7-Eleven in LoDo sues landlord Unico in fight over homelessness

A national real estate firm said workers feel unsafe outside its office building at 18th and Blake in LoDo, an issue that it lays at the feet of its ground-floor tenant: 7-Eleven.

But 7-Eleven said it is being scapegoated for downtown’s lingering problem of vagrancy.

This debate between landlord and tenant played out in letters between lawyers last year. It escalated Oct. 16 when 7-Eleven’s corporate office sued the owner of 1755 Blake St.

The dispute began in September 2021, when Seattle-based Unico paid $61.2 million for the five-story building. 7-Eleven had been a tenant for 11 years by that time.

Within months of buying the property, Unico began complaining of problems there.

“Over the last several weeks, one person has overdosed in front of the premises, a stabbing suspect fled into the premises, a partially clothed man slept in front of the store, a family slept outside (it), and an exterior window was shattered,” Unico’s property manager, Maria Clark, wrote to 7-Eleven’s corporate office near Dallas in August 2022.

That letter, like others cited in this article, was attached as an exhibit to 7-Eleven’s lawsuit and obtained by BusinessDen from Denver District Court in a records request.

Clark’s letter included 91 photos taken outside the 7-Eleven last year. Many showed transient people, but others displayed clean sidewalks and a presentable storefront. Those photos, according to Unico, were taken between January and April 2022 — when 7-Eleven was closed. To Unico, this was proof that 7-Eleven was attracting trouble, not a passive victim of it.

So, Unico began billing 7-Eleven for the two full-time security guards and one part-time day porter that it hired at 1755 Blake St. The convenience store paid $20,000 to Unico under protest in December, then refused to pay another $54,000 that Unico demanded in March.

“The landlord taking exploitative photographs of people in compromised situations at discrete times does not change the lease terms, which exclude the tenant from any security obligations,” Whitney House, an attorney for 7-Eleven corporate, wrote to Unico. “(The) tenant is not doing anything to attract vagrants; it is merely operating a legal business.”

7-Eleven notes that 18th and Blake is a few blocks from homeless shelters, Union Station and the 16th Street Mall — popular hangouts for the city’s transient population. 7-Eleven said that it has decreased its store hours, chased off non-customers and hired a roving security service to improve the situation. It’s also willing to play loud music if Unico wants it to.

Meanwhile, the convenience store wants that $20,000 it paid in protest back. It claims that Unico broke its lease when it charged 7-Eleven for security, a landlord responsibility.

“There is only so much 7-Eleven can do,” its lawsuit reiterates, “to help control the acts of third parties who are occupying public space on public sidewalks.”

Unico spokespeople did not answer BusinessDen’s requests to comment on the lawsuit. The company is represented by Merc Pittinos of Moye White.

Three attorneys from Clark Hill, a national law firm, represent 7-Eleven. The LoDo store is operated by a franchisee, who is not identified in the lawsuit.

Their dispute is not the first involving a downtown 7-Eleven. In late 2019, the franchisee of a store at 15th Street and Court Place sued his landlord, the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel. He accused the Sheraton of wrongly evicting 7-Eleven to make way for a major renovation. The Sheraton countersued but the case was settled and the 7-Eleven moved out.

Read more at our partner, BusinessDen.

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