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the lost action hero

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However, one insider who worked on the Stadium Walk project says the Pavilions' real advantage was more basic: public money. While lease terms at the Pavilions haven't been disclosed, the rumor is that Denton gave big tenants like Niketown sweet deals to get the project moving--deals made possible only by the eight-figure contribution from DURA. It also hasn't hurt that the Pavilions will sit next door to the newly refurbished Adam's Mark Hotel, a likely source of well-heeled shoppers that has benefited from its own $25 million DURA subsidy.

"We didn't have $24 million to subsidize rents," says the insider. "It's not as difficult to sign leases when you're offering high tenant finishes and low rents."

Many of the people who can take credit for making LoDo what it is today were happy when Denton's project beat Schwarzenegger's to the punch. The specter of corporate chain restaurants such as Planet Hollywood especially bothers them, since it was locally owned businesses like the Wynkoop Brewing Company and the Tattered Cover that put LoDo on the map.

Already it's been largely forgotten that the creation of the lower downtown historic district in 1988 was controversial--opponents claimed that outlawing the demolition of historic buildings was a violation of private property rights. The measure had to be pushed through a skeptical city council, and many of the first people to invest in LoDo were told by friends that they were wasting their life's savings on a rundown wasteland.

Now those same investors see the oldest district in Denver taking on the atmosphere of a theme park. "Lower downtown was not set up for this," says pioneer LoDo developer David Clamage. "You're creating so many big attractions, it's creating huge parking and traffic problems."

Clamage misses the low-key, friendly downtown neighborhood he remembers from the 1980s. He believes the city is allowing too many oversized new projects in LoDo, and he's not looking forward to having Planet Hollywood as a neighbor.

"I'm a purist," he says. "I would preserve the neighborhood as it is. I don't want it turned into Disneyland."

But those working on Stadium Walk say Schwarzenegger's magic kingdom is alive and well and that Denver can still expect to witness the opening of a Planet Hollywood a stone's throw from Coors Field.

"We're actively leasing the retail space and making good progress," says John Lehigh, the former director of construction at Coors Field who was hired last year to oversee development of Stadium Walk. Lehigh says he's seeking tenants and negotiating with an undisclosed movie-theater chain to open a multiplex with a dozen or more screens.

In response to neighborhood criticism, Lehigh says the $70 to $80 million project has increased the number of planned parking spaces from 300 to 500. The development has also been redesigned, he says, to include a larger number of lofts on the Wazee Street side and to make most of the 200,000 square feet of retail space face the street instead of an interior courtyard.

Sources familiar with the project say officials want to break ground in 1999 and are in serious negotiations with several retailers. Lehigh will say only that Schwarzenegger's project will break ground when the market is ready for it.

Despite the fact that the Pavilions snagged the high-profile tenants like Niketown--and the fact that the only publicly announced tenant at Stadium Walk so far is Arnold's own Planet Hollywood--Lehigh insists that Stadium Walk can still be successful. Adds another person involved in trying to resuscitate Schwarzenegger's foray into big-time real estate, "It's unfortunate that when projects get quiet, people think the projects are dead.

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Stuart Steers
Contact: Stuart Steers

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