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Baby Doe's neighbors oppose apartments

Area already has too many rentals, they say

By John Rebchook, Rocky Mountain News October 8, 2005

The company headed by the owner of the National Foodball League's San Diego Chargers wants to buy and raze Baby Doe's restaurant to make way for a large apartment community two blocks from Invesco Field at Mile High.

The Stockton, Calif.-based A.G. Spanos Cos., founded in 1960 by Chargers owner Alex Spanos, has the Baby Doe's Matchless Mine site at 2520 W. 23rd Ave. and the adjoining Chili Pepper restaurant at 2150 Bryant St. under contract.

But the plan, in the words of one resident in the adjacent Jefferson Park neighborhood, faces "massive opposition."

The site is considered prime real estate because of its hilltop location and dramatic views of the downtown skyline.

Baby Doe's, which opened in 1978, closed more than a year ago and is open only for special events.

Initial plans call for tearing down the restaurants and replacing them with 250 to 300 apartment units in a four-story development. Real estate experts estimate the cost to build all 300 units would be about $45 million.

But residents of the Jefferson Park neighborhood argue there already are too many renters in the northwest Denver area. The neighborhood, just south of the West Highland area, is one of the oldest and smallest neighborhoods in Denver.

On Tuesday night, members of Jefferson Park United Neighbors criticized Spanos' plan at a meeting in Riverside Baptist Church, across the street from Baby Doe's.

Bruce O'Donnell, Spanos' Denver representative for the proposal, was told that about 80 percent of the residents in Jefferson Park are renters.

On Monday, Denver City Council approved an 87-page neighborhood plan for Jefferson Park that calls for "bringing a greater number of single-family home ownership opportunities as part of stabilizing the neighborhood," said Councilman Rick Garcia, who represents northwest Denver.

The plan recommends that any redevelopment of the Baby Doe's site retain its views of downtown.

"The view plane is very critical," Barbara Baker, a member of the neighborhood group, said Wednesday. "I would like to see a mixed-use development," with a wide range of housing prices.

During the meeting, neighbor Brad Evans cited "massive opposition" to the plan and asked O'Donnell what he will tell the Spanos organization.

"I'm going to tell them there is massive opposition," O'Donnell, principal of Denver-based Starboard Realty Group, replied. "They will digest that. This is just the beginning. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anybody's eyes."

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