefits all? I have worked with several prominent Denver families on legacy projects, and they benefit the community, the organization they represent and their family name, in perpetuity.
To the Board – Which the Developers Sit On
If no alternative exists, and if this proposal to rezone the properties moves forward, We Agree on Three will also move forward to ensure that our voices are heard. As homeowners and members of Cherry Creek East Association, we also ask to be fairly represented. We ask the entire Board – including the two developers that sit on it - that they see us less as opponents and more as people with lives – and our properties less of a necessary sacrifice and more as our homes - lives and homes that they will permanently affect.