Denver’s Aerotropolis on Track to Reshape Region
By Katie Rapone
As the fifth-busiest airport in the United States, Denver International Airport brought nearly 65 million travelers to our State in 2018. The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Colorado Chapter August luncheon, held on Wednesday, Aug.14, addressed the long-term development plans for Denver’s Aerotropolis.
An aerotropolis is defined as a metropolitan subregion whose infrastructure, land use, and economy are centered on an airport. The area around DIA has emerged as one of the Front Range’s hottest areas for new development. Commerce City, Aurora, Brighton, DIA and the City and County of Denver, are coming together to continue to market the opportunity that is already off to an impressive start.
“The region’s aerotropolis will expand Colorado’s attractiveness to innovative employers that will create cutting-edge jobs, invest in the community, and strengthen our economy. The aerotropolis will attract a wide range of industries, especially those focused on future technologies,” says Janet Fritz, director of marketing & communications, Adams County Economic Development.
“We don’t yet know what the boundaries are for the aerotropolis. We think that the market is going to tell us which companies and developments are going to happen in the area because they need to be near an airport,” said Michelle Claymore, economic development director, Commerce City Economic Development. “We see this as a major opportunity for bold and innovative development that will shape our region for years to come,” said Claymore.
“Right now we have four to seven thousand people living and working in and around DIA and over the next four years, if we do this thing right, it will jump up to around 180,000 people,” said Michael Martinez, president/CEO of Brighton Economic Development.
There are currently several companies that already occupy space within the boundaries of the 25,000+ acres that make up Aerotropolis — Kärcher North, Walmart, Amazon, and Panasonic, just to name a few — and there are some other major developments currently in the pre-planning stages:
- The Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company (PESCO) facility is the first vertical construction project to be built at Peña Station NEXT, Denver’s “Smart City” development located at the 61st Avenue and Pena Boulevard rail stop on RTD’s new University of Colorado A-Line. Mortenson delivered this 112,500-square-foot facility for Westfield Company.
- JAG Logistics Center at DIA, a new 250-acre industrial park located immediately south of DIA in Aurora, broke ground in May of this year. The approximately one million square foot initial phase is located on 75 acres that is part of the Porteos development — a commercial mixed-use development that is part of Denver’s expanding “aerotropolis” development — and is one of the first new industrial projects to begin construction in a designated Opportunity Zone in the U.S.
- Hyde Development and M.A. Mortenson Company recently announced the leasing of 232,615 square feet at building 5, the first completed building at 76 Commerce Center, part of a 1.8 million-square-foot, Class A industrial park in Brighton, within Aerotropolis. Walmart, Sigma Corporation, and Great Plains Moving & Storage, will all occupy space.
- A new 380,000-square-foot build-to-suit manufacturing/office facility will be built at Porteos. The site will be home to Kärcher North America’s new North American headquarters with 280,000 square feet of manufacturing facility and 100,000 square feet in office space.
- Nexus at DIA and Nexus North, a joint venture project between Schuck Communities and CH Thompson Co., make up a 381-acre high quality, high tech employment park in Commerce City, immediately west of DIA. This industrial business park has already proven incredibly successful as one of the first major commercial developments located at Aerotropolis. Nexus is home to McLane Foods’ new 240,000-square-foot facility and Haier’s (GE Appliance) new 540,000-square-foot distribution center. In addition to their first development for GE, Indianapolis-based Becknell Industrial is also planning a second development at Nexus. “Becknell’s second acquisition within Nexus at DIA further confirms the park’s presence as a premier industrial park in the northeast corridor and represents the continued demand from developers and large corporate users to Nexus’ ideal location,” said Cushman & Wakefield Managing Director Drew McManus.
- Iowa developer, Prime Sites Inc., is in the pre-planning stages of a major mixed-use development on 1100 acres divided by E-470, with 600 acres on the west side and 500 acres on the east.
- Master developer, Oakwood Homes is currently building single-family homes in Reunion and is also planning to add “Reunion Center,” a new community amenity and sports park located at Tower Rd. and 104th Avenue. “They are getting ready to add an arts/entertainment/cultural district in there and really do a placemaking development that attracts people from all over the region,” said Claymore.