Englewood moves upwards, seeks to emerge out of Denver’s shadow


Veteran developer Peter Kudla knew downtown Englewood well as a regular at the bingo nights that the Elks Lodge No. 2122 hosted. But for years the city remained a place he passed through but didn’t focus on. His investments centered on burgeoning communities elsewhere in the south metro area, places that weren’t landlocked, built out, and for a lack of a better word — tired.

As he searched for new opportunities, Kudla had an Englewood epiphany. Underused parking lots, strip malls and commercial sites were everywhere, offering a lower-cost way to acquire land. Downtown Denver and the Denver Tech Center, major employment hubs, could be reached in about 20 minutes. The city had a unique character that would appeal to younger generations. And it was due for a reinvention, something city officials wanted to see happen.

“This is a land of opportunity,” he remembers thinking as he began to view the city in a new light and focus his efforts there.

After completing an apartment building about five years ago just east of Craig Hospital, along with some smaller condo projects, Kudla currently has three for-sale projects in the works in what he calls Englewood’s “industrial district.”

His firm Metropolitan Residential Advisors plans to build a four-story building with 66 condos at an average price of $350,000 at 3690 S. Jason St., where the Elks hosted the bingo nights he went to. Nearby, another four-story building with 62 condos averaging a price of $400,000 is planned on the site of a defunct strip mall at the intersection of West Ithaca and South Galapago. And a block west of that, Kudla is looking to build Huron Street Townhomes, a collection of two dozen three-story townhomes with an average size of 1,700 square feet and an average price tag of $625,000.

Although there is a higher risk in building condos given the state’s history with construction defects litigation, Kudla said the right-to-cure process, which allows builders to fix problems, has become more sophisticated and insurers are more willing to take on projects. He also believes that the market needs more housing types that people can afford to buy. It needs condos, not just apartments.

Kudla has come up with a term for what he and other developers are doing in Englewood and other built-out areas — asphalt fielding or asphalting. If developing raw land is green fielding and taking large industrial parcels scraped bare, like the Gates Rubber site, is brown fielding, asphalting takes large parking lots, vacant strip malls and abandoned commercial sites and plants denser residences reaching upwards.

For a landlocked and built-out city like Englewood, making better use of parcels that have already been developed and adding density is about the only way to grow again.

After not approving any permit requests for condos and apartments in 2018 and 2020 and only 108 in 2019, the city greenlighted projects representing 479 units last year. It has approved another 231 units and has permits for another 912 condos and apartments under review.

Chart showing single family and apartment unit construction in Englewood
Click to enlarge

Between 1970 and 2017, the city added 4,523 apartments in projects with 50 or more units and currently has 1,781 under construction or proposed, according to Apartment Insights. If those get built, that would represent a 40% increase in the number of units in larger and denser developments.

Cary Bruteig, who tracks apartment development trends in the metro area closely at Apartment Insights, said Englewood offers a central location, old commercial sites ready for redevelopment, transportation corridors, including a light rail station, and large hospital employment base. It has development fees that are “very low” compared to other cities and a planning department that is more cooperative than most.

“I expect developers will continue to seek out redevelopment opportunities in the city for the above reasons,” he said.

In January 2020, the city and the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce rolled out the Downtown Matters Plan to create a more cohesive vision for Englewood’s core, which was disjointed and suffering from a rise in retail vacancies and other signs of decay. The plan focuses on three areas — South Broadway; the former Cinderella City mall site known as Englewood CityCenter, and the area around the Swedish Medical Center and Craig Hospital dubbed the “Medical District.”

“One of the key findings in the downtown planning efforts is that our two fastest growing populations are active older adults and millennials who are starting their families,” said Hilarie Portell, executive director at Englewood Downtown Development Authority.

Unlike Denver, which has seen major hospitals head out to Lakewood and Aurora, Englewood has retained Swedish and Craig by accommodating their expansions. They are critical employers in the city and important drivers of the initial phase of downtown Englewood’s redevelopment, especially along Old Hampden Avenue, where a host of large apartment and condo projects are springing up.

“In talking to the senior staff and executives at Craig and Swedish, one of their biggest concerns is finding quality housing that is close by and relatively affordable,” said Tim Walsh, CEO and founder of Confluence Companies in Golden. “A lot of the housing stock in Englewood, especially the apartment buildings, are older.”

Confluence purchased an acre lot that hosted the Johnson Adult Day Center at 3444 S. Emerson St. It plans to replace what was a one-story building with a 14-floor tower housing 240 apartments called The Emerson by fall 2023.

Walsh, a Golden resident, said he hadn’t spent much time in Englewood, but after scouting the Emerson location last summer, quickly realized the city’s potential, especially when it came to apartment densification in the suburbs, a trend he sees as necessary if the metro area is to cope with its housing shortfall.

“We always get pushback on higher density projects because people think they will increase traffic,” he said.

But the reality is that many residents of The Emerson will likely walk over to one of the two hospitals or other surrounding businesses that support them. Others will likely work at home, something the apartments are designed to accommodate, he said.

Being newer to the densification trend, Wolf said Englewood hasn’t caught up to Denver in some of its requirements. When Confluence built ZIA Apartments in the Sunnyside neighborhood in Denver, it had to provide 0.85 parking spaces for every resident. Even that proved too much. Englewood, perhaps hesitant to let go of the vestiges of car culture, is requiring 1.7 parking spots per unit, something Walsh hopes can be lowered to 1.2.

ENGLEWOOD, CO - JULY 14: A mural graces the south side of the Corona St. Lofts, a product of K2 Residential Solutions July 14, 2022. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

A mural graces the south side of the Corona St. Lofts, a product of K2 Residential Solutions, is pictured on July 14, 2022.

Denver’s little brother

Englewood’s founding, like Denver’s, was tied to the discovery of gold in 1858, along Little Dry Creek rather than Cherry Creek. The city’s founder plowed a road, Broadway, to connect the two cities. As was then common, home construction boomed after World War II with affordable homes built to accommodate returning soldiers and their families.

“We have maintained a level of independence that brings pride to the community,” said city manager Shawn Lewis. “That sense of history grounds the community. We aren’t a suburb. We were a city at the same time as Denver was a city. We are a little quirky, we are a little gritty.”


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