Citizen Minutes – Council Study Session 2.9.2016 – Mineral Light Rail Station Plan, Streetscape Plan, and Ensor Property Update

City Council Study Session                                                               9 February 2016                                Citizen Minutes

Bill Hopping was absent.

Three topics were on the agenda –

Mineral Area Station Master Plan

Streetscape Plan for Littleton Blvd/Main Street

Ensor Update

Bruce Beckman said this would be a brain storming session with the Planning Board.   He hopes to get some consensus in expectations and staff will come back with ideas. Are there things we can do as a city that represents a philosophy of certain things we want? The city doesn’t have the money to make development happen – it is the private developers that have the money and if we can show them that we are willing to do certain things – don’t talk about what we don’t want but what we do want.

Jocelyn Mills, Community Development Director, introduced Brad Segal from Progressive Urban Management Assoc (PUMA). They are planners and economists that started in Denver in the 1980s. JJ Fulton is the program manager and has spent 20 years as an urban designer and transportation planner. They are a small firm – only 8 people and they are very involved with their plans. They are seasoned experts in Transit Oriented Development (TOD) (high density around light rail stations) and downtown plans. They will manage an inclusive community outreach. They will craft public/private partnerships – it is imperative that any new development will require a partnership between landowners and business owners. (Public private partnerships means tax dollars used to pay for private development – incentives and urban renewal are two examples.) They work with several partners – DIG Studio for urban design, Starboard Realty for finance strategies, Felsburg Hold for multi modal transportation, Place Matters for community outreach, and Stream Design for storm drainage and river’s edge.

They use a market-based approach – they take time to understand the market and the community’s aspirations. This will drive their solutions for design, park, transportation, land use regulations, zoning, infrastructure, and finance.

Here’ what they have learned in three weeks.

The study area includes Aspen Grove, Ensor property, Littleton Large Animal Hospital and the apartments west of Aspen Grove. They have met with HOAs and will go beyond that. This will be a 7 to 8 month process. Their market assessment will be completed by the end of March. The land use concepts will be completed in April. They will meet with the Ensors and the development team out of Austin (Endeavor that wants to build Sam’s Club and WalMart on the property), and DDR (management team for Aspen Grove). They will also hold neighborhood meetings.

By early spring or beginning of the summer they will refine the plan and have a preliminary land use determined, multi modal circulation, an urban design, and street and site plan.

In the summer they will draft the final plan and have it ready for adoption in August. They have already had 10 one-hour interviews. Here’s what they learned.

  • Circulation is very important – pedestrians and bike access to the river and open space
  • Pedestrian connection to Aspen Grove should be enhanced
  • No big boxes
  • Additional park must be provided
  • Neighborhood services and housing are desired
  • Traffic is a concern – Mineral and Santa Fe
  • Views west from Jackass Hill are important

Questions for discussion tonight are:

What are your expectations of this planning process?

What do you want us to closely explore?

What specific qualities of the area are important to you? (ditch, trail, Aspen Grove, connections, land uses)

Curt Samuels (Planning Board) said mobility from the north end to the south end – crossing Mineral.

R.C. Myles (Planning Board) concerned about big boxes – everyone’s interest needed to be coordinated

Brian Corbett (Planning Board) – Interested in the economic and market study

Lynne (Planning Board) asked if there were any primary elements needed for a successful station

JJ – in response to Lynne’s question – mentioned dry cleaners, coffee shop, restaurant, market – retailers that provide a service so those riding light rail would not need to use a car to get things done.

Brad said the challenge is the Mineral station is the end of the line – that makes it different. How do we balance the end of the line with a sense of community with the land there and the connections? There is no clear path for people who live there to ride and bike. How do you balance that with the desire to have it reflect more what Littleton is?

Peggy Cole, councilmember, concerned about no existing connections. Wants what the community wants – wants to preserve what people love about Littleton.

