University of Colorado graduate students, who envisioned a $62.9 million redevelopment of the Denver Coliseum site, won the 8th annual Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge.
Students from CU and the University of Denver presented their plans to about 600 real estate leaders at the Marriott City Center on Wednesday night. The judges did not select a winner until after the presentations. CU broke DU’s winning streak of of four consecutive challenges, from 2006 to 2009.
“That’s great, absolutely great,” Byron Koste, the outgoing director of the CU Real Center said, when InsideRealEstateNews told him of CU’s victory. It was the first challenge that Koste missed. “The kids deserve all the credit,” Koste said. “They worked extremely hard on their proposal.”
The plans presented by both teams were well-received. Several people said that they are glad they are not competing against these students for jobs, because they are so sharp, well-educated and poised.
Students win Hick’s praise
“I am so impressed by these kids,” said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “I remember a time, in reckless abandon, I fancied myself a developer. But I’m not fit to carry their tool-belts.”
The City of Denver and RTD, joined NAIOP this year as the sponsor of the program. And more than most challenges, in which a students compete for the best plan for redevelopment, this one could bear fruit, possibly with a bond issue, in the near-future.
“They had some super-ideas,” Hickenlooper said. “I think we are going to see some of them in place, sooner rather than later.”
Hickenlooper said he can only think one one thing to improve the competition.
“Next year, you have to include CSU,” the mayor said, noting that he sat next Joe Blake, Colorado State University’s chancellor, during the event.
CU: Coliseum can be creative center for region
The CU team called themselves the Flatirons Development Group. Under their plan, they would convert the city-owned Coliseum site in the River North Art (RiNo) District into the Denver Center for Creating Arts, or the DCCA.
“The DCCA will provide a home to the creative engines that help spur economic growth and social activity,” the students said in their presentation. “In doing so, the DCCA reinvigorate the northern gateway to downtown Denver and builds a realistic platform for urban renewal in the surrounding neighborhoods.
At the heart of the public-private plan, is the Coliseum building would be retrofitted into three new uses: a “black box” performance space; a 30,000-square-foot multi-purpose hall; and what they call the Collabratorium.
“The Collabratorium, with 76,000 square feet of space, is “not a place for passive observation, but a place to become immersed in the creative process through hands-on exhibits, workshops, lectures, and classes,” according to the CU team. They compared it to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which focuses on science; the Experience Music Project in Seattle, the history Newseum center in Washington, D.C.
The students also called for turning the northwest corner of the site into a second anchor – the Art Institute of Colorado.
The AIC currently serves 2,500 students in three facilities, with its students housing near Lowry. The Denver Center for Creating Art would consolidate into one high-profile site at the DCCA While the AIC is not actively looking to relocate and consolidate, it’s not a pie-in-the-sky idea, either. AIC is bursting at the seams in all of its buildings and is always evaluating ways to position itself for growth, the students noted. They discussed the idea with AIC real estate executives and incorporated AIC’s “wish list” items into their proposal. The AIC Center would include 150,000 square feet of classroom space, 20,000 square feet of culinary space and 130 residential units. The plan calls for four new buildings with a total of 375,000=square feet. They’ve even named the buildings, based on their use: The Painter, Musician, Sculptor and Chef.
Under the student’s scenario, the City and County of Denver would retain ownership of the Coliseum and its land for the DCCA. Given that the land would saddle a private developer with environmental issues, the city would grant a 99-year land lease for $1 a year on all parcels that can be developed.
Their plan calls for site work starting in 2015 with a phased development to be completed in 2017. They note that if the city issued $24 million in general obligation bonds, that would be near the lower-end of most bond elections, which have generally been approved by voters. They project that overall, investors could expect just under a 20 percent return.
The plan also calls for spiffing up the nearby Globeville Land park with a sculpture garden, art walk, and children’s playground.
“The DCCA becomes the creative center for the region – a place brimming with discovery, innovation and collaboration,” the students said during their presentation. “The DCCA becomes the node for creative activity that Denver lacks.”
DU’s plan has merit
The judges also liked DU’s $94 million plan. The DU students created a team called Catalyst Development that called for expanding the Coliseum, adding a conference center, and an 800-parking structure. The center of their plan would be called the Frontier Center, a phased campus of office, flex-tech and lab space. Under their plan, the site would be anchored “Agri-Tech” businesses that would be a hub and incubator for agriculture, bio-science, veterinary and renewable energy companies.
Just as the Academy Awards won’t reveal how close Avatar came to Hurt Locker for Best Picture, those running the Real Estate Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge are keeping mum on the scores of the respective teams.
“We asked and they wouldn’t tell us,” said Bruce O’Donnell, one of the judges. “But I think it was very close.”< class="related_post_title">Related Posts:>