A look at what Centennial has in store in 2021

Jones District, 'intelligent' traffic, city's branding efforts to push forward

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Some of the most prominent projects in Centennial saw developments in 2020, and more changes — reshaping part of the Interstate 25 corridor and tackling traffic congestion — may take hold in 2021.

Those come in the form of possible construction at the long-planned Jones District development in central Centennial and the city's own effort to complete a traffic-signal adjustment system.

The start of 2021 sees Centennial still waiting to see what the next move is for developers at The Streets at SouthGlenn outdoor mall, where redevelopment plans have inched along for nearly two years in the public eye.

Deeper than those changes is an ongoing push for the city — now coming up on its 20th anniversary — to better brand itself and grasp a clearer identity.

“We identify ourself as a city of neighborhoods, and we want to spend more time listening to the neighborhoods and how they perceive the city they're residing in,” said Matt Sturgeon, Centennial's city manager.

Sturgeon talked to Colorado Community Media about what 2020 brought the city and what's on the horizon in 2021. Here are some of the highlights.

SouthGlenn timeline still obscure

After a March 2019 meeting kicked off the publicly watched process to redevelop The Streets at SouthGlenn, possible changes at Centennial's flagship shopping development have been closely followed by area residents.

One of the two main companies involved — Alberta Development Partners — said developers may submit a formal proposal to the city sometime around the start of fall, but months have passed with no submittal.

Developers “haven't told us when they plan to submit,” Sturgeon said. “Honestly, we don't know what the COVID (pandemic) has done to their project timelines. Both parties are probably trying to figure out what the environment looks like based on the pandemic and economy.”

The Sears property that closed near the end of 2018 at SouthGlenn is owned by Northwood Investors, which wants to add apartments there. Alberta wants to put in apartments and office space, and possibly retail and entertainment establishments, where Macy's stands.

Felsburg, Holt and Ullevig, an engineering and planning firm, collected new traffic counts for the SouthGlenn area, the firm wrote in a March 2020 letter, but it did not recommend revisions to its earlier traffic analysis. Residents have voiced concerns about the potential for more traffic around the mall.

After the public reviews the developers' proposal, it still must undergo scrutiny from the Centennial Planning and Zoning Commission, a body of citizens who make development recommendations to city council.

Then it faces a city council vote, an event still likely months away.

Jones District to see construction

A mammoth development that may take as long as 20 more years to reach completion may soon see its status as a mostly vacant field start to change this year.

The 42-acre swath of land on East Mineral Avenue just north of IKEA is expected to largely consist of office buildings, which could be up to 15 stories high along Interstate 25. But hotel, residential and retail spaces also are part of the vision.

Plans were initially submitted to the city in March 2013. The development's first effort, The Glenn apartments, started leasing at the end of February 2018.

A company called Brue Baukol is selling pieces of land to other entities, acting as what's called the “master developer,” Sturgeon said. The plan for how the street grid will look was approved in past couple months.

City staff have been working with Brue Baukol to identify “smart city” infrastructure opportunities for the project, making sure it's positioned for emerging technology such as electric-vehicle charging stations and fiber-optic cable. That's a technology that provides easy access to broadband infrastructure, Sturgeon said — in other words, faster internet service.

Projects coming soon at The Jones District include two apartment sites. One is the Embrey Multi-Family parcel of 304 units, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman. Plans could see final approval in the first quarter of 2021, with construction later this year. Also on the way is another Embrey Multi-Family parcel of 305 units, anticipated for the same time frame.

'Intelligent' traffic system to come online

Centennial's Intelligent Transportation System will ultimately be a far-reaching network of traffic sensors to adjust the timing of traffic lights more accurately based on traffic levels.

The old method of timing is based on traffic studies that log rush hour in morning and evening, lunchtime traffic and so on, Sturgeon said.

“That's where the frustration is. You might be on road on a holiday or a Monday, and you'll have to wait,” regardless of what actual traffic levels are, Sturgeon said.

Implementation of the ITS master plan began in 2017. City staff are now in the “final push” after spending 2020 and 2019 installing hardware out in the field, Sturgeon said. That includes the sensors and the fiber-optic cable connections.

Centennial's task is now to “simply put, light it up in 2021,” Sturgeon said.

The pilot — or starter — piece of the effort was known as “Project Mercury,” a collaboration between Centennial, Lone Tree and Greenwood Village on South Yosemite Street. Sensors have gathered data on Yosemite all the way from Lincoln to Belleview avenues. The three cities finished the installation of new “smart” traffic signals along Yosemite in 2020.

Now, traffic lights on Centennial's major corridors will soon see the predictive technology. The majority of traffic signals will be connected to the ITS, Wittern said.

How residents 'perceive the city'

As part of Centennial's conscious effort to strengthen citizens' feelings of city identity — and to let drivers know they're in Centennial, given the city's snaking borders — plans to add “city identity signage” continue in 2021.

Near the end of 2018, the city put up a “monument” sign on Yosemite Street south of Arapahoe Road, and it also installed two “banner” signs along Smoky Hill Road.

Other than putting up signs, the city is brainstorming other ways to project or solidify an image, Sturgeon said.

“Are there other things we should be doing that we're not that we don't fully understand?” Sturgeon said.

The city's celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021 “has given new energy to that conversation,” Sturgeon added.

“We're going to be reaching out more to our neighborhoods and having dialog with our residents about how they perceive the city they live in and things (we) should be thinking about,” Sturgeon said.

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