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History of the Villas
When its earliest homes were completed in 1968, the Villas was one of the first townhome projects in the Denver metro area. A sales brochure touted it as “excitingly different” with an “unusual combination of financial and tax advantages.” This “new concept in residential planning” was indeed so avant garde for the times that it prompted a visit from President Gerald Ford. This visit must have occurred in 1974 or 1975, when Gerry Ford worked out of the “Western White House” in Vail, Colorado, and spent considerable time in our state. (He was also reputed to take several cases of Coors beer back to Washington on Air Force One, because of its then-limited availability.)
The first phase of development of the Villas offered six different home plans, ranging in size from 1,456 to 2,012 square feet, very sizeable homes for that era (the average square footage of a home in 1975 was 1,645 square feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders). Each unit had at least two full bathrooms and some had 2 ½ baths, also unusual for the time. Some units even featured the innovative concept of a sunken bathtub. And prices? From the low $30,000s to nearly $40,000, when, according to the U.S. Census for 1970, the median value of a home in Colorado was a relatively low $17,300.
When the Villas was first built, it was in unincorporated Jefferson County, but the City of Lakewood was soon incorporated in 1969. A nearby amenity was the Villa Italia Mall, completed in 1966 and developed by Gerri Von Frellick. Villa Italia was inspired by the Italianate design of the Galleria in Milan, Italy, and featured statues of Romans, fountains, columns, stone planters, and terra cotta tile; it was one of the largest malls in the U.S. In time, however, older malls such as Villa Italia—which had been expanded and renovated in 1984--began to feel the heat from newer mega-malls. In response, Lakewood voters in 1997 said yes to a referendum to replace Villa Italia with a downtown district, something our suburb had never seen before. Construction of the new mixed use (retail/office/residential) Belmar began in April 2003 and continues today.