BY PETER JONES
Once bitten, twice shy.
When it comes to changing the rules to allow higher-density development in Greenwood Village, Dave Kerber is a skeptic by way of experience.
“We actually looked at a proposal much like this in 2009 and voted it down 8 to nothing,” said Kerber, who served on the City Council for eight years, representing in part what has now been deemed the Orchard Station Subarea.
The longtime south-metro resident is a veteran of wars to keep the “Village” in Greenwood. The erstwhile farming community has seen enormous change since its founding in the 1860s—from the introduction of the Denver Tech Center a century later to the larger-lot housing developments that deposed the onetime farms.
Even so, the Village has strived to maintain a quasi-rural feel, even as it abuts Colorado’s capital and is anchored by the strongest business-driven corridor in the state.
“We came to live in Greenwood Village for a reason,” Kerber said. “There were many people who came to metro Denver and they chose this area where I don’t have to lock my door.”
The proposal for Orchard Station Subarea is déjà vu all over again for former Greenwood Village City Councilmember Dave Kerber.Photo by Peter Jones
Kerber took the lead on the Save Our Village Issue Committee when he started hearing what he believes to be the naïve arguments supporting higher-density mixed use.
“A ‘yes’ vote on Question 1 would make small revisions to the city’s Comp Plan to attract redevelopment proposals for the badly outdated and underperforming Orchard Station commercial area,” an advertisement from Yes for Greenwood Village states.
When Kerber thumbs through those arguments and documents pertaining to Alberta Development Partners’ idea for a 43-acre mixed-use development along I-25 between Orchard Road and the Landmark development, he gets nostalgic—but not in a good way.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” he said, recalling a council vote he now questions—the one that permitted the mixed-use Landmark.
He winces when Alberta Principal Don Provost promises that his buildings would be no taller than those at the popular—though historically controversial—Landmark.
“Exactly!” Kerber said. “The Landmark is too tall. You should come to my house sometime. It’s like the alien ship from Independence Day.”
In retrospect, Kerber says his vote to OK the Landmark proposal was based on misleading simulations presented by notorious developer Zack Davidson. He also draws a comparison to what some say have been the false promises of the Village Center near Fiddler’s Green.
“It’s the reality of perception,” the former councilmember said, noting what he now considers the superficiality of city council presentations. “What Provost is saying—it’s the same stuff with the Village Center, the same studies, the same pictures of how unique it’s going to be. It’s click, click, click. Nobody goes back and looks at this stuff.”
When it comes to the current council-referred question on the June 6 ballot that would allow larger-scale developments, as advocated by Provost and about half of the current City Council, Kerber is most dubious about density and traffic.
Although Alberta withdrew its first application for the Subarea and promises less density in future proposals, Kerber says the original submission says a lot about the vision of those who he says want a piece of “downtown Denver” in the suburbs.
“It’s like putting two Park Meadows malls on top of each other or eight IKEAs,” he said. “You take three million square feet of development on a 24-acre parcel. This is just massive.”
Kerber doubts Alberta could create such a behemoth while following a dictate to improve traffic. He considers a city-endorsed traffic study too narrow because it did not consider the impact on I-25 or such study-area-bordering intersections as Orchard Road and Yosemite Street. He fears the City Council would eventually expand Orchard to four lanes as a solution.
“You’d have a freeway running right through our neighborhoods,” he said.
Kerber is further skeptical about the sustainability of Provost’s plan to incorporate high-end residential rental units, along with the promised for-sale properties.
“Who’s going to pay $4,000 a month in rent for 1,100 square feet? What’s going to happen is the same thing he did at Southglenn. They’re still rentals,” he said.
As for the charge that critics of the Subarea proposal are unrealistic and afraid of change, Kerber says he considers new urbanism a dying fad.
“We’re against this dense development that’s inconsistent with how Greenwood Village has developed all along, which is a balance,” he said. “What we want is a suburban open-space office area that’s consistent with how the people live. What they want is a transit-oriented development with all these people smashed in there.”
Signs opposing the question have been seen throughout Greenwood Village.Photo by Bob Sweeney
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