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Posted: April 01, 2011

Who owns Colorado: Welcome to Glendale

Colorado's most densely populated city makes name in politics, business

David Lewis

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Glendale is entirely surrounded by the city and county of Denver. This makes the little city a true enclave, which makes it something akin to San Marino, the Kingdom of Lesotho and Napoleon's grave in Saint Helena.

Glendale, like Boulder, also has both suffered and benefited from its enclave-ness, only in Boulder's case the enclave thing is more a state of mind.
Glendale really is an enclave, and everybody around these parts knows it is materially different from Denver.

Glendale, like the old Elitch Gardens or the Broadway Creamery, also is a place of memories, mainly fuzzy memories of bars called Mr. Lucky's or the Lift No. 3 or O'Rourke's Cantina or the Urban Cowboy, where the VCG Holding Corp.'s Penthouse Club is now. Celebrity Sports Center, the closest that Disney magic ever will come to Denver, gets an honorable mention here, too. Glendale has had a couple of striptease clubs forever and an adult store near Colorado Boulevard, behind Shotgun Willie's ("very dark upon entering from the midday sun," says an online review) and they are obtrusively visible to passersby.

Before that there was, for instance, Bob's Place, a gas station with the motto, "A Bob-Cat for Service" that opened in 1929 when the area was "home to seven dairies and a lot of open prairie," according to the Rocky Mountain News.

Glendale also is small, about 850 acres or about 1.3 square miles. The city is irregularly shaped and contains but three single-family homes and a fantastic disproportion of multi-dwellings. Renters make up more than 80 percent of the population of fewer than 5,000. Many of them live in older apartment stock, with more than 40 percent of Glendale's housing units built in the 1970s. Glendale is Colorado's most densely populated city, and its promoters note that Colorado's highest per-capita income area lies within a two-mile radius.

Glendale's municipal history is irregular, too. The little city began as a stage stop along Cherry Creek, thus today's 12-acre Four Mile Historic Park. It is in Arapahoe County, as was Denver until 1902. It remains in the Cherry Creek School District, which may have value to Glendale residents.

Glendale dodged annexation by Denver by incorporating in 1952, became a home rule city with a council-manager form of government in 1972, and got its own zip code (80246) in 1997. Glendale engaged in litigation and various sniping back and forth with Denver for decades, really until the Hickenlooper administration.

Glendale also is the sort of pioneer liable to end up a footnote in future political science textbooks.

Q: Who first formed the modern-day Tea Party?
A: Glendale, Colo., in 1998, when it successfully upended the reform, family-friendly mayoralty of Joe Rice.

"At the time the city government had no connection with the businesses in town, and the businesses in town provided 90 percent of the tax base, so taxation without representation was the concept, which works throughout lots of periods of time," says attorney Chuck Bonniwell, a Tea Party founder who today is publisher-owner of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle and a Greater Glendale Chamber of Commerce board member.

The businesses in question bridled at reform-Mayor Joe Rice's "family-friendly" plan to raise the age limit for dancers from 18 to 21 and create the useful fiction of a 6-foot buffer extended from the dancers to the patrons.

"Everything generates from that story in '98. That's when everything began to change," Bonniwell says.

The Tea Party triumphed, electing its three candidates, but the city re-elected Rice. In 2003, Rice, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, was called to active duty. He resigned his mayoralty and soon moved to Baghdad, where it might have been safer.

Anyway, Glendale's political history goes on like that, with more plot twists than an episode of "Dynasty," if anybody remembers "Dynasty."

How it all ends up today is the subject of this story, which is about real estate. That's because the real estate story in Glendale is not the usual one.
There's really not much to say about residential real estate there except vacancy rates are decent, less than 10 percent, and it could be worse. Same for office space.

Commercial is looking up. The re-do of the strip mall at 1000 S. Colorado Blvd. is going nicely, with incoming tenants including Tokyo Joe's, the Cheese Steak Connection and Pinkberry.

Over on Leetsdale Drive, a new King Soopers finally filled in where Cub Foods departed long ago.

Linda Cassaday, city director of finance and deputy city manager, says 2010 sales tax receipts are estimated to have been $12.1 million, up from $10.6 million in 2009 and $10.7 million in 2008. And the city is what real estate in Glendale is all about nowadays.

Some said it couldn't be done but, "The big, big picture is that the city has really re-branded itself as an international destination. The old Glendale is out; the new Glendale is in," says Glendale Riverwalk project representative Mike Gross.

Gross refers to Glendale's Infinity Park, a $50 million complex with an 8,600-square-foot ballroom and a 35,000-square-foot health and fitness center bent on becoming a global rugby capital through its 4,000-seat stadium, the nation's only municipally owned rugby stadium. Infinity Park South, an 8-acre extension and Glendale's biggest public park, opened this year.

But you ain't seen nothin' yet, folks.

Glendale revealed plans in March for a 43-acre River Walk, 20 acres of open space and a half-mile navigable channel of water with accompanying hotels, bars and restaurants that would be constructed alongside South Cherry Creek and the street of the same name.

The River Walk has already been approved by the affected landowners, the city planning commission and the Glendale City Council.

"Right now we're searching for a master developer," Gross says. "That's going to take us pretty much all of this calendar year to accomplish. After that time, you start to design it. It might be a little ambitious for me to say, but I think you could see shovels in the ground by the end of 2012."

Some might ask what, in the continuing real estate recession, the city fathers and mothers have been smoking. Others think it's still okay to dream big, even for a little city.

"It's a beautiful idea on paper," Gross says. "At least the parties involved are all together. What we endeavor to do together is certainly a lot better than what we could do by ourselves."
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David Lewis is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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