Developer behind The Crescent stays ahead of the curve

BY MIKE SHERWIN OF THE JEWISH LIGHT STAFF

Real estate developer Mark Mehlman has a special place in his heart for the City of Clayton.

“I’m a longtime Clayton resident,” he said. My office is in Clayton. All of my children went through the Clayton schools, so I have quite a feel for what Clayton is all about.”

Mehlman, 56, has become a high-stakes player in local development, and his latest project, the mixed-use condominium complex The Crescent, shows the staggering numbers involved in his work.

“It’s a $73 million, mid-rise complex with 72 luxury condominiums and 26,000 square feet of retail space,” he said. The Crescent, which is still under construction, is located on Carondolet Plaza Drive, across from the Ritz-Carlton in Clayton.

In his role as Clayton Alderman and as a member of Clayton’s Architectural Review Board, Steven Lichtenfeld has worked with Mehlman on numerous occasions.

“Mark is doing very high-end work,” he said. “He has a very good vision of where he wants the city of Clayton to go, and he is very interested in rebuilding and revitalizing parts of the city.”

Mehlman hopes to build a $100 million retail, hotel and office complex adjacent to The Crescent. In December, he asked the Clayton City Council to consider approving $20 million in public subsidies, including $15 million in tax increment financing for the development.

Mehlman would like to boost retail in downtown Clayton, which he said would help the city and cater to downtown Clayton condominium dwellers.

“A lot of old Clayton retail has moved to the malls,” he said. “Bringing them back to Clayton would provide more of an open-air village lifestyle, where people can shop and can be entertained within a short distance from their businesses and their homes.”

Mehlman has received accolades for his work, including being named “Business Person of the Year” for 2007 by the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, which will recognize him at its annual awards banquet on Jan. 31 at the Ritz-Carlton.

Ellen Gale, executive director of the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, said that Mehlman was “the natural choice” for the award this year.

“His project, The Crescent, is really a wonderful addition to the Clayton residential market. It’s a beautiful, upscale project, and it serves a unique need in the community,” Gale said. “And by bringing that kind of residential density to Clayton, it helps our businesses as well, because people that live in Clayton will patronize the restaurants and retail businesses in the Central Business District.”

Mehlman got his start in real estate working for his father, the late Perry Mehlman, in 1971, buying, renovating and selling homes. At first, he said, he and his father would sell around 20 homes a year. But by the 1980s, they were selling over 200 homes a year.

From there, the business progressed to buying entire blocks of properties for condominium construction. Mehlman is still surprised at his rise from single-home sales to multimillion-dollar designer buildings like The Crescent.

“It’s very hard to believe sometimes,” he said. “I find myself looking at these buildings and saying, ‘I can’t believe how awesome this is.'”

Mehlman credits much of his success to his wife, Debi. “Without her, I would not be where I am today,” he said. “Not only does Debi take care of most of the duties at home, but I also rely on her greatly for my business.”

Of Mehlman’s four children, two of his three sons have already followed in their father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and have begun careers in real estate. His son Blair works with his father in Clayton, and another son, Scott, works at a real estate firm in Denver. His daughter, Leigh, attends the University of Colorado’s school of business. While his youngest son, Chad, is still in high school, Mehlman said he is “the most driven real estate developer-to-be.” The family belongs to Temple Israel.

Mehlman founded the Natalie Gayle Mehlman Foundation, in honor of his first daughter, who died in 1999 from a heart defect.

“It’s every parent’s nightmare,” Mehlman said. “I miss Natalie every day. Whenever I need some inner strength I call upon her for help.”

The foundation Mehlman established helps support camping, education, sports and recreational activities for needy children, including sending kids to Kamaji, a camp in Minnesota which Natalie attended as a camper and then as a counselor.

“Family is really what I’m all about, quite honestly,” Mehlman said. “What I hope I’ve been able to do is to leave something for my family, the residents of Clayton and the city of Clayton to be extremely proud of.”

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