In 1966, Villa Italia Mall opened in Lakewood, Colorado as the largest indoor, air-conditioned shopping mall between Chicago and the West Coast. For 35 years, “Villa” was the social center of Lakewood, but despite remodeling efforts, Villa Italia was unable to resist changing social trends and increasing competition. In July 2001, the mall closed leaving a vacant property and negatively impacting Lakewood’s budget from loss of revenue. Concerned about the future of the site, the City of Lakewood initiated redevelopment discussions with the community and developers. Belmar was then proposed as a new, urban-style town center to anchor the community.
Previous use of the site included dry cleaners and automotive service shops. These operations left behind contaminated groundwater and soil. In addition, demolition work involved the removal of asbestos and hazardous materials from existing buildings. Environmental remediation would be time consuming and costly with the cleanup work costing an estimated $5 million. In order to redevelop the site into a mixed-use development, cleanup was necessary to ensure no human health hazards remained.
To address environmental cleanup, the Colorado Brownfields Partnership supplied the developer with a $1.95 million loan from the Colorado Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund. In addition, the federal government provided a $110,000 grant to the City ofLakewood. Additional funding for the project was collected for public improvements through bonds, tax increment financing (TIF), and public improvement fees (PIF).
The Belmar redevelopment was fully built out by 2013 with retail space (including restaurant and entertainment), office and hotel space, public space (parks and plazas), and 1,300 residential units of varying types, sizes, and price points. This project also impacted the community through job creation with 800 full time office employees and 4,000 one-time construction employees.
Belmar is also an example of successful community involvement and input in a large development project. Since the mid-90’s, several citizen’s advisory groups, neighborhood groups, and civic groups participated in the organization and process of the project. In addition, the City prioritized seeking the community’s input and keeping the community informed throughout the process.
This project won several awards including the Congress of New Urbanism Charter Award, Denver Regional Council of Governments Metro Vision Award, EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement, International Economic Development Council’s Public/Private Partnership Award, and the Urban Land Institute’s Award of Excellence.Belmar Case Study_FINAL