Beer Hall on Thursday Dec. 22, 2016 at Stanley Marketplace. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

The long-awaited transformation of a once-derelict lot on the banks of Westerly Creek is nearly complete.

After more than two years of development and a seemingly endless wave of excitement, the floors of Aurora’s Stanley Aviation building have officially swapped ejector seats for upmarket eats, wares and cocktails.

Patrons not wearing hardhats began in November cycling through Stanley Marketplace — the some 100,000-square-foot bazaar that has been long-billed to utterly revamp a notorious corner of the city. But construction delays spurred by labor shortages meant the facility’s first operating tenant, OPENAir Academy, an alternative childcare facility, opened for business the week before Thanksgiving completely incognito, and without the grand opening ceremony that was supposed to happen over the summer, then Labor Day Weekend, then in October, then by the end of the year.

But the New Year means that Stanley has finally and officially arrived, and with it comes a carousel of some 50 posh businesses, all of which are new to Aurora. The retailers and restaurateurs run the gamut of supplies and services, including but certainly not limited to, a massive beer hall that was inflated but eventually deserted by renowned Denver chef Kevin Taylor, The Infinite Monkey Theorem, Denver Biscuit Co., Rosenberg’s Bagels, Kindness Yoga, a hair studio, a dentist, dozens of lifestyle clothing and accessory brands — the list goes on and on. (Continue reading for more on that.)

How the facility will or will not serve as the face of Aurora’s ongoing evolution remains to be seen, although local politicos, artists, business owners and others have not held back in voicing their enthusiasm for the collaborative venue’s potential. Last year, the city also scooted Stanley some additional shekels in the form of new tax increment financing districts to further help the novel business get off the ground.

Those early investments have already proved beneficial, through some lenses, as the Stanley backers this spring announced plans to erect a nearby apartment complex to compliment their existing commercial foray. A new roadway connecting Stapleton and its adjacent I-70 corridor could also inject a fresh dose of commerce to the neighborhoods hanging off of East Colfax Avenue.

At the center of all of this anticipation and investment — a final tally hovers somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million — is an overwhelming philosophy of community collaboration, a notion anchored to a document the Stanley founders crafted early in the project’s development called “The Stanifesto.” In it, they outline their desire to create a space where good times and good vibes rule.

Whatever the upshot of this surprising bet taken by a trio of upstart Stapletonians, Stanley’s kimono is now open. And the results of this grand experiment, which has landed on just about every local and national “most anticipated openings” list for the past 18 months, are now available for the public to see, shop, drink and taste.

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