We should recycle more

Posted 9/1/09

It seems like you can recycle anything these days. Paper, plastic and cans are old standbys that have been joined by computers, your shoes, the …

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We should recycle more


It seems like you can recycle anything these days. Paper, plastic and cans are old standbys that have been joined by computers, your shoes, the building materials in your home and office.

We need to remember that we can throw commercial real estate into that category of recyclable goods.

We were reminded of it last weekend during the grand opening of the Streets at Southglenn at the corner of Arapahoe and University in Centennial.

Aside from the word Southglenn on the signs greeting you as you drive into this brand spanking new mix of retail and residential property, there is virtually nothing left to remind you of the Southglenn Mall that once lived on that corner. Even Sears and Macy's, the only notable holdovers from the mall, feel new in their remade surroundings.

The project has been on our radar for years. It was on paper at the very beginning, Centennial eyed the project as a focal point for the city. Time will tell if it lives up to that, but it sure looks good right now. If nothing else, it’s a shining example of what redevelopment can be if done right.

While redevelopment of that scale not a common occurrence, it's not a new idea either.

Englewood's CityCenter made similarly good use of the old Cinderella City mall. Walking past the library and other city offices, it's hard to imagine that you're walking through what was once a Foley's department store.

But we don't have to keep this redevelopment gun in its holster until we eye another hulking shopping mall for the next project.

Driving through the South Metro area, you're likely to pass strip malls that seem to be hanging on by a thread or left for dead altogether. A few miles down the road, you may see a new construction site that will house the sort of businesses meant for the kind of aging development you just passed.

Why is that?

A lot of people ask that question. It's a land-use issue, one of the toughest battles local government everywhere seem to deal with. Just about every time someone proposes construction of a new building on vacant land, there is someone opposed to the idea asking, "Why build something new over there when you have perfectly good land meant for that sort of thing right here?"

When you see something like Streets at Southglenn or CityCenter, you have to admit that the people asking that question have a point worth considering.

There are a number of factors that play into the decision to build from scratch as opposed to redeveloping an existing site. Chief among them is cost. Retrofits aren't cheap. Most of the time, it just costs less to build from scratch.

But the answer shouldn't be that simple. Perhaps incentives should come into play that take cost out of the equation. Finding the answer is worth the effort because it's too bad more of the area's showcase retail developments aren't redevelopments. It's too bad that some retail centers are left withering on the vine a few blocks from new ones.

As people explore Streets at Southglenn like they have Englewood's CityCenter, hopefully they will come away with a new appreciation for redevelopment and look for opportunities to make it work elsewhere more often.

Jeremy Bangs is the managing editor of Colorado Community Newspapers.


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