CHERRY CREEK CENTER
East First Avenue And University Boulevard
Denver, Colorado

The Mile High City's first mall-type shopping center was conceived by Temple Hoyne Buell, a Denver-based architect and land speculator. In 1925, he purchased a 57-acre parcel, located 3 miles southeast of Denver's Central Business District, which ran along the north side of Cherry Creek.

Utilized primarily as a gravel pit, the plot included hovel-type homes for workers at a nearby country club. Buell's original intention was to build high-end housing for country club members on the site. A flood in 1933 caused Buell to abandon this plan. He allowed the city to establish a garbage dump on the property.

In 1946, Temple Buell announced plans for a COLODEN MOOR SHOPPING CENTER. The Cherry Creek dam was being built, which would alleviate flooding problems at the site. The dam was completed in 1950. However, Buell's shopping center plan would face years of delays, due to zoning hassles and problems with the department of highways, who wanted to build an expressway through the land parcel.

By 1952, the name of the prospective retail center had morphed into CHERRY CREEK CENTER. Ground was broken at a 22.5-acre section in June. A 3-level (93,000 square foot) Denver Dry Goods, designed by Temple Buell & Company Architects, opened for business on October 8, 1953. Stores in an adjacent open-air mall began to open in January 1955, with dedications extending into 1956. Charter CHERRY CREEK tenants included Walgreen Drug, Baur's Restaurant, Hummel's Delicatessen, Russell Stover Candies and a 2-level (21,700 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

A 3-level (133,400 square foot) Sears and freestanding Auto Center were built across the avenue from CHERRY CREEK CENTER. These opened for business in the summer of 1954. The open-air mall and Sears were connected -via a tunnel beneath East First Avenue- in 1955.

CHERRY CREEK CENTER extended eastward, in a haphazard manner, during the 1960s. Newly-built structures were freestanding and followed no set plan, with no architectural unity among them. The first east block structure, housing Luby's Cafeteria, Komak Paint and other stores, was finished in July 1964. A Safeway supermarket opened its doors on February 28, 1966. The adjacent General Cinema Corporation Cherry Creek Cinema premiered in 1967.

Shopping venues in the CHERRY CREEK CENTER trade area included UNIVERSITY HILLS CENTER (1956) {3.5 miles southeast, in Denver} and LAKESIDE CENTER (1956) {6.7 miles northwest, in Lakeside}. Eventually, there would be larger, regional-class complexes, such as CINDERELLA CITY (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 May 1981. A joint venture, between Buell, Chicago-based Jacobs-Kahan & Company and Michigan-based Taubman Centers, was formed. 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 fully-enclosed mall. The original, open-air complex was to be demolished as part of the redevelopment, but this was never done. In 1987, the freestanding stores and cinema, on the eastern section of the site, were demolished, leaving the open-air mall on the west side of the site intact.

Construction of the enclosed shopping facility got underway soon after. The new mall at CHERRY CREEK CENTER was officially dedicated on 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 1995, the original 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 Canyon Cafe, 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 of the same year.

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, the Canyon Cafe was replaced by an Elway's steakhouse in the fall of 2004. The 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 2014.

In late 2021, formal plans were announced for the redevelopment of the largely vacant CHERRY CREEK WEST complex. A New Urbanism-style collection of retail, restaurants and high-end apartments would replace the open-air mall, which would be completely demolished. 

Sources:

The Denver Post
The Intermountain Jewish News
www.leonardleonard.com/cherrycreek/index.shtml (Leonard & Leonard Real Estate Website)
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
http://ccneighbors.com http://bromwell.dpsk12.org / Denver Public Schools / Bromwell Elementary School website
"The Denver Dry Goods: Where Colorado Shopped With Confidence" / Mark A. Barnhouse
https://history.denverlibrary.org
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.shopcherrycreek.com
http://www.taubman.com
www.bizjournals.com
http://www.amcap.com
http://www.futuregringo.com
https://cherrycreekwest.com