New apartments, a new Asian-fusion restaurant and a bistro-bar in the historic Oddfellows building are some of the changes coming to the 3400 block of South Broadway in Englewood.
BY PETER JONES
“This whole area is exploding.”
So said a local business owner during a recent walk down the burgeoning 3400 block of South Broadway in Englewood. With the additions of a brew pub, a destination bar and soon-to-come “hip” restaurants and the urban-centered Acoma Lofts apartments, many agree that this stretch of historic downtown Englewood is on the brink of something cool.
And who’s at the center of it? Hint: They are well under 40 and never heard of a bread box.
“What do we know about millennials? They love the old being new again,” City Manager Eric Keck told a roomful of younger and older business leaders in the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce. “… They’re driving the nightlife, the energy that they want to see [on Broadway]. I think the market’s going to catch up.”
According to research by Denver’s Progressive Urban Management Associates, Englewood is prime homeland for the budding generation that will constitute half the workforce by 2020. With its walkable mixed-use neighborhoods, light rail and older housing, the city abutting southwest Denver is considered well poised to attract lifestyle-centered young adults.
As new apartments start to replace the parking lot behind Brews on Broadway and Englewood Grand, Keck says the Englewood millennials he has met know what they want.
Englewood City Manager Eric Keck says the millennial generation is driving the nightlife and energy along South Broadway. He spoke March 8 at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce. Photos by Peter Jones
“One guy is a nuclear physicist. Another woman is a physician,” the city manager said. “They’re in their early 30s and they said, we chose to live here, we chose not to have a car. We love the fact that we can hit light rail—and these people have a lot of disposable income.”
Although 40-something Keck delivered his address last week in the Brookdale Meridian retirement community, his subject was largely focused on younger generations that have influenced this aging non-suburban suburb.
Englewood’s response to the cultural shift has been to facilitate an organic “old urban” alternative to the “new urbanism” proliferating elsewhere in suburban Arapahoe County.
“[We don’t want to] create some artificial Disneyesque type of environment,” Keck said. “We want to see where things are happening already and accentuate that. … We want to get behind the people who are already investing there.”
In recent years, the area in and around the now-refurbished and thriving Gothic Theater has seen a new distillery, refurbished bars and restaurants, a yoga studio, a large and unusual co-working space, an escape room, a renovated mini-bowling alley-music venue, and a disparate range of reinvigorated younger-skewing specialty stores.
Still to come to the 3400 block of Broadway: a millennial-owned Asian-fusion restaurant and a new bistro-bar in the historic Oddfellows lodge building, among other entries.
“We have an eclectic business community. We have individuals who don’t necessarily want to be associated with chains or franchises,” Keck said, noting the landlocked city will hire a “redevelopment manager” to focus specifically on repurposing existing properties.
The next step is expected late summer when the city plans to close a block or two of Broadway for a “signature” outdoor festival that would likely include live music, and food and beer sales.
“If people get upset [by the street closure], maybe they’ll park and decide to actually spend some money in Englewood, rather than drive through it,” Keck said.
Like anything, though, the city manager, notes a downside to the millennials’ influence on Englewood. The generation’s preferences are unlikely to grow the city’s already lackluster 44 percent home-ownership rate and may not do much for traditional retail either, something that could affect city revenues through decreased sales taxes.
“Brick and mortar stores are going away. They just are—because of the Amazon impact,” Keck said. “That has a huge impact on cities.”
The recent loss of the bankrupt Sports Authority headquarters has not helped matters, with the loss of 900 jobs and the associated spending at area restaurants and retailers. The addition of an indoor storage facility on the property has not been greeted warmly.
“We need employers, but we can’t control that. … Markets drive that,” Keck said.
Challenges and opportunities are clearly what makes Keck click. Since taking the reins in Englewood in 2014, his hands-on style—including his controversial, but successful, move to outsource fire protection—has caused both consternation and excitement.
The onetime farmer’s son from southwest Ohio likens his job to his former chores.
“I’d see nails sticking out of a fence and I’d bang those nails in,” he said. “So, every time I see something at the city that needs to be done, it’s like the nail that needs to be hammered in. We’re going to fix that.”
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