Infill Snapshot: Projects Underway Across Denver

Big infill projects continue to sprout all over the city. Here's a roundup of the latest news on Gates, SLOANS Denver, 9th & Colorado, Aria Denver and Stapleton.
There seems to be construction on every corner in Denver. The rampant development includes both shiny new buildings and the rehabilitation of older structures, the common thread being that in this rapidly growing city most of the projects are infill developments.

Here's a look at five of the largest infill projects in Denver, many of which have been a decade or more in the planning.

9th & Colorado
Continuum Partners

When the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center relocated to the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora in 2008, it left behind a 26-acre site in the heart of one of Denver's historic pre-war neighborhoods that was ripe for development.

For nearly a decade, developers came and went, unable to meet the demands of a neighborhood that had very specific ideas about how it wanted the site redeveloped. Then, in 2014, Continuum Partners stepped in with a $500 million plan for a mixed-use community with a new-urbanism vibe.

The master plan includes the adaptive reuse of some of the buildings on the former health campus, which will help to retain some of the history of the area. The research bridge, for example, will be converted into a hotel, and the historic nurses' dormitory will become a 22,000-square-foot specialty retail building.

When it's complete the development will have 1,100 apartments, condominiums and townhomes; up to 50 shops and restaurants in a pedestrian-friendly setting; 150,000 square feet of office space designed with sustainability in mind; and parks and plazas that will integrate green space with public art.

The first 250-unit apartment building, which also includes 50,000 square feet of retail space, is under construction and expected to be delivered in the spring of 2018.

"We are also getting ready later this year to start some subsequent phases of development that are more retail driven, and we hope to start another phase of apartments next spring," says Mark Falcone, principal of Continuum.
The former CU Health Sciences Center will be remade as mixed-use 9th & Colorado.
Though Continuum doesn't have tenants for the retail committed yet, Falcone says letters of intent for space are mounting.

Falcone says the company first determines whether a property is well-positioned enough to capture a good market response. The great neighborhoods on all sides of the project -- Park Hill, City Park, Mayfair, Hilltop, Congress Park and Country Club -- don't really have much of a commercial node nearby.

"We like these larger projects where we can enhance the value of the land with the place-making we do," Falcone says. "It's an ideal location that lends itself to higher-density development. It allows us to do some really great neighborhood shaping and really create a new commercial node for that part of town."

Aria Denver
Urban Ventures, Perry Rose

For the last decade, Susan Powers has been working with the sisters at the former Marycrest convent at West 52nd Avenue and Federal Boulevard on redeveloping the 17.5-acre site so that blends into the surrounding community.

"We are part of the community," Powers says. "We're not building a community that has walls around it."

Though the Great Recession stalled construction, Urban Ventures spent those years working on its site plan and getting entitlements so it was ready to go when Denver emerged from the economic downturn.
The former Marycrest convent is becoming cohousing at Aria Denver.
It's developed and sold the first 13 townhomes and built Aria Apartments. It recently broke ground on a co-housing project, and Powers now is turning her attention to the commercial component of the project, which will boast 45,000 square feet of space. She's talking with a few residential developers about taking over 19 lots to build townhomes and row houses.

Developed in conjunction with Perry Rose, Aria adheres to Urban Ventures' mission of focusing on redevelopment that makes a positive contribution to neighborhoods by promoting healthy living with community gardens, production gardens, pocket parks and pathways integrated into the sites. There's also a full-time healthy living coordinator who holds fitness classes on the site.

The variety of housing types on the site includes a significant commitment to affordable housing in various buildings.

"It was an opportunity for us to do something very unique -- create a microcosm of what the city is," Powers says. "There really aren't that many sites of this size in Denver. It was an unusual opportunity to find this property that was so close to downtown."

Broadway Station Partners

The last piece of the former Gates Rubber plant at Interstate 25 and Broadway has been sold to a developer that plans to add 400 apartments on a 4.37-acre parcel at 201 E. Mississippi Ave.

San Francisco-based Carmel Partners purchased the property from McKinnon and Associates, which has been working on Gates East on the east side of South Broadway since 2005.

Gates, a manufacturer of rubber belts employed more than 5,000 people in the 1950s. The factory shut down in 1991, leaving a large hole in Denver's urban fabric.

With the completion of the Carmel project, there will be 66 for-sale homes, 720 multifamily units, 27,000 square feet of retail and 328,289 square feet of office space on the 30 acres near the I-25/Broadway light-rail station.
A concept sketch of the Gates Rubber redevelopment.
The 41 acres on the west side of the former Gates campus has been a bit slower to be redeveloped. Developer Cherokee Denver had purchased the site from Gates for $26.5 million in 2001, but its plans for a $1 billion mixed-use development fell victim to the economic downturn when it failed to attract financing. Gates took the property back in 2009, and crews demolished the buildings in 2014.

