A look back at Arvada in 2017

Posted 1/3/18

Hope House breaks ground Hope House of Colorado is metro-Denver’s only resource providing free self-sufficiency programs to teen moms, including residential, GED and college and career support …

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A look back at Arvada in 2017

Posted

Hope House breaks ground

Hope House of Colorado is metro-Denver’s only resource providing free self-sufficiency programs to teen moms, including residential, GED and college and career support services. Additional supportive services include parenting and life skills classes, healthy relationship classes, financial literacy workshops and certified counseling, all designed to prepare them for long-term independence.

The organization outgrew its resource center space in Westminster and is at capacity at its current rental space in Arvada. But thanks to community support and a partnership with HomeAid Colorado and Meritage Homes, Hope House broke ground on a new 15,000 square foot resource center in Arvada Jan. 28.

The new center is expected to triple the number of teen moms and children that can be assisted each year.

The new resource center is just Phase 1 of the project. An early learning center will be built during Phase 2 to provide quality childcare and early learning lessons to the children of the teen moms who are in class at Hope House.

Transit hub opens, but G Line delayed

On Feb. 2, the Transit Hub parking structure in Olde Town Arvada officially opened for public use.

While the primary catalyst to build the Olde Town Hub was the yet-to-be-opened G Line — part of RTD’s FasTracks system scheduled to open in 2017 — parking for Olde Town Arvada visitors and employees was also a motivating factor.

The total cost of the Olde Town Hub is approximately $36 million and was a project of the City of Arvada, with the collaboration of Trammell Crow Company, RNL Architects, and Kiewit Building Group. It includes 600 parking spaces: 200 for Olde Town visitors and employees and 400 for future G Line commuters. Until the G Line becomes operational, all 600 spots are open for Olde Town visitors. Four plazas connect Olde Town to the station and parking structure and a 36,000 square-foot festival deck was built in to accommodate community events on weekends.

The Hub also includes a bus transfer facility to connect passengers to the G Line; however, RTD bus services will not be moving from its current location and into the Hub until the G Line opens later this year.

At the close of 2017, the G Line is still not running.

The G Line is an 11.2-mile electric commuter rail transit line that will connect Denver Union Station to Wheat Ridge, passing through northwest Denver, Adams County and Arvada with eight stations: Denver Union Station, 41st/Fox, Pecos, Federal, Gold Strike, Olde Town Arvada, Arvada Ridge and Ward Road.

Construction on the G Line was completed a year ago, but it remains stuck in the testing phase with no opening date.

The timing gate technology is the root of the problem. Regulators say the crossing arms are staying down for 20 seconds too long when trains go by, possibly leading to drivers trying to sneak through the gates. A different technology is used to control the crossing arms along RTD’s light rail lines, which are unaffected by the testing delays.

On Dec. 26, administrative law judge Robert Garvey ruled that testing of the G-Line trains could resume immediately, despite concerns about the line’s gate-crossing technology. Because of that issue, attendants will still have to monitor the crossings, and trains will be required to blow their horns upon the approach to each crossing.

After a seven-day public notice, testing began Jan 2 at a slow pace before it ramps up to a frequency on par with full service — with trains running about 20 hours a day.

Officials hope for a 2018 opening.

Businesses rise and fall in Olde Town

The dynamic in Olde Town Arvada has continued to change throughout the year with short and long-term businesses closing their doors.

In February, Rolling Sands Yoga Boutique and Fitness store announced it’s closing citing a significant rent increase as the cause. The next month, Silvi’s Kitchen on Grandview Avenue closed.

In the six months prior to that, two other retailers have closed their doors in Olde Town: Arvada Bead Connections and Rocky Mountain Gems and Fine Jewelry.

Over the summer, Olde Town saw the closure of two staple eateries.

After 40 years of serving classic Mexican food, Ophelia’s — a family-owned and operated restaurant — closed its doors for good July 8. It began in February of 1977 with Gasper and Louise Vigil and the late Jesus and Ophelia Aguon. But Gasper Vigil said the time has come to close the family business because they couldn’t find quality employees.

