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Cherry Creek North property owners weighing redevelopment options on some prominent corners

Denver’s posh Cherry Creek North neighborhood has been transforming for a couple of years in the aftermath of new zoning rules designed to invite greater density of condos, shops and offices in the area.

Some major area property owners now are tinkering with plans that could produce even more big changes in the neighborhood and impact some of its most visible and well-known businesses.

In December, representatives of Seattle-based Unico Properties filed for a certificate of nonhistoric status for a pod of commercial buildings at the northwest corner of Clayton Street and Second Avenue. If granted by the city, the certificate would give Unico a five-year window during which it could demolish or otherwise alter structures it owns there without worry they would be designated historic. That filing covers the building that is home to a Cherry Creek icon (and recent fire survivor), the Cherry Cricket restaurant.

The filing opened a review period under which anyone can apply for historic designation for buildings in the area. City officials say they have been notified paperwork is forthcoming to protect the Cricket, but Unico insists it won’t be touching the beloved eatery either way.

“Unico Properties has no plans to tear down the building that contains the Cherry Cricket restaurant,” Austin Kane, the company’s director for Denver market, wrote in a recent email. “They’re a long-term tenant of the building with whom we have a long-term lease, and we join the Cherry Creek North neighborhood in appreciating their historic location and legendary burgers.”

What could change, according to Kane, are the buildings addressed 227 Clayton St. and 211 Clayton St. The 211 building is now home to Cherry Creek Custom Tailor. 

Safeway in Cherry Creek plans to ...

RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post

Safeway in Cherry Creek closed its doors last year.

“We want these areas of the site to be positive contributors to the Cherry Creek landscape; to get there, they’ll need work,” Kane wrote. “Looking at the historic status of all the buildings is part of our effort to understand constraints we may have in improving the site. While we don’t yet know what we’ll be doing at these properties, we do know we’ll be working closely with the Cherry Cricket owners and the neighborhood community to figure it out.”

Unico isn’t the only real estate player batting around ideas that could see demolition equipment rolling into the neighborhood.

San Diego-based OliverMcMillan was part of a group that bought the retail portion of the six-building Clayton Lane development, located along East First and Second avenues between Josephine and Detroit streets, in 2016. That development, anchored by the Whole Foods Market and Crate & Barrel store, was built in the early 2000s, according to city records, and was home to a Sears store until the struggling retailer shut it down in 2015. OliverMcMillan submitted conceptual plans to the city over the summer that indicated it may seek to demolish the vacant Sears building and otherwise alter the block to create a more pedestrian-friendly area.

“It’s very early in the planning process,” Hilarie Portell, a local spokeswoman for the company, said of potential alternations to Clayton Lane. She expects final plans for redevelopment will be completed before then end of 2018.

The Cherry Creek North Neighborhood Association is hoping to hear more about OliverMcMillan’s plans and has invited company representatives to attend a meeting this spring to discuss it, said Bob Vogel, the group’s president. The company has met with the neighbors before and will again as its plans become firmer, Portell said, but has not yet committed to a specific date.

Vogel has lived in the neighborhood for nine years. He said there has been so much change the last two to three years it has been a challenge to keep up with it all. The association is paying attention to plans for the now-closed Safeway store on the east side of the Cherry Creek mall and the Inn at Cherry Creek. The hotel, located next to the cluster of properties Unico is considering shaking up, could also see some significant changes in the near future, according to conceptual plans submitted to the city by BMC Investments, the Denver firm behind other Cherry Creek hotels including the Halcyon and a number of additional commercial and mixed-used projects in the area. City officials cautioned concept plans often change significantly before work actually begins. A spokeswoman for BMC said the company is not ready to discuss its plans for the inn.

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