McWhinney faces tough questions about Baseline’s ‘social and economic heart’

As McWhinney Real Estate Services Inc. prepares to build Center Street — a neighborhood the company and Broomfield planners call the “social and economic heart” of the Baseline mega-development — the developer is facing a scrutiny from city leaders who seem a bit wary of a potential reduction in commercial space in favor of more homes.

Baseline is a 1,100-acre property in northeast Broomfield, located generally south of Baseline Road, west of I-25, and east of Sheridan Parkway. (Broomfield planning documents/Courtesy image)

Center Street, which will span approximately 63 acres in the middle of the 1,100-acre Baseline Project located south of Baseline Road, west of I-25 and east of Sheridan Parkway, has been envisioned as the urban commercial core of the development which could include offices, hotels, apartments, residences for the elderly, entertainment venues and restaurants.

While all of those uses are still on the table, McWhinney presented plans for Center Street during a concept review before Broomfield City Council recently, which were more residential-focused than previous iterations.

Developer representatives told city leaders that a host of factors including rising construction costs — which can drive up rents for retailers and make newly built storefronts less competitive — and the COVID pandemic -19 — which has devastated many brick-and-mortar retailers and diminished demand for certain types of office space — has created market conditions that require pivoting.

“We have to start somewhere, and we think that’s the responsible way to start,” McWhinney’s Baseline general manager Kyle Harris said during Tuesday’s hearing.

As constituted, “Center Street District is proposed to consist of approximately 215,000 square feet of commercial/retail space (including a main grocer), 620,000 square feet of office space (including a traditional office, a loft office and a doctor’s office), a 180-room hotel and 1,240 residential units (including 180 units for working adults),” Broomfield planning documents show.

It is unclear precisely how this distribution of uses differs from previous conceptual notions of Center Street, but the city and developer have acknowledged that commercial and retail space has been reduced in favor of housing.

Regardless of any change in strategy, McWhinney officials say they remain committed to creating a vibrant core for Baseline.

Yet planning staff and elected officials have concerns such as the overall density and intensity of development, potential negative fiscal impacts on Broomfield’s public coffers due to the abandonment of certain commercial elements, public land allocations and placement of unattractive surfaces. parking near the community footbridges.

The ability to raise funds in metropolitan districts to pay for future infrastructure projects could be negatively affected by the presence of more homes and fewer businesses, Broomfield officials said.

“It was not as strong as expected on the retail side and so there is an underlying financial concern,” Broomfield Economic Vitality Director Jeff Romine told elected officials on Tuesday.

Because plans for Center Street are still conceptual, Broomfield City Manager Jennifer Hoffman said it’s difficult to accurately estimate the specific impact in dollars and cents that a less centered neighborhood would have. trade could have for the city.

Councilor Heidi Henkel recalled that in the past, developers had promised city residents that the commercial aspects of the projects would follow the residential elements soon after. But once residential projects are approved, “there’s really no incentive for them to come back and help us grow the business,” she said.

Representatives from McWhinney are expected to be back before Broomfield leaders in August for additional preliminary reviews, and city council members have requested more data to better review changes to specific elements of the baseline design.

Few extant communities in the Boulder Valley or the North Denver metro area match the benchmark in terms of extent and diversity of development types.

At full construction, which could take decades, the community could boast over 17 million square feet of retail space and over 9,200 homes.

McWhinney is expected to submit site plans and subdivision plans for city approval in mid-2023, with construction slated for next year.

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