Thorpe is spearheading the Gates redevelopment for Joseph Freed & Associates, the Chicago-based developer that will build 5-7 million square feet of residential, office, retail, hotel and entertainment space on nearly 50 acres of ground bounded by Broadway, I-25, Santa Fe Dr. and Mississippi Ave. Freed initially contracted as the vertical developer for 24 acres on the western half of the site, but is now finalizing the details to take over the entire parcel. As currently envisioned, Metropolitan Gardens will be the area’s largest mixed-use development, including 2000 residences (two-thirds condominium, one-third rentals), one million square feet of retail, two boutique hotels (150-200 rooms each), as well as a variety of entertainment and office options designed to take advantage of the project’s transit- oriented location. “We expect Cherokee Street to be the most beautiful shopping street along the Front Range,” said Thorpe. “For us, that one million square feet of retail is the heart and soul of the project. We’re retail developers first and foremost.” The first – and thus far only – retail tenant announced for the project is Robert Redford’s Sundance Cinemas, which will build a six-screen theatre complex as part of Metropolitan Gardens’ first phase of development. While unable to divulge leases still under negotiation, Thorpe expects a mix including “some national flags” as well as numerous locally recognizable brands. “We don’t want to just build another mall with the roof torn off. We don’t want you to feel like, ‘I could go to Cherry Creek shopping center or Park Meadows to see this.’ We want you to have a unique, memorable shopping experience.” As far as the project’s residential component, Freed will build across the price spectrum, ranging from affordable rental units priced for those earning 30 percent of “Annual Median Income,” to luxury units for those on the higher end of the income brackets. “You can’t sell to just one price point and energize an urban environment,” said Thorpe. “Everybody needs to find a place of comfort.” While Joseph Freed & Associates has considerable experience in mixed-use development, Metropolitan Gardens is the largest effort the company has undertaken to date. “Density is required to make a project like this work,” said Thorpe. Freed will build 20-plus towers over retail space. The allowable height of the buildings is regulated by the View Plane Ordinance protecting the mountain views from Washington Park. The ordinance allows construction of 8-9 stories on the east side of the site, with buildings as tall as 11-13 stories on the lower west side of the property. Parking needs at Metropolitan Gardens will be largely accommodated by 6-7,000 underground parking spaces. Thorpe said that vertical construction could begin as early as this winter, and will move west to east on the site. “We’d like to open phase one in late 2010. But the nature of what we’re doing doesn’t fit neatly into an existing process, so things can take patience and time. “If things go smoothly, and the real estate markets hold on, we’re done in 2013 at the earliest. Obviously, elements of the project are market driven, and the schedule can shift.” While nothing has been finalized, Freed and Cherokee hope to be able to honor the desires of Denver’s preservation community, and incorporate elements of the original Gates campus into their development. “We’re looking at the old Power Plant building and a few others,” Thorpe said. Cherokee discovered a huge plume of hydrocarbons and other environmental pollutants after drilling through the floors of the old manufacturing buildings. Remediation of these hazards will need to be completed before site infrastructure can be placed, and Freed can begin vertical construction. “Unfortunately, the buildings have to be demolished to clean up the ground underneath,” said Thorpe. “Cherokee has a plan to gut the buildings and brace the facades, and dig down some 20 feet to where all this goo is. They’re even looking at steam-injecting the dirt immediately under the facades to make sure they get everything out. We very much hope to be able to preserve at least parts of these structures, but safety and environmental concerns have to come first.” For info, visit www.josephfreed.com. While Freed gets their ducks in a row, Trammell Crow will be the first developer to get under way on the old Gates west campus, building 479 rental apartments on the southwestern corner of the Mississippi Ave./Broadway intersection. The final stages of demolition work are nearing completion, and utility work is expected to begin on the site over the next couple of months. The three 5-story buildings and adjacent 600+ space parking structure should take some 24 months to build, with the first tenants expected to take up residence in late 2009 or early-to- mid 2010. Farther on up the road at Ellsworth and Broadway, another true Broadway legend is about to pull in the welcome mat, and close the doors on a long retail career. Our good friend Ronnie Crawford, Broadway’s king of art-deco, vintage, funk and kitsch – was first known to local dinosaurs during his tenure as owner of Bertha’s Rudely Decadent on Antique Row in the 1970s and 80s. Following the closing of Bertha’s, Crawford continued proffering his wares along Broadway at such near-legendary locations as Pop-A-Rama, American Aces and American Vogue. Having been impacted heavily by the internet revolution in general, and the cyber retailer/auction house moguls at eBay in particular, Crawford has decided that “if you can’t beat ‘em, I guess you have to join ‘em,” and will close the final chapter on his storied Broadway retail venture when American Vogue, 10 S. Broadway, shuts the curtains at year’s end. Crawford, whose long locks and irreverent outlook belie his 64 years, will continue to grace Broadway denizens as part-time bartender at Skylark Lounge, 140 S. Broadway. Besides deepening his presence in the 21st century world of cyber-sales, Crawford expects to continue his near lifelong love affair with the Ford Falcon automobile. For now, you’ll find Ronnie Crawford at his post at American Vogue. Call 303-733-4140.