Multi-Phased Speculative Industrial Development Coming to Aurora

A rendering of Sun Empire, courtesy of Opus.

Construction of the first phase of a 316-acre, 3.9 million-square-foot master-planned industrial development, called Sun Empire in Denver’s airport submarket, will begin in September 2022. The project is a joint venture between The Opus Group (Opus) and Principal Real Estate Investors.

Located at the southeast corner of 56th Avenue and Harvest Mile Road in Aurora, the site is three miles from Denver International Airport with direct access to E-470 and I-70, providing excellent access to the Denver Metro and the greater Front Range market.

“Opus is very excited about this long-term investment in the Denver Metro area,” said Larry Pobuda, executive vice president and general manager at Opus. “The project is significant and the site is in a strategic location directly in the path of growth.”

Opus will serve as the developer, design-builder, architect and structural engineer of record on the project. Construction of the initial phase will include the construction of two buildings totaling 828,953 square feet.

The master plan proposes speculative buildings ranging in size from 200,000- to 625,000 square feet, with the ability to expand to 1 million square feet. The first building is a front park/rear load of 204,859 square feet, with 38 dock doors, 248 vehicle parking stalls, 56 trailer parking stalls, and a 32-foot clear height. The second building is a cross-dock of 624,094 square feet with 110 dock doors, 415 vehicle parking stalls, and 85 trailer parking stalls with a 40-foot clear height. Opus is incorporating the 40-foot clear height, which is uncommon in the Denver market, to accommodate the ever-changing needs of users and larger stacking requirements. This initial phase of Sun Empire is expected to be complete in late 2023.

“Sun Empire will be a dynamic business park that appeals to a wide range of users,” said Joe Swensson, director of real estate development for Opus. “We were pleased to work with the City of Aurora to bring our vision for this project to life.”

Opus has multiple industrial and multifamily projects underway or recently completed in the Denver metro area. These include Kalaco Apartments at the intersection of Colfax and Kalamath in the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood; Cadence Broomfield, a senior living community; 19Nineteen at Mile High apartments near Empower Field; The Ridge at Dove Valley industrial; and North Washington Commerce Center industrial in Thornton.

Opus acquired the land from a private seller for $49.7 million. CBRE’s Tyler Carner, Jeremy Ballenger and Jessica Ostermick advised on the capital raise, helping to source Principal Real Estate Investors as the joint venture partner. CBRE’s Todd Witty and Daniel Close represented Opus in the acquisition and will market the project for lease, sale and build-to-suit development.

“Our team first identified the potential of this site for industrial development two years ago. Opus is the perfect leader to bring the site’s vision to life. We worked with them to get the land under contract in a competitive timeframe. While there are other large-scale industrial development projects underway in the area, Sun Empire has a competitive advantage in being farther along in the entitlement process, thereby expediting the timeline for future tenants,” said Mr. Witty, senior vice president, CBRE.

Denver’s Airport submarket remained the highest performer across all primary industrial metrics in the metro area in the second quarter, according to CBRE research. The Airport submarket accounted for 54 percent of all industrial leasing activity and 41 percent of all positive net absorption. The submarket has recorded nearly 1.3 million sq. ft. of positive net absorption year-to-date, which is triple any other Denver submarket’s year-to-date figure.

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