In communities across the country, aging shopping centers are losing business to larger and newer competitors. The decline of these retail centers may leave holes in the community fabric, but it can also provide opportunities to reuse these sites to meet other community needs. Facing the decline of its Villa Italia shopping mall, the City of Lakewood worked with citizens, civic groups, and a local developer to transform the property into Belmar-the real, walkable downtown that this Denver suburb had lacked.
Belmar is located across the street from the city's government center. A traditional grid of narrow streets and small blocks replaces the footprint of the old mall. When complete in 2007, these new, pedestrian-friendly blocks will have one million square feet of shops, restaurants, and other services. The development will also include 1,300 new homes, including town homes, loft apartments, and live-work units. Belmar will have 700,000 square feet of the first new Class-A office space built in the area in over a decade. Nine acres of parks and plazas will give people a place to get together, relax, and enjoy festivals and other entertainment.
Putting time and effort into a high quality redevelopment of this site has been a great investment for Lakewood. Belmar brings a new sense of vibrancy and prosperity to the area. The redevelopment would not have been possible without a strong partnership between the city and the developer. The inclusive process transformed citizens' concerns about losing the mall into civic pride for their new downtown.
Belmar's first phase has been a success. Its retail income is comparable to higher-end malls. Belmar's office space is fully leased and rental and for-sale housing are outperforming the local market. Upon its completion, the city estimates it will add $952 million to the local economy and will directly create over 7,000 permanent jobs.