Gates sold the site for $28.5 million in September 2014 to brownfield redevelopment company Frontier Renewal. Broadway Station Partners, which includes Frontier, has been working on environmental remediation on the site and rekindling plans for a mixed-use development with about half the density of Cherokee's and nearly double the open space. The current plan calls for about 2,600 multifamily units; 1 million square feet of commercial space; and up to 250,000 square feet of retail.

"Given the contamination, Gates was selective in their buyers," says Lisa Duker-Ingle, development project manager for Broadway Station Partners. "Sometimes it's a matter of timing, and the timing seemed right to develop this site."

The property was rezoned in June. Its urban design guidelines and infrastructure master plan have both been approved. Now, Broadway Station Partners is working with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority on a financing package for the site. 

Broadway Station Partners expected to find extensive soil contamination, but little was found so the project is three to five years ahead of schedule, with 30.2 acres certified as clean by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"We're hoping to break ground  on infrastructure installation in the spring followed by vertical development," says Lisa Duker-Ingle, development project manager for Broadway Station Partners.

EnviroFinance Group

One of the first large-scale condominium projects in Denver launched sales last month.

A rendering of the Lakehouse.NAVA Real Estate Development plans to break ground on the 12-story Lakehouse across from Sloan's Lake during the fourth quarter, and an on-site sales center -- complete with a model kitchen, bathroom and finish samples -- already is up and running.

Prices for the 206 condos will range from the mid $400,000s to more than $1 million. Amenities will include an 18,000-square-foot outdoor deck with an urban farm, pool, hot tub, cabanas and gardens; and a fitness center with exercise equipment, yoga room, sauna and juice bar.

The project is seeking WELL Building Standard certification, which measures attributes of buildings that impact occupant health such as air, water, nourishment, light, fitness comfort and mind.

Master developer EnviroFinance Group, which closed on the former site of St. Anthony's Hospital in January 2013, has either sold or has contracts on the seven city blocks that make up the 19-acre site. Trammell Crow Residential has completed two apartment buildings that are more than 60 percent leased and Highland Tap & Burger is expected to open in one of the two retail spaces this month.

When it's completely built out, SLOANS Denver will have up to 1,200 residential units and 150,000 square feet of retail and office space.

"Less than four years ago, there was an operating hospital there," says Cameron Bertron, executive vice president of EnviroFinance. "Today, it's 50 percent vertically constructed. We've had a great partnership with Denver."

Forest City Realty Trust

At the end of June, Forest City's Stapleton 4,700-acre master-planned community had 23,000 residents, a number that is expected to reach 30,000 when all of the former airport site is developed.

So far, 6,600 homes have been sold and are occupied. At full buildout, Forest City projects 9,000 homes will be built. There are currently 1,500 apartments, with another 483 under development. "We think we'll have 3,000 when we're complete," says Tom Gleason, vice president of public relations for Forest City.

The company recently announced that Stapleton is extending the community into Aurora with the next phase of the Bluff Lake neighborhood. The new enclave of homes begins at 26th Avenue and Fulton Street and is roughly 10 blocks to the Bluff Lake Nature Center and even closer to the new commercial development taking shape, including Stanley Marketplace and Eastbridge Town Center. In July, Stapleton launched Beeler Park featuring 822 homes that can be built as Zero Energy ready, making the neighborhood the development's most energy-efficient yet.
Forest City sees an office-centric TOD project for Central Park Station.
Stapleton also has followed through on its commitment to provide a variety of affordable options through ownership programs and apartment rentals. Late last year, two new affordable developments broke ground: the 84-unit Northfield@Stapleton Apartments the Conservatory Green neighborhood available at 60 percent of area median income and the 45 for-sale income-qualified townhomes in two locations 
-- one across from Central Park and the other off Montview Boulevard. "340 affordable homes have been purchased and occupied overall," Gleason says.

There are 2.4 million square feet of retail space currently open at Stapleton, including the East 29th Avenue Town Center, the Shops at Northfield and Quebec Square, which Forest City sold several years ago. 

The newest addition is the next town center in the eastern portion of the community where Martin Luther King splits onto 29th Drive. A 56,000-square-foot King Soopers, slated to open by early next year, is the anchor tenant.

So far, there has been 393,000 square feet of office space and 2.5 million square feet of industrial flex space developed, as well as 289 hotel rooms with another 112 opening soon in the Marriott Residence Inn on Central Park north of Interstate 70.

There are still opportunities for transit-oriented development around Central Park Station on the University of Colorado A Line. "We have 35 acres that can accommodate office," Gleason says. "We're planning mixed-use immediately south of the RTD station."

Read more articles by Margaret Jackson.

Margaret is a veteran Denver real estate reporter and can be contacted here.
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