East First Avenue And University Boulevard
Denver, Colorado

Plans for the Mile High City's first mall-type shopping center were originally conceived around the year 1925. Temple Buell, a Denver-based architect, purchased a 57 acre garbage dump. The property, which ran along the north side of Cherry Creek, was located 3 miles southeast of Denver's Central Business District.

The urbanization of Colorado's Capital was rapidly spreading eastward, and Buell wanted to take advantage of this. Unfortunately, an economic depression, and then world war, delayed construction of Buell's shopping center for over 20 years.

Formal plans for a COLODEN MOOR CENTER were announced in 1946. There were years of additional delays, due to zoning hassles and problems with the department of highways, who wanted to build a section of Interstate 70 through the prospective shopping center site.

By the early 1950s, the name of the prospective retail center had been changed to CHERRY CREEK CENTER. Ground was broken in 1952. The first operational store, a 3-level (92,600 square foot) Denver Dry Goods, commenced operation on October 8, 1953.

Stores in the adjacent open-air mall began business between late 1954 and late 1955. These included Walgreen Drug, Baur's Restaurant, Hummel's Delicatessen, Luby's Cafeteria, Komac Paint, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and Miller's Super Market.

A 3-level (133,400 square foot) Sears was built, as a freestanding structure, across the avenue from CHERRY CREEK CENTER. Both were connected -via a tunnel beneath East First Avenue- in 1955. This pedestrian passage was in use until the 1970s.

CHERRY CREEK CENTER expanded eastward during the 1960s, consuming the remainder of the original land parcel. New businesses included a Center State Bank branch, Skaggs Drug and General Cinema Corporation Cherry Creek Cinema. This venue opened in 1967 and was reconfigured, as the Cherry Creek Twin, in the early 1980s.

Commercial competitors of CHERRY CREEK CENTER included UNIVERSITY HILLS CENTER (1955) {3.5 miles southeast, in Denver} and LAKESIDE SHOPPING CITY (1956) {6.7 miles northwest, in Lakeside}. Eventually, there would be larger, regional-class complexes, such as CINDERELLA CITY MALL (1968) {4.6 miles southwest, in Englewood} and BUCKINGHAM SQUARE (1971) {5 miles southeast, In Aurora). 

CHERRY CREEK CENTER served as a catalyst for further commercial development in its surrounding area. Temple Buell, under the auspices of Buell Development, proposed a major renovation of the property, into a 3 million square foot retail and office complex, in 1979.

A joint venture, between Buell, Chicago-based Jacobs-Kahan & Company and Michigan-based Taubman Centers, was formed. Between 1982 and 1986, this redevelopment plan was opposed by the community and City of Denver officials. In the middle of litigation, Jacobs-Kahan was removed from the project.

In December 1986, Buell Development and Taubman Centers gained approval to build a 1.2 million square foot, fully-enclosed mall. The original, open-air complex was to be demolished as part of the redevelopment, but this never came to pass. In 1987, the freestanding stores and cinema, on the east section of the site, were demolished.

Construction of the enclosed mall got underway soon after. The new CHERRY CREEK CENTER was officially dedicated August 17, 1990. Its original anchors were May D & F and Saks Fifth Avenue. Neiman Marcus joined the directory in 1991, Nordstrom opened their store in 2001. May D & F became a Houston-based Foley's in 1993 and a Macy's in 2006.

The old open-air complex had been in various stages of abandonment since the late 1970s. Its "Denver Dry" had been rebranded as a May D & F in 1987. This store relocated into the new enclosed mall in 1990.

5 years later, the old open-air mall was renovated, retenanted and renamed CHERRY CREEK WEST. Stores now fronted toward the outside of the complex, with entries along the central court area being sealed off.

The old Denver Dry / May D & F became a Bed, Bath & Beyond. The north store block now housed an Elway's Steakhouse, Tower Records and Romano's Macaroni Grill. The south block contained a (21,000 square foot) Foley's Home Store, which opened on May 4, 1995, and (17,400 square foot) Cost Plus World Market, dedicated June 1.

In the mid-2000s, the circa-1954 Sears (north of CHERRY CREEK WEST) was remodeled and incorporated into a high-end, mixed-use development. Encompassing the entire 9.5 acre Sears site, CLAYTON LANE was built by the Denver-based Nicholas Partnership and dedicated in November 2004.

In addition to Sears, the 700,000 square foot complex included a 4-star J.W. Marriott hotel, Janus Capital World Headquarters office tower and 5-floor luxury condominium. Within its 334,800 square feet of retail were stores such as a (37,100 square foot) Crate & Barrel, (12,300 square foot) Orvis and (53,100 square foot) Whole Foods Market.

CLAYTON LANE was acquired by a joint partnership of Stamford, Connecticut-based AmCap, Incorporated and Los Angeles-based Hart Realty Advisors in 2006.

As for CHERRY CREEK WEST, its Foley's Home Store was "Macy-ated" in 2006. Tower Records closed in 2007 and re-opened as The Container Store. Romano's Macaroni Grill was shuttered in January 2009, with Brio Tuscan Grill taking its place in the following fall. Cost Plus World Market went dark February 27, 2013, with The Boulder Running Company opening a store in February of the following year.

Sources: (Leonard & Leonard Real Estate Website) Branch Store.doc / Denver Public Schools / Bromwell Elementary School website
The Denver Post
"The Denver Dry Goods: Where Colorado Shopped With Confidence" / Mark A. Barnhouse