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Easy ways for residents, customers and commerce to get around will be key to the Metro North area’s progress in the coming years, according to the plans laid out for four different projects discussed at March 15 Chamber of Commerce forum.
The Metro North Chamber of Commerce’s second annual State of the Region breakfast on four different projects spread around the region — in the east, Denver International Airport’s expansion plans; in the south, Adams County’s Clear Creek trail and nearby developments; the Westminster Downtown development currently underway; and Broomfield’s former NorthPark development, now named for Baseline Road which runs through the development.
Broomfield’s 1stBank Center hosted the Metro North Chamber and 330 of its members for the breakfast discussion and local business trade show once again this year. Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Moss said
“It’s no secret to anybody here that the Metro North Region is shifting greatly and growing at an amazing pace,” Moss said. “This morning, we’ll dive into four projects that promise to have a long-term impact for all of us in this room and all of our communities.”
Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day gave the keynote address, focusing on plans to expand the airport and modernize it.
The airport, which opened in May 1994, is in need of updating, she said. Denver approved a $3.5 billion capital improvement project for the next five years.
“It’s not just to expand and accommodate growth, but to take care of our ageing infrastructure,” she said. “We just turned 23 years old —23 years! Every escalator in that airport is 23 years old, which is not a good thing.”
Plans are underway to relocate security to a better location, add two sets of concourse trains and to extend the concourses, adding 39 additional gates within two years.
“So we are going to do a very balanced approach to growth and maintenance. We need to take it up to another level in terms of capacity, we need to replace old systems with energy efficient ones and we need to up the passenger experience.”
But plans are not limited to the airport itself. Day discussed plans to build commercial development sites around the airport.
“We now can develop 1,500 acres of commercial development, and that has led to use creating a fabulous strategic development plan,” Day said.
Day cautioned against allowing residential development in the area, noting that encroaching housing is what kept Denver’s old Stapleton Airport from expanding and what forced Denver leaders to look for a new site.
“When we planned this airport, we planned for it to isolated,” Day said. “Over the last 23 years here have been exceptions made to the zoning and we are concerned that the exceptions could become the norm. So we ask for all of you to work with us to protect the airport.”
Day was followed by a panel from the City of Westminster who updated the crowd on the progress of Westminster Downtown, the city’s 105 acre development north of 88th Avenue and west of Sheridan that will be the successor to the long-demolished Westminster Mall.
Rather than a single development, the project seeks to create an economically vibrant neighborhood with a million square-feet of retail and about seven million square feet of total development spread out of the equivalent of 22 city blocks.
Mayor Herb Atchison said the city tried to find a master developer to take over the site.
“We tried that — not once, not twice but three times — and it didnt’ work.” Atchison said. “We finally got the message.”
Instead, the city is planning to develop a new city itself, from the ground up.
“You don’t build it at once, but you do it one block at a time,” Atchison said. “That’s the way this is set up. We are set up in phases, selling the land and not developing it ourselves.”
With the Boulder turnpike nearby and the access to planned RTD light rail expansion, Atchison said it should be an economic engine for the entire region.
“What we have here is not only Westminster but it’s the Northwest Area,” Atchison said. “These type of projects, whether it’s Broomfield, Thornton, Northglenn, Brighton or Westminster bring economy to the region and this will be a catalyst.”
Trails and rail
Adams County Economic Development’s Clear Creek Valley project is looking at two kinds transportation, walking and rail. It runs for seven miles along the Clear Creek Valley trail in southwest Adams County, north of Interstate 70 between Sheridan and York. ACED Senior Vice President Tricia Allen is prime for development, with an existing greenway along the trail, great access to Interstate high way system, RTD commuter rail in the area on plenty of adjacent land prime for development and it’s just north of Downtown Denver.
“What is possible when you have a seven mile trail and creek with five commuter rail opportunities, land for development and redevelopment located just outside of Denver’s soon to be tapped out RiNO (River North, south of Interstate 70) area?” she said. “What do you think you can do with all of that?”
Dr. John Renne, a developer working with the county on the project, said it’s one of the few untouched real estate markets in the area.
“Denver is at the peak of one of the greatest real estate boom sit has ever seen but there are still neighborhood and places that have not experienced that boom,” he said. “The Clear Creek Valley is one of those places.”
Allen said the goal is redevelop “without the ugly aspects of gentrification.”
“If anyone out here knows an answer to that, please contact me,” Allen said. “We need to talk.”
Broomfield’s signature mixed development calls for 30 million square feet of commercial development and more than 14,000 residential units along Colorado Highway 7 — Baseline Road — east to Interstate 25. High profile projects that have signed on include a new Ikea store and a science center with an expanded 60,000 square foot Butterfly Pavilion and research center.
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