A weathered sign marks its territory Sept. 22 at Stanley Aviation. Built in 1954, Stanley Aviation manufactured airplane ejector seats but after years of being abandoned the building will be getting a facelift. The 100,000 square footage will be transformed into a marketplace that will house a restaurant, beer garden, community park, office spaces and a variety of dining, shopping and recreational options. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Construction crews only started morphing Aurora’s former Stanley Aviation building into a viable hub of culture and commerce this month, but the scene around the long-vacant aviation factory on Dallas Street has been anything but quiet in 2015. 

Hosting the first satellite edition of the CherryArts Festival, securing dozens of buzz-worthy tenants and receiving millions of dollars in city-approved future tax incentives composed just a portion of the year’s accomplishments for the team of entrepreneurs behind the forthcoming Stanley Marketplace, a gastronomic and retail bazaar set to open on the Aurora-Stapleton border this spring.

Already fully leased, the marketplace at 2501 N. Dallas St. is slated to boast more than 100,000 square feet of operating space and house 48 businesses that offer everything from teeth cleanings to triple IPAs. All but five of the Stanley outfits already have a brick and mortar shop, though every tenant is new to Aurora, according to Mark Shaker, one of three partners at Flightline Ventures, the Denver-based development firm spearheading the $25-million project.

“I love the location of the property and it being a bridge between two communities that have physical barriers, psychological barriers and demographic barriers,” Shaker said of the project. “We believe (that) how you get people together is through culture — through art, music, food and dance.”

Posh, metro-area eateries including Denver Biscuit Company, Rosenberg’s Bagels and GoodBird Kitchen, as well as retail outpost Mondo Market, were a few of the more well-known entities announced to take residence in Stanley late last summer.

“The opportunity at Stanley is certainly different,” said Rayme Rossello, owner of Comida, a Mexican eatery with locations in Longmont and Denver. “There will be a nice diversity of menus throughout the building and having more restaurants and more options will, I think, potentially be a bigger draw. And if my experience this weekend at the CherryArts Festival is any showing of who is potentially going to come out once it’s open, it’s going to be tremendous.”

One of several cultural events hosted at The Stanley this year, the CherryArts Festival at Stanley took place over three days in October and served as a litmus test for what kind of patrons Stanley may attract upon opening, according to Shaker.

“It was wonderful and really interesting seeing where people were coming from, because you had a combination of well-to-do art buyers from across the region, and then you had a lot of people walking over form the Aurora side and walking from the Stapleton side,” he said. “It was a neat mix, and exactly what we are looking to do when we open.”

The building also hosted a month-long art exhibition in cooperation with Black Cube, a mobile art gallery, as well as a Christmas event with the Aurora Police Department earlier this month.

The city granted initial approval for a separate TIF site on the Stanley property this spring, which is projected to generate about $7.6 million in public improvements over the course of several years, according to Andrea Amonick, manager of AURA. Earlier this spring, she said that the city struck a deal with Aurora Public Schools and Flightline to give a percentage of Stanley’s generated TIF money to APS as critics of TIF financing for years have argued that the subsidies withhold necessary funding from other entities such as counties and schools.

Even though completion is still about six months away, one thing’s for sure: Aurora is anxious for the marketplace to open its doors.

“It’s a game changer, for sure,” said Tracy Weil, executive director of the Aurora Cultural Arts District, which sits directly south of the Stanley building. “And now I think it’s time to bring together Stapleton and all the things that they’re doing there into one larger community.”

Unifying ACAD with the Adams County section of the city and beyond has also long been a vision of Ward I City Councilwoman Sally Mounier, who said that she would like to see the city purchase property along Dayton and Dallas Street in order to marry the two zones. Mounier has touted the Stanley project since it was first announced in 2014 as something the beleaguered pocket of north Aurora has needed for years.

“I honestly don’t think there’s going to be any hesitation on the part of the folks from Stapleton to commingle with folks south of (East) 25th (Avenue),” she said. “I think they’re thrilled to death with what Stanley is doing — really everybody is. I can’t see that this is going to do anything but make the area better for everybody.”