Instead of Walmart, CU site could be getting King Soopers, Larkburger, Mad Greens...and a Tavern?

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Back when Fuqua Development was still touting Walmart as the major tenant in the project planned for the old University of Colorado Health Sciences Center at Ninth Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, Jeff Fuqua promised that there would be a "chef-driven" restaurant on the site -- inspiring some critics to ask what chef-driven restaurant was close to any

Walmart. Now Walmart is out of the deal, and last week the city announced that Fuqua is in negotiations with King Soopers for the anchor retail location. That announcement also said that Fuqua is talking to additional tenants that might locate at the site, including McAlister's Deli, a national chain with seven locations in Colorado, including two in Aurora and another one on the way in Englewood; as well as the Colorado-based Larkburger and Tavern Hospitality Group. See also: - With Walmart out of the way, what should fill CU Healthcare District? - Tavern Platt Park should sprout next spring - Thomas Salamunovich, exec chef of Larkspur (and Larkburger) on farm-to-table fatigue

But THG's inclusion on the list came as a surprise to Frank Schultz, founder of Colorado-centric group of eight restaurants. He says he looked into the project "a long time ago," and decided it wasn't right for THG, which is currently focusing on more historic neighborhoods. (Next up for THG is Tavern Platt Park, which should be opening this spring.)

Now, though, the design will be changing, and Marcus Pachner, spokeman for the developer, says that he'll be talking to Schultz again. (He also took the blame for the inclusion of THG in last week's announcement.)

But Larkburger confirms that it's looking at Ninth and Colorado; the homegrown chain just opened a downtown Larkburger on December 1 and will open its tenth store in Broomfield on December 12. And now there's another local in the mix: Mad Greens. "We would welcome the fresh inspired food of our local, homegrown Colorado restaurant," reads the announcement on neighborsforninth.org, the developer's website for the project.

None of the concepts being mentioned really qualify as "chef-driven" restaurants -- unless you consider the fact that Larkburger was founded by Thomas Salamunovich, the chef/owner of Larkspur in Vail.

You can learn more about the current status of the site at today's Colorado Boulevard Healthcare District meeting, the first since Denver City Councilwomen Mary Beth Susman and Jeanne Robb said they opposed TIF financing for the deal, and Walmart subsequently pulled out.

Susman and Robb will be on hand; the meeting will run from 4 to 6 p.m. in the auditorium of Hill Middle School, 451 Clermont Parkway. A version of this story originally appeared in Cafe Bites, our weekly electronic newsletter devoted to the Denver drinking and dining scene that's sent out every Wednesday at 1 p.m. Find out how to subscribe here.

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