The southeast corner of Peoria Street and East Colfax Avenue may serve as the virtual gateway to the 21st century with one of the country’s largest bioscience hubs, but it remains physically stuck in a slumping neighborhood.
That could change early next year.
A chipped, red sign at the corner’s busy intersection still displays a drawing of an upscale retail development called Fitzsimons Promenade that never got off of the ground. Nearby are fading logos for a Family Dollar and an O’Reilly Auto Parts, businesses that deserted the property years ago.
Denver-based builder Bush Development, who owned the project, did not respond to emails or calls about it.
It is this history that Denver-based BMC Investments and Kentro Group plan to overcome with a 40,000-square-foot retail development in the works at the 4-acre property at 12100 East Colfax Ave.. The companies said they purchased the land for $3.6 million, and that demand is high for the area.
“We’re going to have more employees across the street than the Denver Tech Center has projected,” said George Balafas, co-founder and partner of Denver-based Kentro Group “When you start looking at how many people are working there on a daily basis, you get strong interest from retailers.”
There are 17,000 employees and 4,000 students on the Anschutz Medical Campus, according to spokesman Dan Meyers.
And that captive consumer base will only grow with the opening of the nearby nine-building Aurora Veterans Hospital that Department of Veterans Affairs officials say will be completed by October 2015.
The companies will not yet say what kind of retail they plan to bring to the site but that they are in talks with the city about a multi-story building for the future following the completion of the retail space. They also say a large healthcare office has expressed interest in being located on the site. Officials said that Aurora can expect announcements in the first quarter of next year.
“With this being the gateway, this is the first thing people are going to see, and they want it to be memorable,” said Matt Joblon, CEO of Denver-based BMC Investments, of negotiations with Aurora city planning staff.
“We’re trying to figure out what the highest and best use is for the site. What’s feasible, what we can do there, and what makes sense for the community on a long-term basis.”
Kentro is one of the developers for the much-anticipated Trader Joe’s that will be coming to Colorado Boulevard.
Incentives like use tax rebates and tax increment financing — where a chunk of new sales tax revenues goes back to the developer to help offset some of the cost of a project — have been central to large-scale Aurora projects like Gardens on Havana and Cornerstar.
The southeast corner of Colfax and Peoria is just outside of the Fitzsimons Urban Renewal district, a tax increment financing area that mostly starts at the west side of Colfax between Peoria Street and Interstate 225, and goes north to Montview Boulevard. That district was formed by the city and the Aurora Urban Renewal Authority in 2001 in hopes that it would bring in new business to support the needs of the burgeoning medical campus.
Since 2001, that vision has not materialized. Motels and mobile homes have been cleared for no notable development save Fitzsimons Village.
Over half of the land that was razed for development on the south side of Colfax across from the medical campus remains empty, according to a 2013 study. Razing the area has even caused new blight factors that include deteriorated structures and crime.
Aurora City Councilwoman Sally Mounier, whose ward includes the urban renewal area, said she would like to see a grocery store like a King Soopers or Sprouts as part of the development at 12100 East Colfax, an amenity she says is “severely” lacking in that part of town.
“The base case is the 40,000 square foot retail center,” said Joblon, who added that grocery stores which he would not name had expressed interest in the site. “And we do have tenants lined up for that. What we’re trying to figure out is if we can do anything else, and if the market will support that.”
City officials have proposed new project-specific TIF areas as one solution. While the new sites would be geared towards expanding Fitzsimons Village with a $90 million hotel and conference slated to open in 2015, the southeast corner of Peoria and Colfax would be included, if approved.
That’s something Andrea Amonick, the city’s director of development services, says developers like BMC and Kentro should take into account.
“We’re recreating this urban renewal area to help fill market gaps that exist,” she said. “If the developer wants to build something and there’s a market gap, we can help them.”
Staff writer Brandon Johansson contributed to this report.