Redevelopment could transform Brighton Boulevard area into lively mixed-use district

August 08, 2016 / Posted in Condos

A 14-acre swath of aging industrial warehouses along Brighton Boulevard is the latest target for redevelopment in Denver’s River North Art District.

Denver-based Westfield Co. hopes to transform the stretch bounded by Brighton, 40th Street, 43rd Street and the railroad tracks into a lively mixed-use district, potentially home to an entertainment venue, hotel, office buildings, retail, restaurants and residences — including 80-100 affordable live-work units for artists.

Details of the redevelopment plan were kept under tight wraps until recently, when developers made a public presentation to a Denver City Council committee to request the creation of a metropolitan district to finance roughly $58 million in public infrastructure improvements related to the project.

A public hearing and council vote on the district’s service plan is scheduled for Monday. Before any additional property taxes could be collected, however, the affected property owners would have to approve a ballot measure on the district’s creation in the Nov. 8 election.

Westfield declined to comment on the project Wednesday.

Conceptual site plans provided to the city, though, show multiple new structures, a public plaza and a central, tree-lined street running parallel to Brighton Boulevard. Westfield purchased the property, also known as the Midtown Industrial Center, in 2014, according to city records.

Among Westfield’s proposals — all of which are in the conceptual phase — are a 60,000-square-foot entertainment venue that could seat 4,000 people, a 150-key hotel, 1,200-stall parking garage, 30,000-square-foot event space, 500,000 square feet of office space, 125,000 square feet of retail and restaurants and 600 residential units, according to city documents.

About 80-100 of the housing units would be permanently affordable apartments for artists. Minneapolis-based nonprofit developer Artspace confirmed earlier this summer that it had signed an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with Westfield to start working on a development plan for a portion of the 14-acre site — the only official project announcement to date.

Infrastructure work on the site could begin in the second quarter of 2017, with vertical construction commencing in fourth quarter 2017. Most of the existing tenant leases expire by the end of 2016, although a few run through mid-2017, according to Westfield’s presentation.

One of the site’s higher profile tenants, the 13th Floor Haunted House, has a lease that expires at the end of the year, but co-owner Chris Stafford said Wednesday they’re not worried about having to move — they were already planning to find a new home when their current lease was up.

“Quite honestly, we’ve outgrown this location. We’re out of space,” Stafford said. “Logistically, it made sense for us to find a bigger, better location.”

The popular Halloween attraction plans to announce its new location during the upcoming haunted house season, its last in the RiNo building it has called home for seven years, he said.

“Seven years ago, we were in the same situation — looking for bigger and better than what we had — and at the time, RiNo was not RiNo. At the time, Brighton Boulevard was just, I don’t know, the disheveled backdoor to downtown,” Stafford said. “We’ve witnessed the change over the years — it’s been cool to see because it’s good for Denver.”

But, he added, “We need to leave. It’s time.”