Phil Cernanec, councilmember, mentioned the opportunities and challenges that come with the intersection of C470 and Santa Fe Drive, the park along the west side of Santa Fe. The connections across Santa Fe have not been done well. How do we build on the existing connections? No sense of neighborhood. Mineral is not intended to be the end of the line. How do we build connections with the SE line? Have an opportunity to manage expectations. Structured parking will come out of it but it is expensive.

Doug Clark, councilmember, wanted to know what the vision and the end product were going to be?

Brad said a land use strategy and how the city can influence the land use. This is intensely important to Littleton – a gateway to the community.

Clark said it sounds like a Complan and he would expect the Planning Board to do it as required by law. If Ensor does come up for a rezone we need a Complan to justify a decision for a rezone. What happens north of Mineral is very different than south of Mineral. Structured parking on the north side – if RTD wants to put it in then more power to them. North side is limited and specific and the south side is wide open but big boxes don’t thrive on light rail. Aspen Grove is not happy with light rail.

Jerry Valdes, councilmember, said the parking lot has always been a sore spot – it is ugly. It is a commuter parking lot primarily used for people that do not live in Littleton. Economy is the piece of the puzzle for him. He wants limited access to the park to protect the feel of the park – more access can endanger the park.

Debbie Brinkman, councilmember, said it is the end of the light rail line and the SW corner of Littleton. The challenge is development is happening outside of Littleton – Sterling Ranch. There’s a lot happening along County Line. That’s a huge economy and the sales tax is substantial. Less than 20% of Littleton residents use Aspen Grove and light rail. We can’t make it with Littleton alone. The largest users will be outside of our community.

Andrew Graham, Planning Board, is excited about the public/private partnerships. He is not a fan of development for development’s sake – we can wait for great. He asked the consultants to take the words in the Complan seriously – each word was scrutinized. He does not want suburbia or junk and will rebel against any notion of that. Economic Development means that someone else’s dollars come to our community. He wants transit to be noticeable. He asked what they should expect in April – what’s their role (planning board’s). Do we take the plan to market – do we rezone? What’s typically done so it is actionable?

Brad said they had flexibility as to the end product. He doesn’t believe that it can’t be part of the Complan. The existing entitlements (zoning) go back 30 years – his hope that at a minimum they can update that vision and reality. They will do a concerted outreach with that community – Debbie Brinkman will guide us.   This is aspirations versus market reality.

Bolt (Planning Board) agreed with Andrew on suburbia. Hopefully more bikes than cars but safety for both bikers and pedestrians is a concern – he would like to see ways for them to be used without encountering a lot of cars. Preserve the open space.

Mark Rudniki (Planning Board) does not want to see much penetration around the river at Santa Fe and Mineral. On the north a two-story parking garage facing the river and have residences step up. Ensor is the opportunity to become the economic driver for the next 20 years. If you build according to the zoning it will be “ho hum” but it can be an incredible multi use development that would make the streets of Southglenn look like a strip mall. It will take rezoning, incentives, a vision and most of all guts. Littleton hasn’t had the guts to do anything with this property for 20 years. We have 2 ULI (Urban Land Institute) studies – they are collecting dust – no one looks at them. The danger is what is going to happen to this study?

Karina Elrod (Planning Board) what is the job to be done with Ensor site to guide the rest of the community outreach? Most users of this area are outside of Littleton and should they be asked? What do they want us to bring in? Land use strategy implies current zoning will not restrict you.

Streetscape – Planning Board was excused from this discussio

Jocelyn Mills reported that Civitas had been hired but she suggested a more integrated approach knowing that the Mineral Area was being studied.  Charlier Assoc. is being considered for the work. The key elements for the work on an accessibility and circulation plan are:

  • Inspiring vision – they will foster a citizen process – there are pretty specific values in Littleton
  • Innovation – this is important in rapidly changing times. They will use innovative techniques to show people what something will look like with images
  • Transparency – work hard to be clear about the outcomes and how we measure it. Want to create accountability.
  • Area of Study – ACC on the south, Santa Fe on the west, City Hall on the north and Littleton Blvd to Broadway.

