Rocky Mountain News
Demolition in store for Gates buildings
Work next year to make way for $1.5B mixed-use project
By: John Rebchook
December 3, 2003
In about a year, Cherokee Denver LLC expects to begin demolishing the first buildings on the former Gates site near Interstate 25 and Broadway, kicking off what eventually will be an "urban village" valued at as much as $1.5 billion.
Stephen Moyski, president of Cherokee, Tuesday gave an update on the massive mixed-use project to about 50 people at a City Club luncheon at the Brown Palace.
The redevelopment will take place over 10 to 15 years and, when completed, will have 2,500 to 4,000 residential units and as much as 7 million square feet in four- to 12-story buildings. The high-density project off a light-rail station eventually will include offices, retail, entertainment and hotels, he said.
Few of the current buildings at the site will remain, including the 1.4 million-square-foot former Gates factory visible from Broadway.
"It's bigger than Republic Plaza laid on its side," Moyski said, which makes it too huge to redevelop. He said the company may try to salvage some facades of some of the smaller, more historic buildings.
The first buildings demolished will be those on the southern end of the 50-acre site. Eventually, a bridge likely will be built across the consolidated mainline railroad tracks, which bisect the land, he said.
In the spring, Cherokee will ask the Denver Urban Renewal Authority for a tax increment financing subsidy. The City Council would have to approve any subsidy from DURA.
"I honestly don't know how much it will be," Moyski said.
However, he said an earlier publicized number that they would seek a subsidy of up to $166 million is too high.
"That was a worst-case scenario of what the total cost of the infrastructure could be, not what we would request from DURA," he said.
Others say his argument is really a matter of semantics.
"He's telling the truth but in a particular way," said Chris Nevitt, executive director of the Front Range Economic Strategy Center. "They did prepare a document that showed the infrastructure cost and the public investment could be in the $90-million-to-$160-million range."
But the amount isn't that important, Nevitt said, as long as the city gets a big return on its investment.
Nevitt said the city's investment should help create high-paying jobs that provide health care benefits. He also wants 20 percent of the housing to be affordable, twice what the city requires. And his group wants assurances that contractors will hire local skilled workers and not undocumented workers from Mexico or cheap unskilled labor from places such as New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.
Moyski has held about 90 meetings with neighborhood groups since last year and plans more early next year.
He said virtually all of the people who live close to Gates realize they're better off seeing the factory demolished.
"But it's not all love and kisses," Moyski said. He said the few, but vocal, opponents are taking a "what's- in-it-for-me" attitude.
Moyski also said that he has "been flying blind to a certain extent" because Mayor John Hickenlooper just named a planning director, Peter Park, on Tuesday. Park had been Milwaukee's planning director.
"That is true," Hickenlooper said Tuesday. "Hopefully, with Peter in place, they can move a little faster. But truth be told, they're lucky they've been delayed a bit. This way, they are going to start construction just as the market begins to improve."
rebchookj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-892-5207
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