City council members had hoped for an east-west pedestrian walkway all the way across the Regency Park shopping center parking area as part of a planned facelift for the center. What they got was sidewalk access to the north, a sidewalk partway across the middle and two bike racks.
It was the best developers said they could do given the legal rights of tenants in the center, at 93rd Street and Metcalf Avenue. Council members expressed disappointment, but nevertheless gave unanimous approval to the center’s final development plan.
“I was disappointed but I think we’ve made progress,” said Councilmember Curt Skoog.
Councilmember Paul Lyons agreed, saying, “I do understand the limitations you’ve got. It is what it is.”
The Regency Park project to modernize the facades in the center that includes Micro Center and Natural Grocers had been approved months ago but went on hold after the design flaws were discovered in how the facades were attached. That meant new plans had to be submitted and the developer has asked for more money in public financing.
During that time, Skoog in particular had asked the developer, Mission Peak Capital, to make the center more pedestrian friendly than the original plan.
The center is basically a sea of parking around an island that is the former Macaroni Grill. Shops line the northern and western shores. The city had asked for a walkway from the monument sign about halfway up the eastern edge on Metcalf to run through the parking lot and end up close to the entrance of the New Theater & Restaurant.
Pedestrian access is one of the key elements of the city’s long-range plan for the Metcalf corridor and has been particularly stressed now that new apartments are going up near downtown. “Our whole concept of Vision Metcalf and all the addition of residences on Metcalf is so we can create a walkable community,” Skoog said.
But the developer ran into several obstacles, said lawyer Curt Petersen. Lease agreements for existing businesses include a certain number of parking spaces, making it difficult if not impossible to wipe some of them out for a sidewalk, he said.
And although the number of parking spaces now meets city code, the developer believes the improved center will attract more restaurants. The Macaroni Grill building may be replaced by a restaurant because, “it’s too good a location not to be,” he said. Restaurants require more parking than other retail, he said. “We’re planning for the future here,” he said.
Petersen said the developer looked at every possibility but could not come up with an acceptable way to make the east-west sidewalk work. So they suggested a sidewalk access on the north with bike rack and another from the monument sign as far as the Macaroni Grill building, also with a bike rack.
“We really did try to do everything,” Petersen said.
Skoog, Lyons and Councilmember Logan Heley said they would continue to push for pedestrian-friendly development.
“I would encourage future applicants to make sure as they develop their plans that they consider something besides a car,” Skoog said.