The city of Lakewood is a 44-square-mile suburb of Denver that's the most populous in Jefferson County, with more than 154,000 people calling it home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
One of its busiest business districts is Belmar, the area bounded by South Wadsworth Boulevard to the west, West Alameda Avenue to the north, South Pierce Street to the east and West Center Avenue to the south.
Before Belmar became the shopping center that you know and love today, it was the site of the Belmar Estate – an opulent piece of property originally built in 1937. This belonged to May Bonfils-Stanton, who was an heiress to the Denver Post.
Her mansion was an exact replica of Marie Antoinette’s Petite Trianon Palace in France, and filled with treasures from around the world. According to the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Bonfils-Stanton “generously bestowed” her wealth upon Denver, and helped fund the library and auditorium of Loretto Heights College, the Bonfils Wing at the Denver Museum of Natural History and the interior décor of the Catholic Chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
In 1960, Bonfils-Stanton and her husband leased some of the land to the developers behind the Villa Italia Mall.
This mall was over 500,000 square feet when it opened in 1965 – making it one of the largest enclosed shopping malls in the world. This was also one of the top revenue generators for the city until it fell behind some of the newer malls built in the 1980s and 1990s.
You can still see the front gate of Belmar Mansion in Belmar Park southwest of Alameda and Wadsworth.
PHOTOS: The Belmar Mansion
Most of the area houses the bustling Belmar Shopping Center, an indoor-outdoor mall with more than 110 businesses, everything from big-box retailers like Staples, Whole Foods, Target and Hobby Lobby, to a host of small specialty shops, to breweries, restaurants and more.
In September 2015, Belmar grabbed headlines when Starwood Capital Group, a Connecticut-based investment firm, scooped up the shopping center for nearly $300 million. The deal was by far the largest of year and unusual in that Belmar is a mixed-use development, meaning that it consists of retail, office and residential space, something most investors shy away from buying as a single entity.
But it's that mixed-use quality that makes Belmar such an attractive place for visitors and residents. Smack dab in the middle of the shopping center is an ice rink where families can skate during the winter months, and then head to the Baker Street Pub & Grill to grab a bite next door. (There's also a brewery there for more adult moments: Crazy Mountain Brewery, formerly World of Beer, serves all a beer-lover's favorites: Ambers, pale ales, pilsners, wheats, you name it.)
Another favorite: Brodo Italian Kitchen (7167 W. Alaska Dr.) opened in December 2016 to much fanfare. It's a contemporary restaurant serving unique appetizers, simple salads, grinder-style sandwiches and house-made pastas. And to satisfy that sweet tooth, head to PS Sweet Shoppe (334 S. Teller St.), which bills itself as a "nostalgic recreation of that classic and bygone era of candy stores."
Other restaurants worth a visit: Rock 'n' Roll-themed pizzeria The Rock Wood Fire Kitchen (7399 W. Alaska Dr.); Little India (425 S. Teller St.); upscale American fare spot Tstreet Roadhouse (445 S. Teller St.) and The French Press (7323 W. Alaska Dr.), a fair-trade, organic coffeehouse that also serves sandwiches and bakery items.
Besides the many dining options, Belmar's mix of big-box and small business makes it a shopper's paradise.
Boutiques and specialty shops include things like Charming Charlie, 4 Walls (a picture frame store), Evereve, The Fall Line and Richie Moon by El Forastero, to name a few.
Several fitness chains have set up shop in Belmar too, such as 24 Hour Fitness, Pure Barre and CorePower Yoga.
Belmar also has a bowling alley (Lucky Strike) and a movie theater (Century 16), plus several art galleries.
Surrounding the busy shopping center are several residential developments, mostly townhouses and apartments priced around the $450,000 to $500,000 range. There's also a small park area, Belmar Square Park, to take four-legged friends for a walk.
As Lakewood’s ceremonial downtown, Belmar has a lot of events throughout the year. One of the most popular is the Festival Italiano, a two-day event that features Italian food, wine (hello!) and artisan vendors.
In addition, you can catch performances from flag throwers, take part in a two-day bocce tournament and see live entertainment.
In years past, this event right in the heart of Belmar has attracted more than 100,000 people.
Like other parts of town, Belmar also has a First Friday Art Walk, where you can check out some of the galleries on what’s known as Block 7.
You can check out a full list of events in Belmar here: http://bit.ly/2j6rkPU