AURORA | Local economic development leaders have long looked at the vacant stretches of land south of Denver International Airport and seen dollar signs — lots of them.
Sitting near Interstate 70, the E-470 toll road and the airport, the largely undeveloped stretches of plains would make the ideal spot for large-scale development, officials say.
“That’s the future of the city’s growth potential,” said Yuriy Gorlov, director of business development at the Aurora Economic Development Council.
And that growth is starting to happen.
Just this past month, Walmart spent more than $13 million on a swath of land south of the airport. The Denver Business Journal, which first reported on the sale, said the company plans to use the 169-acre stretch of land for a massive distribution center.
Walmart’s chunk of land is part of the Porteos project, a more than 1,200-acre site stretching several acres east from Harvest Road between East 68th Avenue and East 56th Avenue.
Earlier this week, Aurora City Council signed off on a plan to ask voters to turn the area into a business improvement district, which could allow the developers to tap as much as $50 million in tax dollars to develop the area.
In a memo to city council, Vinessa Irvin, manager of development assistance for the city, said the initial money would be used in part to market the area, including signage, streetscapes and public art.
Business improvement districts have been used to redevelop some of the city’s larger projects in recent years.
The Havana Business Improvement District was instrumental in redeveloping the old Buckingham Square Mall into what is today The Gardens on Havana on Havana and East Mississippi Avenue. That $110-million development includes new retail, office space and homes on a 50-acre parcel that, before redevelopment, had been rundown for years.
Gorlov said that AEDC worked with Walmart to bring the planned distribution center to Aurora, but said officials can’t yet say how many jobs the center will include.
A spokesperson for Walmart did not immediately return a request for comment.
Earlier this year Amazon announced plans for a 450,000-square-foot warehouse in Aurora. The 452,000-square-foot “sortation facility” will be at 19799 East 36th Drive in the Majestic Commercenter.
That site, like Porteos, is a short distance from I-70.
Gorlov said the area is ideal for distribution centers such as those planned by Walmart and Amazon.
“We have the space and it just makes sense logistically,” he said.
While some of the benefits of the area are obvious — including the quick access to the interstate and airport — Gorlov said there are other benefits, too.
In particular, he said, land there is cheaper and more plentiful than it might be on other parts of the I-70 corridor further into Denver.
Gorlov said he expects other companies to follow Walmart and Amazon’s lead and consider the area.
“We’re certainly seeing a lot of companies that are in that distribution arena looking to expand their operations,” he said. “The more, the merrier.”