There will be a vision workshop – first day will be a discovery walk and meetings

2nd day will be technical fieldwork, meetings and visioning workshop.

Step 3 – Parking audit and workshop – Inventory update and Utilization Study

Step 4 – Downtown access and circulation plan. Multi modal networks, with pedestrians first, and then bicycles, transit, traffic. A transportation data book will emerge.

Prioritized Action Plan.

This is not about changing character of downtown but keeping the sidewalks in good repair, pedestrian crossings in good repair etc.

Step 5 – Downtown streetscape – space allocation and alternative design concepts

Prototype blocks – a lot about downtown is just right

Step 6 – Littleton Blvd – street will be evaluated and a conceptual design report generated

Entire schedule is 7 months.

Beckman said this was hard to grasp – looking so far into the future. Littleton Blvd used to be vibrant – a business zone and he wanted to bring back that vibrancy and not leave it to chance. Private investment follows public investment. He did see less use of the automobile in the future but not for a long time. (Beckman is right – Littleton Blvd used to be very busy – then the courts moved out east and so did the attorneys etc. I worked at a restaurant during that time and the departure of the courts was devastating to business.

Cernanec said that the downtown area is much different during the weekend than during the week and for their parking study analysis to be done twice might consider something other than Thursday and Friday. He said there needed to be a connection from downtown to the river.

Cole did not think the faculty or students from ACC would be lurable to participate in the workshops.

Brinkman asked why Nevada is closed from downtown.

Clark said a large portion of the work is being duplicated. We have a 2011 Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan – why reinvent the wheel? Planning Board, after a very long time, came up with downtown neighborhood plans. He said the reason why the downtown looks the way it does is because they brought in Robert Gibbs in 1995 – he wrote a book about What Main Street Can Learn From the Mall. You can ruin a city by doing something pretty or turning them into pedestrian malls. Littleton Blvd was the only way to cross the river 25 to 30 years ago. Then Mineral was built and moved some of the traffic away from Ltn Blvd.

Downtown and Ltn Blvd are very different. We spent millions in the 90s for medians and wide sidewalks. He was concerned about the plan and replicating data we have already paid for.

Charlier Assoc. agreed with a lot of what Clark said. Agreed that malling a street for downtown would not be a good idea. Twenty years is forever in downtowns and commercial arterials. Need to continue to invest – not change just to change. He thought Littleton Blvd medians were good

Valdes asked what a multi modal map is. Charlier Assoc. said transit is changing rapidly, talked about people needing to be able to get to downtown from the South Platte Park bike trail. Once Charlier Assoc. maps out the different types of transportation (peds, bikes, autos) then they can see the deficiencies and what is in greatest need.

Valdes said the Civitas plan was scrapped and asked why this plan did not go back out for a bid. Michael Penny, city manager, said a bid process was not necessary for services. Valdes told Penny he thought Penny was trying to game it. You told this company we have $200,000 so bring us a plan to fit the budget rather than go out for bid. It should not have been a sole source contract. Cole agreed with Valdes.

Brinkman said she did not feel like it was a sole source. We had a list of requirements and what we hoped to get. Did extensive interviews. A lot of this is specialized. If we sent it back out we would have gotten the same thing. If you are concerned about the $200,000 we can scale it back but she felt comfortable moving forward. Stuff sticks around because we don’t act on things – this would be another no action again. It is not a sole source but a collaboration of experts.

Beckman said the contract would go to council for a vote

Cole asked for copies of both presentations that had been given up to that point

Ensor Property Update

City manager provided an update on Ensor. The Endeavor contract will expire on March 1 – there is some interest by the Ensors to engage in a conversation with the city to discuss different ways they can partner. One way, have a design competition – architects and/or design firms or development companies create a vision in line with council’s resolution on incentives for that property. Endeavor will not move forward so we all can relax. We need to talk about what we want and not what we don’t want.

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