By Eric Heinz
As the stretch of 44th Avenue from Tejon to Federal Boulevard continues to change, Sunnyside United Neighbors Inc. (SUNI) is trying to establish a district in which groundfloor retail would be preserved.
The area hosts numerous small businesses, but after a small convenience store closed on Tejon to make way for a planned townhome development, the SUNI members started to take a harder look at the street section. Trupti Suthar, the president of SUNI, recently hosted a walkthrough of the corridor and is conducting meetings to create an overlay for the area.
“The lights and all these things don’t just magically happen,” Suthar said. “We want this whole corridor to … make it enjoyable for people to walk down, whether it’s benches, trees, that’s kind of what we’re kind of thinking about.”
Suthar said mixed-use development would be ideal, if it works in the context of the neighborhood.
“We have alleys and lots of streets coming in. We have a mix of square and rectangular blocks,” said Chris Parezo, who is helping SUNI with the overlay process. “So the development parcels are not consistent. It’s sort of an individual-by-individual block (situation).”
Parezo said it would benefit the effort to have the 44th Avenue corridor added to the Near Northwest Plan, as that will cover the Sunnyside neighborhood and three others.
“Having that policy in there gives some leverage to the neighborhood because when we all come to the city and say we want to do something, then they can go back and look at the plan,” Parezo said.
The idea of establishing an overlay would not be exactly like Tennyson, which requires groundfloor retail in addition to housing along the street from roughly 38th to 46th avenues, SUNI members said the corridor has a bit of a different dynamic. But they said it would be nice to get more walkability in the area and to brighten it up.
One person who said they lived near a planned development said he was recently offered money for part of his land in order for a developer to create an apartment complex, but he turned it down.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the zoning and trying to decipher the zoning code for this versus that overlays and that stuff,” Parezo said. “What I said to the city was, ‘Why don’t we have a conversation about what (the neighbors) are looking for, what they expect, what they would like to see.’”
Suthar said the group is looking for the right way to go about the overlay, but she said the more people who give their opinions on the future of the corridor, the better.
“I think collecting what people want is the start,” she said. “So when you say, ‘How can we influence?’ I think this is the start of the conversation (involving) more people. There are 30 of us (during the recent walk-through) and there are 1,000 households. So we need more of this.”
More information on SUNI meetings can be found at sunnysidedenver.org.