Denver chooses airport station
Denver city officials said Monday they have selected a site for a light-rail stop along Peña Boulevard between Interstate 70 and Denver International Airport, at East 61st Avenue where a mixed-use retail development is planned.
They passed over the only other competing proposal — at East 72nd Avenue, east of Tower Road — that would have served a proposed Gaylord convention center and hotel. That project is on hold as Gaylord seeks financing and a new developer.
L.C. Fulenwider, a Denver-based developer, beat out Florida-based LNR Property Corp., owner of the Gaylord property, for the contract to build the "Aviation Station."
"Both developers put forth really good proposals," said John Ackerman, chief commercial officer for DIA. "But the Fulenwider plan is a true mixed-use development."
The two future stops were a part of RTD's original commuter-train plan but did not end up receiving funding for several reasons, Ackerman said.
Both the winning and losing proposals were on airport land along Peña and were thought to have great potential for development.
However, in order to maintain the level and timeliness of service that was promised to the airport, RTD informed the developers that the companies would have to buy additional trains if they chose to build at these two sites.
Airport officials and the developers worried that the price of the trains would deter development of the station. In an effort to clear out some of the obstacles, airport officials negotiated a special provision with RTD.
It gave DIA the right, but not the obligation, to designate one of two stations as the Aviation Station. That station would not be required to purchase additional trains. If additional trains are needed, RTD will pay for them.
"It's a very valuable benefit to the developer because the developer is all about risk," Ackerman said. "And that's a way to minimize risk."
A selection committee — comprising representatives from various city and state bodies, airport officials and prominent local community members — proposed a recommendation to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who later approved the suggestion.
"The LNR proposal did reference Gaylord, but it was not a deciding factor in choosing the proposals," said Jeff Green, spokesman for DIA.
Ackerman referenced the mixed-use functions of Fulenwider's proposal — retail, shopping, restaurants, residential and dense multifamily — as being appealing, as well as the site's high visibility and its location outside the noise contours of the airport runways.
"Really, it's just an outstanding site," Ackerman said. "The other thing that the panel thought was excellent with the Fulenwider plan was the experience of the team." — Denver Post