The stage is now set for the redevelopment of the barren former Gates Rubber site, wedged between South Broadway and South Santa Fe Drive south of I-25.
Councilman Jolon Clark, whose District 7 includes the area, used the phrase “at long last” as he prepared to vote for a redevelopment plan Monday night that calls for up to 2,589 residential units, 902,644 square feet of office and coworking space and 108,878 square feet of retail space. Efforts to redevelop the site go back to 2001 and stalled out amid the Great Recession. Clark was enthusiastic as he described the potential not just for housing but for transit and connectivity between neighborhoods.
The plan, unanimously approved by the Denver City Council, also clears the way for $91 million in tax-increment financing through the Denver Urban Renewal Authority. The money will be paid out of increased taxes generated by higher property values and will go to infrastructure improvements that will connect people living east of Broadway with the South Platte River trails and Levitt Pavilion, as well as to address school needs in the area and additional environmental remediation. An additional $48 million from the three metropolitan districts in the area could bring the total public financing to $138 million in assistance, according to DURA.
Last year, Denver City Council approved a station area plan for Broadway and I-25 that allows for buildings between five and 16 stories, with restrictions to protect mountain views from Washington Park. The owner of the property, Broadway Station Partners, plans to get the site “shovel-ready” and look for developers to design and construct the buildings, a process that could take as long as 10 years.
The housing plan calls for 338 units of affordable housing with a 40-year covenant, a much longer guarantee of affordable housing than the city usually gets.
Councilwoman At-large Robin Kniech said the plan has many positive elements, from the new connections to the affordable housing to the commitment to hire local workers for construction. While the details are different than the previous, now repealed Cherokee Gates Urban Redevelopment Plan, it retains many of the same ideals.
“My hope is that we see this vision built,” she said.
Councilman Rafael Espinoza, who represents northwest Denver, said many other parts of town near transit stations have development challenges and could benefit from public money to address infrastructure needs.
“We need this level of thoughtfulness and planning in all of our station areas,” he said. “For decades, blocks like mine have existed near station areas, paying our fair share, without getting investments.”
Gates Rubber Co.’s presence along South Broadway dates back to at least 1911 when Charles and Hazel Gates acquired the Colorado Leather and Tire Co. The site turned out rubber tires and other products through both World Wars. During the 1950s, the rubber company began expanding abroad, paving the way for operations in Denver to eventually die off in the following decades. By 1991, manufacturing at the site was halted, and in 1996 the company was sold.
Councilman Paul López recalled the old factory as an appealing place for young boys.
“Growing up just a stone’s throw away, it was great target practice,” he said. (For stones. Get it?)
And López had just one more request of builders: Keep an eye out for any old rubber balls.
“I lost my Gates rubber ball,” he said. “The super balls that they had, those were great. If you find one, return it. Please. If, while you’re digging … you could throw those down the street and they would just keep going.”