WHAT: Economic development update
WHERE: White Fence Farms
6263 W. Jewell Ave., Lakewood
WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 7
7:30 - 9 a.m.
There was a long stretch of years there where the shopping centers around Wadsworth Boulevard and West Jewell Avenue were looking “tired,” as Sue King, president of the South Lakewood Business Association remembers.
“We’re basically all small businesses in this area,” she said. “Some had been here for decades, but the corridor needed help. I think this whole area is a sleeping giant.”
That giant is now starting to wake up.
With the residential developments in the former home of the Green Gables Golf Course nearing completion, businesses are starting to reinvest in the area.
Arc Thrift Stores opened its third Lakewood location in the shopping center on the north side of Jewell, and an Arby’s that had been there for 40 years received a sizable upgrade. Construction workers can be seen every day building a new AutoZone, and on the east side of Wadsworth, a pretty noticeable plane sits in front of the future home of Hangar 101 bar, grill and bowling alley.
Which is all to the good, not only for business owners, but the city as well.
“From an economic development standpoint, a rising tide lifts all ships, so all this new business is a good sign,” said Robert Smith, Lakewood’s economic development manager. “Lakewood is a great market to invest in, and in the last two years or so, we’ve started to see a real renaissance in the southern part of the city.”
But some of the people who live nearby are leery of all the work, especially at Green Gables.
Dave Schaaf, who lives nearby and used to caddy at Green Gables said he had heard about the new homes planned for the area. “I’m worried about the traffic all these homes are going to bring to the area, and its difficult because Green Gables isn’t technically in Lakewood.”
Gables started 1920s when the 120 acres of countryside were purchased and turned into a golf club. Financial problems and a decrease in membership eventually led the club owners to sell the property to USL Denver Green Gables LLC in 2011 for $15 million.
Located in unincorporated Jefferson County, the new owners decided not to annex into Lakewood even though it is flanked by the city’s boundaries. Over the objections of many neighbors, Jefferson County approved a rezoning and development request in 2012.
“The annexation was never up to the city,” said King, who served on Lakewood’s city council until her term was up in 2013. “There are lots of reasons the owners didn’t want to annex into the city, and one might have been that Lakewood is more stringent in its rezoning process.”
Plans for the property include retail and restaurants, and residents have watched as 300 single family homes, built by CalAtlantic, have risen on the property. 300 multi-family units are also planned.
Some are concerned of the burdens all these new residents will place on Lakewood’s infrastructure, including roads and police, and Ward 3 candidate Michael Bieda has made the project a part of his campaign, calling it an example of “how not to accomplish sustainable development.”
Business people and residents who live in the area are taking a more wait and see approach as the project nears completion.
“I don’t think it will add that much congestion, but it’s early yet,” said Bruce Aaron, a Farmers Market Insurance agent with an office in the area. “I like all the newness we’re seeing, and the potential in the area.”
Long established businesses like White Fence Farm, which has been serving people for more than 40 years just a few miles east of the intersection are also excited about the possibilities.
“There could be a lot of new customers with the growth, and this could create an economic drive the area hasn’t had in a while,” said Whitney Carloss, general manager of the restaurant. “There may be an increase in traffic, but you have to take the bad with the good.”
To rise to the challenge of all the new business opportunities, King has been working to strengthen the South Lakewood Business Association, and is looking to get more neighborhood involvement in the work.
“As Green Gables continues to be built, we’ll be keeping an eye out to see what the affect is,” said Karen Harrison, Ward 5 councilwoman and member of the association. “Small businesses are an important part of Lakewood, and we’ll do whatever we can to support them.”
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