A month later, The Eggshell closed after 30 years in Arvada also citing staffing woes as its demise.

After loosing key kitchen staff, finding good help in the kitchen became a challenge.

The eatery hired new cooks, but they couldn’t handle the speed to meet customer expectations or they didn’t show up when scheduled.

But those spaces didn’t stay vacant for long.

The former Eggshell, at 5699 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., will be replaced by Flying Pig Bacon Co.

Operated by Jamie Shotton, expanding from his Westrail Tap & Grill in Lakewood and the The Flying Pig Burger Co. in Littleton roots, the Flying Pig Bacon Co. is aiming for an early 2018 debut.

On the other end of Olde Wadsworth, Smokin’ Fins Grill opened Nov. 6 in the space left vacant by Silvi’s Kitchen on Grandview Avenue, which closed in March.

The seafood restaurant, with an eclectic menu of sushi, smoked meat and plated fish, mimics the fair and atmosphere of its other location in Littleton.

Also opening in Olde Town this year was The Cereal Box, a specialty cereal eatery aimed at giving youth a place to hang out while feeding the nostalgia of `80s and `90s kids.

The Cereal Box filled the vacancy left by the Rolling Sands Yoga storefront.

Next door, Scott Spears — owner of School House Kitchen and Scrumptious — took ownership of the old Ophelia’s building. Spears said he’s still working to develop a concept for the space, but he is 95 percent sure it will be a restaurant.

Spears also opened two retail shops in Olde Town Arvada this year: Sock. — a store selling specialty socks — and Super Zoom Bang Bang — a toy store.

Also joining Olde Town on Ralston Road was GB Fish and Chips in February.

Around the corner, Denver Beer Co. opened the doors to its Olde Town Arvada Taproom June 10 with an in-house airstream serving burgers.

The location at 5768 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., formerly the Craig Chevrolet Dealership, included a brewery, tap room and outdoor patio with a similar look and feel to Denver Beer Co.’s Platte Street tap room.

But the biggest player that joined Olde Town this year was the city’s first hotel, The Hilton Garden Inn.

The $22.6 million Hilton Garden Inn hotel is located at 5445 Olde Wadsworth Blvd., the former site of Mile High Vineyard Church, which has relocated to 5855 Wadsworth Bypass.

The plan to bring Arvada its first hotel began four years ago and got approval from city council in September 2015 with the help of the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority. Construction on the 139-room Hilton Garden Inn began in February 2016.

It opened for guests in March.

New elementary school opens

Three Creeks K-8 opened in North West Arvada with the start of the 2017-18 school year.

Construction of the $27 million Three Creeks Elementary started in May 2016 with the goal to take pressure off the two existing elementary schools in the area and address the growing population in Arvada’s new Candelas neighborhood.

The building is designed to hold 1,000 students at total build-out. Enrollment for the first school year is about 400 with students in kindergarten through sixth grades. Over the following two school years, seventh and eighth grades will be added.

Three Creeks will help alleviate severe overcrowding at West Woods Elementary and Meiklejohn Elementary, which have a combined 14 temporary classrooms between the two.

It is the first new school in Jefferson County in 10 years and the land was made available through a development agreement with the Candelas housing development project.

Urban Renewal sparks controversy throughout town

The process of Urban Renewal in Arvada has been questioned by citizens in Arvada more than ever this year.

A proposed six-story building with 256 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail shops that would rise from the ground next to the Gold Line station has been the cause of much of the controversy.

The controversy stems from the city’s decision to sell the 8.25-acre site, valued at $4.4 million, to developer Trammell Crow Co. for $30 and provide it with $13 million in tax incentives.

Arvada officials contend the project is a well-planned and long-term investment that will not only bring new life to the area, but also pour revenue far exceeding the land’s value into city coffers over the years. However, Arvada for all the People, which describes itself as a government watchdog organization, calls the transaction “a bribe” and worries about the development obstructing views and creating congestion.

Arvada for all the People, however, believes urban renewal authorities, in general, should not be dictating the type of development to be built or offering tax incentives.

