Walgreens developers try again

Development plan calls for deed-restricted affordable housing

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Real estate developers representing Walgreens are back with a plan they hope will win approval from the city of Steamboat Springs.

Eight months after the original plan received criticism from planning commissioners, Pedersen Development Co. of Denver has submitted a revised proposal for the site off U.S. Highway 40 in the Steamboat Crossings commercial center. Walgreens would be set back from the highway, opposite Ski Haus.

The plan is being held to a higher standard of approval because the proposed 14,820-square-foot Walgreens store crosses the threshold of the city's "big-box ordinance."

To meet that higher standard and satisfy a requirement that they provide substantial community benefit, the developers have proposed to build 15 or 16 affordable residential condominiums, elsewhere on the Steamboat Crossings site. The deed-restricted affordable-housing units would be part of a complex of 108 small condominiums south of the commercial buildings at Steamboat Crossings.

City planning staff has had a series of meetings with members of the development team since April. Pedersen represents St. Louis' THF Real Estate, which also owns nearby Central Park Plaza, which includes City Market and Wal-Mart. The principals in THF are Michael Staenberg and Stan Kroenke. Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche and the Pepsi Center in Denver.

"We've tried to steer them in the direction of a quality project," City Planner Jonathan Spence said. "I think it's an excellent location" for a community housing project. Spence pointed out that the Steam-boat Crossings Condominiums would be transit- and pedestrian-oriented, with the Yampa River Core Trail at the back of the site. The condos would be within walking distance of grocery shopping, and there is a preschool on the east side of the project.

The new plan also upgrades the architecture and building materials to include wood siding, timbered gables and extensive use of stone veneer.

The "revised pre-application" submitted by Pedersen is tentative, and no vote on its fate would be taken until it moves on to the next phase of city approval.

The Walgreens proposal is the first to test the city's big-box ordinance, which applies to commercial buildings greater than 12,000 square feet. In addition to the building that would house Walgreens, the commercial portion of the project would include three smaller retail buildings and an office building. They would be clustered on a site adjacent to Fish Creek on the north side of Pine Grove Road.

The residential condominiums would be built in 12 buildings, some with 12 units and others with six units. None of the condos would be larger than two bedrooms and a loft, comprising 1,439 square feet. Twenty-four would be one-bedroom units comprising 775 square feet.

The condos would include garage sheds around the periphery of the site. The plan also describes a large, open space encompassing functional wetlands on the south side of the condos.

Walgreens is one of the nation's largest retailers of pharmaceuticals, personal care products and household supplies. Walgreens is a publicly held company that operates 5,056 stores (up from 4,681 last year), including 105 in Colorado (up from 92 last year). Known primarily as a pharmacy chain, Walgreens sells merchandise including milk, disposable diapers, candy and cordless telephones. The Steamboat store would offer a photo lab.

Walgreens has been adding more than 400 stores a year since 2000, according to its corporate Web site. At the same time, it has enjoyed double-digit growth rates in annual sales. November 2005 sales were up a record 11.1 percent, bringing the year-to-date total to more than $39 billion.

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