Littleton's planning board on Dec. 9 unanimously paved the way for a total overhaul of the 27-year-old King Soopers grocery store at Littleton Boulevard and Broadway.
"I think the concept of let's just start over is a good one," said board member Andrew Graham.
On Sept. 17, council unanimously approved a resolution to waive $500,000 in building permits and use taxes for the project, which is expected to start in January and take about a year if King Soopers' officials approve it. That means a loss of sales-tax revenue for the city that year, which Penny said averages about $250,000 a year for any grocery store.
The city will split any taxes the store generates above and beyond its average until the $500,000 is paid back or for six years, whichever comes first. The deal is the same one Englewood gave the store at Federal Boulevard and Belleview Avenue.
"If they do nothing, we're not losing anything in this proposal," said Penny.
Parent company Kroger intends to scrape the existing 74,000-square-foot building, which most recently has housed the grocery store, a church where the Walgreens used to be, a drive-through liquor store and an H&R Block. From the rubble will rise a brand-new King Soopers similar to the one at Federal Boulevard and Belleview Avenue.
It will include a drive-through pharmacy on the west side, two front entrances on the east, a resurfaced and realigned parking lot and a Starbucks kiosk inside. The current Starbucks in the outlying northern building will stay; that building and the southern one with the new Mattress Firm will remain but get moderate facelifts, according to Eric Chekal, senior project manager at Regency Centers, which owns the site.
Chekal acknowledges the project could be at least an inconvenience for the other, smaller tenants, which depend on King Soopers as an anchor to draw in their customers. He says Regency is working with them to help increase their visibility while the store is closed, which will be for about a year.
"It's a pain, but we like to look at the end product," he said. "And the quicker we get there, I think we'll all see it was worth the pain."
Some in the neighborhood are concerned, as well. Littleton's northeast neighborhood is home to many seniors and low-income families, many who depend on being able to walk to that store for food and other necessities.
"We're in a food desert for the next year," said Joycelynn Straight. She wondered if Kroger could do the work in stages to keep the store open during construction, or perhaps provide a shuttle from the site to a different King Soopers.
Other nearby stores with at least a limited supply of groceries include Walgreens and Kmart, both at Broadway and Belleview, and 7-11 at Broadway and Powers Avenue.The developers note that the $8 million project includes a number of improvements intended to make walking to the store easier, adding footpaths into the site from all directions and widening adjacent public sidewalks. And while there will be about 30 fewer parking spaces, the lanes will provide for two-way traffic instead of just one, as it is now. The plan also calls for parking for 27 bicycles and a pull-in lane for the Omnibus and Shopping Cart.
The planning board wasn't concerned about the parking issue, noting that the existing lot is rarely completely full, although prime spots aren't always available."It's just not always feasible or desirable to park all the way in the back 40," said board member Karina Elrod, adding she believes the new design will make the lot safer and more efficient.
The board and staff agreed that Kroger's investment in the site will likely inspire other rejuvenation in the area and hopefully recapture some revenue lost to Englewood when the Federal Store opened. The deal also guarantees King Soopers won't follow the path of several Safeway stores and Albertson's out of the city, as it includes a 34-year lease with options to renew every five years for 99 years.
"The new store will bring economic benefit to the city while providing an expanded line of grocery and pharmacy goods and services to the nearby residential neighborhoods and community," wrote principal planner Jan Dickinson in her staff report to the board.
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