DENVER-State Rep. K. Jerry Frangas is strongly opposing Wal-Mart’s plan to build the state’s first Neighborhood Market at the site of the old Elitch amusement park in northwest Denver. Perry Affordable Housing, headed by Jonathan Rose and Chuck Perry, developed the site into a New Urbanism-styled, mixed-use community.

Many in the neighborhood, however, oppose the Neighborhood Market, which is Wal-Mart’s grocery-store-only concept. It took seven years to rezone the site, Frangas says. “The neighborhood made it very clear during the early part of the seven-year process of redeveloping the site that the neighborhood did not want a large grocery store at this site,” he says.

During the Denver City Council rezoning hearing, Perry indicated the plan would feature a village center and small shops; eliminate the need for large parking lots; and “never stated anything about including a development,” Frangas wrote in a three-page letter to his constituents obtained by GlobeSt.com.

In addition, Rose indicated the redevelopment would consist of small office and retail operations with housing or office space and the planning would match the retail nature of Tennyson Street, and not to have any large store or “large seas” of parking lots. The Neighborhood Market would have 40,000 sf at West 38th and Wolff Street. Architects and retail developers note that 40,000 sf actually is much smaller than most new grocery stores. “What could be more New Urbanism than having a grocery store you can walk to?” one retail developer posed to GlobeSt.com.

However, Frangas is not swayed. “This community did not want and I believe still does not want or need a large-box grocery store of 40,000 sf,” according to Frangas. “Chuck Perry and Jonathan Rose have to be honest with the community. If economics have changed and they now want a big-box grocery store, then be honest and up front and admit the change in plans. Do not lie to the community and say it was always part of the plan. Sorry Mr. Perry and Mr. Rose, but you have been caught with your hands in the cookie jar.”

Frangas says he does not believe the Neighborhood Market can be built without changing the PUD. If he is correct, it is unlikely the council would approve changing the PUD to accommodate Wal-Mart because the site is in city councilman’s Rick Garcia’s district, and Garcia is vehemently opposing the project.

Frangas also notes that he recently received a letter from Joseph L. Kefauver, director of state government relations for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which in part, says “at this time, we only have an option to buy a piece of property pending the outcome of internal research, information gathering, etc. At the conclusion of that process, we will make the decision whether or not to buy the property and pursue the project.”

Frangas notes people mistakenly think Wal-Mart already has purchased the land. “I do not believe that this is a done deal,” Frangas says. “I believe that North Denver must continue to work to persuade and enlighten the Denver bureaucracy, the Denver zoning department, the entire Denver City Council, and the mayor of Denver that our community did not support or want a big box grocery store in 1998 and that we still do not want one today.”

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