For the past year, Wheat Ridge has been working to brand, market and rejuvenate the West 38th Avenue corridor between Sheridan and Wadsworth Boulevard. Efforts are beginning to pay dividends for what the city considers its Main Street, as sales tax revenues have increased and new businesses have opened along the corridor, branded as Ridge at 38.
“About a year ago, we had community meetings and talked about what attracted people to the area and the corridor,” said Steve Art, economic development and urban renewal manager for Wheat Ridge. They combined Ridge from Wheat Ridge and the name of the street “to come up with the new moniker.” Asked if he hoped the Ridge at 38 would have the same kind of cachet as two Denver hotspots: the Tennyson Street corridor from West 38th Avenue to West 44th Avenue and the Highland Square stretch at West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, Art said he hopes the Ridge at 38 will have its own cachet. “We think it can have its own cachet. We can write Our own story of what we want 38th to be.” The change is not going to happen overnight.
“I’ve only been here a little over two years, but I’ve been told the very nice retail areas to our neighbors to the east, like in West Highland and Berkeley, evolved over a period of more than 20 years,” Art said. “It’s important for people to understand this is just a first step,” he said. However, early data on the transformation is promising, he said.
- Generating a 15.1 percent increase in sales tax since 2010 to $483,500 from $415,500.
- Obtaining a net increase of 35 businesses since 2011. New businesses include Right Coast Pizza, Colorado Plus Brew
- Pub, and Teller Street Gallery and Studios.
- Granting $400,000 in loans to eight property owners since 2008, creating $1.4 million in property improvements.
- Generating a $538,010 increase in the assessor’s estimated actual value for those eight properties since 2008.
- Making matching grants worth nearly $250,000 to 43 businesses located on Ridge at 38. That investment, coupled with owner investment and the Building Up Business Loan program, has leveraged more than $3 million in property improvements.
The strength of the West 38th corridor is also a weakness.
“One obvious strength is that West 38th Avenue is a very direct route from Golden east all the way to Denver,” which can often provide motorists a faster route to Coors Field and downtown than other higher-traffic-count corridors, such as Interstate 25 and Speer Boulevard.
On the other hand, the city does not want people to simply zoom past the 200 or so retailers and restaurants along the Ridge at 38.
The city hired entelechy, a Denver- based design, development and planning firm, to come up with a vision plan for the
Ridge at 38. “We would have liked to have just put down $16 million and completely redesign the corridor, but we don’t have that kind of money,” Art said.
Still, some simple improvements, including re-striping the corridor and new planters on the sidewalks, slowed traffic and
made the stretch more pedestrian friendly.
“We don’t want people just to speed by on their way to Denver,” Art said. “What we have found is that people from the West side who have never shopped before along the corridor are now stopping,” he said. “People are telling us that people are slowing down now, I think it is a total of 23 seconds, and they are finally starting to notice for the first time all of the businesses along 38th.”
He said there are a few key buildings that are vacated that the city would like to see re-occupied. In total, the Ridge at 38
has 592,731 square feet of buildings on 69.3 acres, according to an analysis by entelechy.
The corridor, however, is quite strong.
“Overall, we have a vacancy rate of a little over 11 percent,” Art said. “I wasn’t sure how to put that into perspective, so I did some research and found that some cities would love to have a 10 percent or 11 percent retail vacancy
rate,” he said.
Colorado Real Estate Journal