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St. Anthony's Redevelopment Could Spark West Colfax Resurgence

There is not much left of St. Anthony's Hospital.

The Sloan's Lake area doesn't have a lot of dining or retail in the vicinity.

Across the street from Sloan's Lake, construction begins on a $300 million redevelopment.

The Sloan's Lake redevelopment kicked into high gear in 2011 when St. Anthony's Hospital sold its West Colfax campus to EnviroFinance Group, which began its demolition of the hospital in April 2013 -- and began the area's renaissance in earnest.

The residents of Sloan's Lake have long enjoyed their proximity to Denver's largest body of water. But soon, thanks to the redevelopment of the former site of St. Anthony's Hospital, they may also be able to enjoy a potentially thriving nightlife anchored by high-end restaurants and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
"There's nothing to do here," laments Chad Reischl, Co-President of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors, or WeCAN, and a resident of the Sloan's Lake area. However, thanks to a $300 million redevelopment of the former site of the St. Anthony's Hospital on West Colfax, just south of Sloan's Lake, that might soon change. 

"This is really the opportunity to get something to do here," Reischl says. "We're just looking forward to it. It's going to be exciting. We're going to start seeing a lot more interest in the neighborhood."

The redevelopment of the former site of St. Anthony's Hospital closes the book on a story that started more than a century ago. In 1892, the Poor Sisters of St. Francis opened the doors of the 180-bed St. Anthony's Hospital on the south shore of Sloan's Lake to provide health services to railroad workers. At the time the site was on the outskirts of a nascent Denver. Over the years the hospital grew to a sprawling, million-square-foot facility. 

But by the early 2000s, the hospital outgrew its 19-acre campus and in 2005 it announced plans to build a new facility at the Federal Center in Lakewood and to close and sell its central campus that now sits near the heart of Denver.

In 2006, the St. Anthony Redevelopment Task Force released a study recommending a full redevelopment of the site. Concurrently, Denver's Department of Community Planning and Development issued a West Colfax Corridor Plan that identified the site as an opportunity to develop a "town center" for the South Sloan's Lake and West Colfax neighborhoods. The development plans envision a pedestrian-friendly site that would help grow the area into a destination for shopping, dining, nightlife and entertainment.

The Sloan's Lake redevelopment kicked into high gear in 2011 when St. Anthony's Hospital sold its West Colfax campus to EnviroFinance Group, which began its demolition of the hospital in April 2013 -- and began the area's renaissance in earnest.

Alamo Drafthouse and moreThe Sloan's Lake redevelopment kicked into high gear in 2011 when St. Anthony's Hospital sold its West Colfax campus to EnviroFinance Group, which began its demolition of the hospital in April 2013 -- and began the area's renaissance in earnest.

Most of the stakeholders in the area are extremely pleased with the project's progress so far -- a major apartment building, a high-end hotel and restaurants and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema are all scheduled to open on the site in the next year or so.

"The one component Sloan's Lake was missing for a lot of buyers was the retail," says Deviree Vallejo, Realtor with Kentwood City Properties. "There's not a whole lot of retail around Sloan's Lake unless you cross Sheridan. I think it [the redevelopment] adds a significant amount of value to the residential side. I think the residential prices will increase significantly."

"West Colfax is an area that, until the past few years, has not seen investment of any kind for a generation," says Dan Shah, Director of the West Colfax Business Improvement District. The St. Anthony's redevelopment is "really key to bringing the neighborhood life back."

"This is the number one catalytic site to jumpstart the redevelopment of West Colfax," says Andrea Burns, spokesperson for Denver Community Planning and Development. "The future of this site is exciting. It will take a blighted former hospital site and turn it into a town center that can activate the park, bring in residential and neighborhood-serving retail to serve the surrounding neighborhoods, and along with the RTD W Line, reinvigorate the West Colfax area."

"I think the redevelopment of St. Anthony's is going to be really key in driving the development here on out," adds WeCAN's Reischl.

Local oppositionThe Sloan's Lake area doesn't have a lot of dining or retail in the vicinity.

Not everyone agrees, however. Larry Ambrose, a Sloan's Lake resident and President of Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, which represents the city's registered neighborhood organizations, has spoken out against the redevelopment as too dense and too tall. 

"INC has taken an official position in favor of the city requiring a greater amount of more publicly accessible private open space in new high density developments," Ambrose says. "It is also concerned about the need for more public open space for new residents and the diminishing amount per capita of park space in the city of Denver."

And Ambrose points to a recent opinion column by the Denver Post's Vincent Carroll as bolstering his position. Carroll recently wrote that, in its quest to increase city density, "Denver zoning won't protect you."

Nonetheless, the St. Anthony's redevelopment project moves on. Cameron Bertron, Senior VP with EnviroFinanceGroup and Project Manager for the St. Anthony's redevelopment, says that the site should be flattened and ready for work by mid-June. Work on utilities will be completed by October, and after that, the real work can begin.

Specifically, Trammell Crow is planning to break ground this summer on two of the seven blocks parceled for redevelopment, and is planning to build 370 rental units and 10,000 square feet of retail. That project should have occupants within a year. 

Another block has been purchased by Littleton Capital Partners and Weston Capital and is scheduled to house new retail and restaurant space, 60,000 feet of office space and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema -- noted by many as a high point of the redevelopment project. Pending a vote by Denver City Council vote, the project is tentatively scheduled to be completed late next year. 

Finally, the Kuhlman Block Alliance, which includes Proximity Green, Larimer Associates and others, is planning to put a boutique hotel, apartments, restaurants and retail on another block. That project should start in late 2014 and be completed in about a year.

Bertron says EnviroFinanceGroup also inked a contract for another block and will announce that on June 17.

Overall, EnviroFinanceGroup expects 800 to 1,000 units of residential development and between 100,000 and 150,000 square feet of commercial space to be completed by 2016. "Four of the seven blocks are likely to be closed and under construction by the end of the 2014, and five of the seven blocks would be under construction within the next year," Bertron says. "I think that that's fast. I think that that's a great outcome." He adds that the current progress on the redevelopment is beyond the company's expectations, and includes more commercial space than originally predicted.

"The thing that's really a pleasant surprise is that it includes not only residential but commercial components," adds Shah of the West Colfax Business Improvement District. "All of that has a cumulative effect of momentum."

As the EnviroFinanceGroup's redevelopment of the former St. Anthony Hospital site gains steam, some believe it will lead to a wider revitalization of the wider West Colfax area. Shah said there is redevelopment work happening at 3610 W. Colfax Ave., and a mixed use project close to Sheridan on the south side of Colfax. Also, at Colfax Avenue and Irving Street, there's the Avondale Apartments, Del Norte NDC's $20 million mixed-use project complete with 14,000 square feet of commercial space and a 28,000-square foot-library, along with office space and a daycare facility.

"It's fun to see the evolution of it," says Vallejo with Kentwood City Properties. "There's just a ton of activity."

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Mike Dano.

Mike is a freelance writer and executive editor of FierceMarkets Telecom Group.
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