You’ve almost definitely seen it: an enormous gray building peeking out over Interstate 70 and displaying an appropriately huge banner for “TheBigWonderful.”
The building is the former printing plant of the Denver Post. Right now, it’s stuck on a kind of urban island. It’s less than a mile from the construction bonanza of River North, but its area is completely surrounded by the highways and a rail corridor.
Someday soon, though, this little corner of north Denver will have a valuable new asset: It will be home to the first stop on the G Line out of Union Station to Arvada. And a new proposal before the Denver City Council aims to take advantage of that fact.
A rezoning application for 4400 Fox Street would open up dozens of acres — including the old printing plant — for intensive redevelopment up to 12 floors.
“You have a site that’s vacant, and it’s highly visible. This is kind of where you’re supposed to do it,” said Zak Kessler, associate general counsel for Woodspear Properties.
“We think it could be a good catalyst for the station area. We think transit-oriented development and density around stations is a good thing.”
It’s far from a guaranteed plan. Construction is likely a long way out, if it ever happens. But the proposal on the table now is a major step toward potential development on this site in Globeville.
They don’t want to build this urban center themselves.
The current ownership group, represented by Woodspear and Ascendant Development, bought 41 acres off Fox Street back in 2008. But they’re not in the business of “vertical development.”
Instead, they’re doing all the legwork that could attract a builder.
“What we’re trying to do … is to create a vision for someone to come in and be able to execute on the vertical development,” Kessler said.
The owners already have rezoned 10.5 acres on the south side of the site and created “metro districts,” which are a way to fund roads and other infrastructure.
Now, they’re asking Denver to rezone the rest of their land, another 30.5 acres. Those changes would allow the construction of buildings up to 8 and 12 floors on the site, with a mix of residential, office, restaurant and retail.
In the “long, long term” — 10 to 20 years or more — the site could host 661,000 square feet of office, retail, live-work space and restaurants; 85,000 square feet of pure retail; and nearly 3,000 residential units, Kessler said. That’s on the same scale as the redevelopment of the Union Station area.
Of course, all this depends on whether or not a vertical developer takes the deal. But the property owners appear to be pretty serious. Rezonings and development plans of this size are neither cheap nor easy.
It’s a rare piece of property
You don’t usually find 40 acres of developable land near the heart of Denver. It’s comparable to sites like Elitch Gardens, the Gates property on Broadway and the area around Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Kessler said.
But it would take a lot of work.
“There’s no roads or anything here (on the property),” Kessler said. “There’s nothing.”
And there are only two major ways in and out of the isolated area — 38th Avenue and 44th Avenue. The island also is home to a mix of warehouses, a few dozen homes and student housing for the Auraria campus.
The property owners know that the buildout could bring new traffic and other infrastructure concerns, so they’re proposing a couple limits that should help, Kessler said.
One proposal would tie development to traffic conditions. If traffic in the area exceeds a certain level, development couldn’t proceed until the roads and infrastructure caught up, he said.
Another stipulation would require that 10 percent of the site’s 26 developable acres be set aside for open space. (The other acres will be taken up by roads and other uses.)
The owners also are willing to go beyond the city requirements for below-market housing, Kessler said.nUnder the proposal, developers would pay 25 percent higher-than-normal fees toward the city’s affordable housing fund, or build 25 percent more units than is normally required.
The rezoning is set for a public hearing before the city council on Monday, June 18. Council meetings start at 5:30 p.m. and public comment is accepted.