The proposed development would be built in phases from 2018 to 2020 on the three parcels, bounded by Vance Street and Wadsworth Boulevard on the west and east, and between West 56th and Grandview avenues. A Regional Transportation District parking lot takes up about half of the site; a 35-foot hill rises from a large portion along Grandview Avenue.

The land is owned by three entities — RTD, City of Arvada and AURA — and was appraised in 2015 at $4.4 million. In December of that year, AURA signed a development and disposition agreement with Trammell Crow Co. to sell the land for $30. In return, the developer must build the high-density and retail project that the city wants. The Urban Renewal area expires in 2034 — 25 years from the 2009 approval of the Olde Town Station Urban Renewal Plan.

City officials say the $30 land exchange helps offset Trammell Crow’s investment of building a $13 million parking garage into the side of the hill, an AURA requirement that the authority knew would drive up cost for developers.

Arvada for All the People launched a petition effort in July, to hold a special election ballot, , saying the $30 land deal serves as a prime example of why additional controls on the city’s government is needed.

The proposal, titled Protect Arvada Taxpayers (PAT), would have made voter approval required for sales and/or property tax subsidies/incentives of over $2.5 million for private businesses and on city-owned land sales appraised over $1 million. The charter amendment would also make the elected city council the board of commissioners for the Arvada Urban Renewal Authority.

In the past two years citizen-initiated proposals reforming Urban Renewal Authorities have been approved by voters in Wheat Ridge and Littleton. The Arvada group said it hoped to follow in the same footsteps.

But the petition came to a halt when a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court struck down a Wheat Ridge voter-approved initiative similar to the one proposed in Arvada.

The Wheat Ridge initiative passed in 2015, known as Issue 300, also required voter approval for any project requesting a tax increment subsidy of $2.5 million or more.

Throughout the 2017 Arvada City Council race urban renewal was a hot topic for candidates — the “$30 land deal” at the center of the arguments.

Apex makes big changes, progress on projects

In May, Apex Parks and Recreation District broke ground on additions to the Apex Tennis Center, which includes four indoor courts and renovations of the eight outdoor tennis courts already located at 6430 Miller St. in Arvada.

The tennis center improvements are one of six projects approved by Apex Park and Recreation District voters in a May 2016 bond election. The passing of the $25 million bond will also help fund the replacement of the Secrest Center, construction of the Fitzmorris Site Center/Pool, Lutz Sports Complex improvements, renovation of the Apex Center and a splash pad addition, and Long Lake Ranch Regional Park improvements.

The outdoor tennis courts reopened this fall and the indoor building is expected to be completed by winter 2018.

The final stages of the Apex Simms Street Recreation Center were complete and open to the community in August.

The gym addition allows Apex to stop renting gym space from the school district.

In December, the PRD launched major updates to its website including a new registration platform and refreshed also appeared.

The new software allows the district to make a full schedule of activities available online and for participants to synchronize them to their calendar. It also provides pre-registration for drop-in classes and an improved web portal with a search function.

The online improvements are part of annual capital maintenance around the district.

Arvada Marketplace reopens

Pine Tree, a retail-focused commercial real estate development company with bases in Chicago and Dallas, bought Arvada Marketplace in August 2015 and has been working to spruce it up and investing more than $10 million in these new property enhancements.

Major retailers in the west shops include Sam’s Club, Youfit Health Clubs and HuHot Mongolian Grill. Sports Authority was an anchor on this side of the shopping center, but that space became vacant when the sports stores closed nationwide last year.

The westernmost shopping area has seen the most dramatic improvement, with the former building having been split into several sections to feature new restaurant tenants, outdoor seating, and a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

Additions to the new west shops space include Newk’s Eatery, Menchies Frozen Yogurt, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill, Yellowbelly Natural Chicken and and First Watch Daytime Cafe — all of which are now open for business.

In addition to the center’s new eats, updated pylon signage, outdoor seating areas, sidewalks, and other improvements, the vacant former Sports Authority space has been repurposed to welcome two major national retailers: Michaels and Ulta Beauty.

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