AURORA | The swath of land south of East 26th Avenue in northwest Aurora once served as a dividing line between Aurora’s oldest neighborhoods and Denver’s swankier Stapleton community.
For a time, a fence cut through the field, a physical marker showing where Stapleton ended and Aurora began.
Now, that fence is long gone and the Aurora phase of the Stapleton redevelopment project is underway, with new Aurora residents likely to move in next year.
Looking out as crews with earth movers and back hoes readied the ground for construction, Forest Hancock, development manager for Stapleton master developer Forest City, said that a year from now, the area won’t be recognizable.
“We’ll have lots of occupied homes,” he said, standing at Fulton Street and 26th, near what will be the western edge of Stapleton’s batch of homes in Aurora.
Lisa Hall, residential community development director at Forest City, said the developer is set to turn lots over to homebuilders next month.
In all, 322 homes — a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes — are slated for the 27-acre stretch of land. The Aurora neighborhood, which is part of Stapleton’s larger Bluff Lake neighborhood, will run along east 26th and 25th avenues for about 10 blocks starting at Fulton Street.
The Aurora homes in Bluff Lake are expected to cost from the high $200,000s to the $400,000s, and are being built by Thrive Home Builders, Wonderland Homes, Boulder Creek Neighborhoods, KB Home and David Weekley Homes.
Hall said many of the models planned for Aurora have already been built in other parts of Stapleton. In some cases, those homes were built in mixed-income stretches of the development, which capped their prices. That won’t be the case in Aurora, she said.
“For the Aurora side it will all be market rate,” she said.
Once this stretch is complete, Hancock said there are also plans for another Aurora neighborhood stretching to Moline Street on the east side.
Hall said the plan has always been for the redevelopment of the old Stapleton International Airport to include housing on the Aurora side of the airport’s property. But, she said, the tough economy in 2008 slowed those plans.
“Then the downturn happened and it just wasn’t the right time,” she said.
While the neighborhood is the first for Stapleton outside of Denver, Hall and Hancock said it is crucial for developers that the Aurora side and Denver side look similar. The last thing they want is for people passing from one city to the other to notice a stark difference between neighborhoods with Aurora addresses and Denver addresses.
“One of the goals we had all along was to be seamless, so it didn’t feel or look different than everything on the other side of 26th,” Hall said. “And that it’s Stapleton.”
The easy transition between Denver and Aurora is welcome for local businesses.
Mark Shaker, founding partner of the Stanley Marketplace, which is set to open at East 22nd Avenue and Dallas Street this fall, said the new Aurora homes will bridge the gape from his neighborhood in Aurora to the Denver side.
“It has been a hard line between two cities and that really softens things,” he said.
To get that seamlessness meant working with Aurora city officials to make sure ideas that have long been popular on the Denver side could be used in Aurora, Hall said.
One stumbling block was the city’s requirement that new build’s dedicate 15 percent of their exterior to masonry. Hall said that hasn’t been the case on the Denver side, so a tweak could have lead to the Aurora homes having a slightly different look than their neighbors on the Denver side of 26th.
Eventually, Hall said, the city gave the developers some leeway and is allowing homes with 8 percent masonry on the exterior.
Hancock said that in addition to the homes, the Aurora project includes some drainage improvements that will help not just the Stapleton side, but homes along roads in Aurora that dead end at 25th Avenue. The water will be diverted through a new drainage system that will carry it to Sand Creek.
“That area has historically struggled when it rains, but the drainage will be way better now,” he said.
The area will also include a 23-acre park that will have Stapleton’s first baseball fields, he said.