PROJECT TURNS ROCKIES INTO DE­VEL­OP­ERS

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Ru­bino

Sec­tion of LoDo will in­clude hall of fame, con­dos, ho­tels, bars and res­tau­rants.

Pro sports fran­chises gen­er­ally build ros­ters. Oc­ca­sion­ally, they build prac­tice fa­cil­i­ties. Some­times sta­di­ums, are­nas or ball­parks. The Colorado Rockies are primed to be the first Den­ver team to make the jump to full-on mixed-use de­vel­oper.

Fol­low­ing through on a plan an­nounced in De­cem­ber, the Rockies and ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign firm Stan­tec sub­mit­ted a site plan to the city last month out­lin­ing a two-build­ing project that would bring more than 828,000 square feet of devel­op­ment to Lower Down­town.

Ris­ing from the “west lot” park­ing area just south of Coors Field on 20th Street, the pair of build­ings — one 11 sto­ries and the other 13 — would com­bine to in­clude 114 con­dos, plans show. It will in­clude 144,693 square feet of ho­tel space, 87,091 square feet for bars, res­tau­rants or re­tail­ers, 210,900 square feet for of­fices and — most im­por­tantly, for pur­ple-and-black die-hards — a 34,015square-foot hall of fame and event space for the team.

Carved out of the mid­dle of two uniquely shaped build­ings is a cir­cu­lar plaza that — for the devel­op­ment team, any­way — is re­ally the star of the show. The video screen-laden plaza is ex­pected to be a com­mu­nity gath­er­ing place be­fore and af­ter games, ac­ti­vat­ing the area around the ballpark long af­ter the last pitch.

“It’s a re­ally a give back — a pub­lic ser­vice to the com­mu­nity,” John Yonushewski, Stan­tec’s se­nior prin­ci­pal on the project, said of the fea­ture.

Prior to Sun­day’s home game against the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, many fans ex­pressed ex­cite­ment about what the project could bring to the LoDo neigh­bor­hood that has grown up along­side Den­ver’s Ma­jor League Base­ball team.

“I un­der­stand what they’re try­ing to do and I’m on board with it,” Greg Go­erke said af­ter walk­ing to the park from his home in Lower High­land. “We’ve had some fan­tas­tic stars

over the years and it would be nice to give them some recog­ni­tion.”

Ten-year sea­son tick­etholder and LoDo resident Lau­rie Ger­stenkorn was caught off guard by the project’s scale. So long as it’s built with qual­ity in mind, she’a OK with it.

“At least it looks like it is go­ing to be nice. Not like some of this other stuff that has gone up dur­ing the mass devel­op­ment that is ugly and poorly built,” Ger­stenkorn said.

The west lot’s bull­doz­ing is not im­mi­nent. City plan­ners are re­view­ing the doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted by Stan­tec now, Laura Swartz, a spokes­woman for the Den­ver Devel­op­ment Ser­vices of­fice said Mon­day. The Rockies have re­quested to change the lot’s zon­ing from in­dus­trial to planned unit devel­op­ment to clear the way for mixed-use con­struc­tion. That’s typ­i­cally a four- to six-month process, Swartz said.

Yonushewski es­ti­mated work could be­gin in early fall — whether the Rockies are still play­ing or not. Con­struc­tion is ex­pected to take up to two years.

Down­town groups like the Lower Down­town Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion have al­ready had op­por­tu­ni­ties to weigh in. The Rockies and team owner Dick Mon­fort held the first or sev­eral meet­ings with lo­cal stake­hold­ers last sum­mer, said Andy Davis, the neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent. Davis said Mon­fort and Co. lis­tened to neigh­bors’ feed­back about pub­lic space on the block and de­sign el­e­ments they wanted to see to help the project blend with its LoDo sur­round­ings. The plans call for more than 41,000 square feet of pub­lic open space — when in­clud­ing the ex­ist­ing Wynkoop Plaza park that runs along the lot to the west — and in­cludes four col­ors of brick on its ma­te­ri­als list.

“They engaged early, they gath­ered our feed­back and they in­te­grated it in mean­ing­ful ways,” Davis said.

Not ev­ery­one is sing­ing the project’s praises. All In Den­ver, a group of com­mu­nity ad­vo­cates fo­cused on so­cial eq­uity, took to Twit­ter last week to de­cry that fact that no af­ford­able hous­ing will be built on the lot de­spite it tech­ni­cally be­ing pub­lic prop­erty.

Yonushewski said the project will con­trib­ute to af­ford­able hous­ing through­out Den­ver by pay­ing devel­op­ment im­pact fees.

The roughly 300-spot west lot is owned by the Den­ver Metropolitan Ma­jor League Base­ball Sta­dium Dis­trict, a divi­sion of the state. The Rockies signed a 99-year, $125 mil­lion lease for the land that be­gan last year as part of a broader agree­ment that will keep the team play­ing at Coors Field through 2047. The team keeps rev­enues gen­er­ated by the lot which charges be­tween $25 and $35 per day. The devel­op­ment plans call for a 421-space, in­door lot, but with a ho­tel, res­i­dences and of­fices in the build­ing, it’s hard to say how many of those will be avail­able on game days. Yonushewski in­di­cated the pub­lic spa­ces will be avail­able on a first-come, first-serve ba­sis.

For Kate Bran­iff, who split the west lot’s $35 fee with three friends on Sun­day, the plans stick with a trend she has seen in Lake­wood.

“They’re tak­ing over all these park­ing lots to build busi­nesses,” she said. “Where are peo­ple go­ing to park to go the busi­nesses?”

The Rockies may be the first Den­ver sports team to break ground on mixed-use project near their play­ing field, but they won’t be the last.

The Bron­cos ear­lier this year un­veiled plans for an en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict around their sta­dium. Revesco Prop­er­ties, a de­vel­oper with back­ing from Nuggets and Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke, is poised to dive into re­de­vel­op­ing the park­ing lots around El­itch Gar­dens Theme and Wa­ter Park. It is un­clear if that wave will splash over to the lots around the Pepsi Cen­ter.

Ren­der­ing by Stan­tec

The project for LoDo would in­clude 114 con­dos; 144,693 square feet of ho­tel space; 87,091 square feet for bars, res­tau­rants or re­tail­ers; 210,900 square feet for of­fices; and a 34,015-square-foot hall of fame and event space for the team.

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