Belleview Station Leads the Way for Transit-Oriented Development

Colorado's Bansbach family has owned the land around the light rail's Belleview Station since the late 1800s. But now the family is leading an effort to redefine the character of this area from a staid suburban location into a thriving, walkable urban destination for upscale Denverites.
Diane Popenhagen is getting used to all the headaches. Popenhagen, the Executive Director of Homewatch CareGivers, works across the street from the massive construction project at the light rail's Belleview Station, south of downtown Denver near the Denver Tech Center. She says that in just the past week two job candidates got lost on the way to Homewatch CareGivers' offices due to all the traffic rerouting around the area.
"It poses somewhat of a problem," she acknowledges.
However, she explains that the short-term troubles caused by the construction at Belleview Station will be more than outweighed by the resulting apartment and office space scheduled to open in the coming months and years.
"Once it's done, it's going to be quite a boon for this section," she says, adding that a renewed Belleview Station will help better integrate the area with downtown Denver and other urban areas across the city.
The work that is nearing completion at Belleview Station started more than a decade ago as part of Blueprint Denver, a citywide plan by regulators intended to refresh the metropolitan area with alternatives to automobiles and mixed-use areas. Caryn Champine, Denver Development and Planning Supervisor for Community Planning and Development, says that in 2002 the area that is now Belleview Station was designated as an "area of change for us, and so that was where we wanted to direct the growth."
Champine says that the city created the General Development Plan for Belleview Station in 2005, shortly before the 2006 opening of the light rail's Belleview Station stop. The area was singled out as a possible Transit Oriented Development site, a location that would leverage the light rail to create a sort of mini Larimer Square, complete with shops, offices and apartments. The GDP eventually grew into a plan that covered the specific dimensions for apartment buildings and offices, architectural guidelines and infrastructure requirements. The GDP specified Newport Street at the area's main thoroughfare, and its goal is to create an urban, mixed-use area of walkable neighborhoods and upscale living.
Champine says the city largely finished its work in 2007 with building design guidelines and the creation of a financing mechanism for the area's master developer.
"The market is really great for this site," says Champine. "Now it's a matter of getting out of the way and making this happen."
Family leads Belleview Station renewalA rendering of Belleview Station.
Champine acknowledges that much of the city's work on Belleview Station hinged on the Bansbach family, which has owned the land around the station since the late 1800s. Indeed, she says the city did not need to directly finance the development of the area because the Bansbach family, through Front Range Land and Development Co., has taken on that task as the area's master developer. Meaning, the company is handling the financing of all the infrastructure -- water, sewer, roads and other necessities -- required to begin installing the kind of buildings envisioned by the city's plan for the area.
"We've done all the horizontal work," says Trey Warren, VP of Front Range Land and Development. "We set the vision and we make sure they, the developers, try to follow it. … Now we're selling ground to other developers."
The Bansbach family operated the Paradise Valley Country Club on the land before opening the Mountain View Golf Course on around 55 acres in the 1980s. But when the city began talking about its T-REX project and Transit Oriented Development, the family decided to get on board. The Bansbach family tore down the golf course around 2005 and has been working to prepare the land for a Belleview Station TOD since.
"It's complicated stuff," Warren says, noting that there are lots of rules and regulations involved in building a completely new neighborhood. He said Front Range Land and Development hired Civitas as its land planner. "So getting stuff done takes a while. Lots of approvals."

Next best thing after a spaceportAn aerial view of Belleview Station.
So what's happening now? Warren says Holland Partner Group is currently building a 352-unit apartment building over 34,000 square feet of retail space, and the project is expected to be finished by this time next year. Warren says Holland recently "topped it out," meaning they put a roof on the building. Warren says the retail space will include around six restaurants, a coffee shop and a hair salon, though he declined to name any specific businesses that would be moving into the space.
Warren says that Holland Partner Group also is under contract to build an additional 300 apartments over 45,000 square feet of retail space, though he cautioned that project would get rolling when the timing is right. He explained that a developer can't open too many new locations at once because flooding the market with supply will naturally lower prices.
"We don't have a seaport or a spaceport, but it's pretty good," says VP of Front Range Land and Development Trey Warren.
Warren also says that a 360,000-square-foot office building is being designed now by Prime West, and construction will begin as soon as Prime West meets all of its requirements for the site.
Warren explains that Belleview Station is prime real estate, as well as a prime example of what can be done with Transit Oriented Developments. "The site kind of speaks for itself," Warren says, noting it's next to Centennial Airport, on the light rail, near I-25, accessible via I-225 and -- when it's finished -- can get to Denver International Airport via light rail. "We don't have a seaport or a spaceport, but it's pretty good," he deadpans.
Champine, with the city, agrees. "It's an excellent example of how you can use transit to shift the character of an area from more of a suburban area to more of a walkable, urban area. Belleview is a real shining example of how you can make that happen."
"It's about getting people out of their cars and onto the train," Warren concludes. "We're committed to doing that. We have family ownership of this land that stretches back to the late 1800s. They waited a hundred years; they can wait a little more, if that's what it takes. I'm hoping it doesn't take that much more."
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Read more articles by Mike Dano.

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