Uplands developers say they want to work with the community

Guest Column: Jeff Handlin
Posted 12/5/19

Hello there, Westminster. We are the community builders of Uplands, a new mixed-use community proposed for the open land near the `Westminster Castle’. We’re a local business. We were founded …

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Uplands developers say they want to work with the community


Hello there, Westminster.

We are the community builders of Uplands, a new mixed-use community proposed for the open land near the `Westminster Castle’. We’re a local business. We were founded here, we have grown here and we’ve been successful developing neighborhoods here.

We first started work on Uplands in 2013 and we’ll hopefully set the last building’s cornerstone sometime around 2040. This special place represents the bulk and culmination of our careers. We are in this for the long haul.

Over the last few years, we’ve hosted dozens of community and neighborhood-group meetings, walked many miles knocking on thousands of doors, and directly called hundreds of our neighbors. We’ve had, and continue to have, lots of conversations over kitchen tables in Westminster, Shaw Heights, and Federal Heights. We have come away with valuable feedback that has informed the design of the Uplands community.

Despite our best efforts, a few misconceptions surrounding this development persist. Whatever your opinion on Uplands may be, you deserve to be accurately informed. So, here goes:

The Westminster Castle building will not be demolished or modified in any way. Anything you may have heard to the contrary is absolutely false. The Pillar of Fire Church will retain the campus and its architectural treasures and will continue to operate the campus, as they have since 1920. The college building has also been protected from demolition since 1979, thanks to its spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

This land was always intended to be a signature Westminster neighborhood, complete with shops and businesses.

Even without Uplands, the fact of the matter is, the `Last Farm in Westminster’ will not remain open space or a farm. As far back as the early 1900s, Westminster University had planned 6,000 homes on this land. Almost a century later, in 2006, the City confirmed the original intended use of the land as a traditional mixed-use neighborhood through its comprehensive land-use plan, authorizing up to 3,500 homes, retail, offices, and parks and open spaces.

Today, the Church, after owning the land for nearly 100 years, has decided to sell it for its original intended use -- a traditional mixed-use community. The Church is well within its rights as the landowner to do so. It’s our goal to make sure the land is put to the highest and best use for this community.

Thanks to the Church’s decision to sell the land, the community will finally have full access to this signature summit for the first time in over 100 years. The best views on the land are being preserved and enhanced with extensive public parks, open spaces, and neighborhood gardens, ensuring the public will keep those signature hilltops forever.

Westminster Public Schools welcomes the additional enrollment the Uplands development would bring. The District owns five schools within walking distance of Uplands and, as stated in their referral letter to the City, finds that “development in the heart of the District will benefit the citizens…and will have an overall positive impact on the existing neighborhoods.”

Bottom line: This community can accommodate the projected school-age children from Uplands. And we’re committed to working with the District to ensure a strong partnership between the Uplands community and the school system. Pam Swanson is Colorado Superintendent of the Year and the District Board is Colorado Board of the Year - we are so very fortunate to be working with them.

Locally owned, small-scale businesses need more wallets nearby to succeed.

The grocery store at Summit Square Shopping Center, at 84th and Federal (the fireworks-watching spot) has been closed for a decade. We’re in regular communication with the folks at that center, and they look forward to more consumers of all ages living nearby.

But more than anything, they look forward to sidewalks in the area, so their customers can access them safely by foot or via the bus stop at 86th and Federal. We are all hopeful that with proper mix of housing and businesses, our neighborhood grocery store can reopen.

The goals set forth in the City’s Housing Needs Assessment and the City’s ongoing Westminster Forward process are our goals as well: an `inclusive, sustainable, connected community, with diverse integrated housing, and quality educational opportunities.’

The lack of diverse housing opportunities for young families within Historic Westminster right now is robbing the City of its next generation of homegrown leaders. Westminster has permitted few new for-sale homes over the last decade -- the vast majority of recently approved housing have been rental apartments, which contain fewer children than other housing. Recently permitted for-sale homes were generally concentrated in the northern newer part of the City, and were mostly larger, more expensive, conventional suburban homes.

In our meetings with community members over the last few years, we regularly hear from folks whose grown children and grandchildren cannot afford to live in Westminster, where they were raised. We believe we can do better for our community, together. With Uplands, we will.

The Uplands community has sufficient water within the City’s existing water budget for this parcel.

The City established a water allocation for this parcel far before we were involved. Uplands’ sustainable water conservation-minded designs use far less water than conventional community development (smaller homes, smaller yards, less sod). As a result, the existing water budget is ample for the buildout of Uplands.

Existing, under-utilized public transportation on and near Uplands can keep cars (and pollution) off the road.

The existing bus stop at 86th and Federal will quickly connect commuters with light rail at Westminster Station. We are designing Uber/Lyft staging areas, and with a fully constructed network of sidewalks and trails within and around Uplands, bike and scooters will become viable mobility options as well.

We are listening.

The best way to honor this land is to ensure it remains as one of the defining features of this great city. Suburban, yet walkable to the coffee shop to meet friends. Traditional in form yet prepared for the future. A new place honoring a signature parcel. We are committed to doing what is best for this community. We urge you to stay in the conversation. Talk to us directly at uplandscolorado.com. We are listening.

Jeff Handlin, of Oread Capital & Development, is one of the main backers behind the Uplands Development proposal.


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