$250 million Rock Drill development rolling in northeast Denver

Developers want to put hotels, offices, retail and more in the Cole neighborhood, and they’re asking the city to approve a metro district to raise funds for the infrastructure.
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The Denver Rock Drill Manufacturing Company as photographed from an airplane circa 1925. (Denver Public Library/Western History & Genealogy Dept./X-24266)

A year after it was announced, developers are gearing up their plan for the historic Rock Drill campus in northeast Denver.

The project could put hotel rooms, office space, retail and entertainment space on the former home of the Denver Rock Drill Manufacturing Company.

More than 600 employees once worked at the site to produce pneumatic drills. It's easily identified by the peaked roofs of its brick buildings at the edge of the Cole neighborhood, and in recent years the site has hosted a series of events. The Weiss family, which owns the site, is working with Saunders Development on the project, which the partners said would cost $250 million.

Now, they're asking the city to approve a major new step: They want to create a "metro district," which is a way to collect extra property taxes on the land in order to fund infrastructure. The exact details of the financing weren't yet available, but districts often are used to pay for roads, utilities and public space.

The plan includes more than 700,000 square feet of commercial space -- about two-thirds the size of Cherry Creek Shopping Center. There are no plans for housing on the site, and the developer doesn't need a rezoning, according to city documents.

That means that the developers likely don't need Denver City Council's permission to build the project they're imagining. However, they do need the council to approve the new metro district.

The site stands just a couple blocks from the 38th and Blake rail station, and it will border the city's planned 39th Avenue greenway and flood-control channel.

A representative for the developer didn't immediately return a call for comment.

Denver Rock Drill. (Courtesy of Saunders Development)

Byron Weiss bought the property in 1992 for his company, Porta Power Inc. In the late ’90s, he added the 30-unit Lofts at Denver Rock Drill Works to the area.

In 2016, Weiss, along with his sons Andy and Brett Weiss, decided to seek a partner to embark on a major redevelopment of the 700,000-square-foot site. Weiss plans to relocate Porta Power and its roughly 15 employees to a site he owns in Commerce City, he said last year.

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