|By Margaret Jackson, The Denver Post
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 27, 2005 - A Kansas developer plans to spend at least $20 million developing a hotel, restaurant and retail center across from the Fitzsimons campus in Aurora.
Lighthouse Properties will build a 140-room Hilton Garden Inn that includes at least 3,000 square feet of meeting space just west of Potomac Street on East Colfax Avenue.
The project also will include a stand-alone restaurant and shopping center, said David Boos, executive director of the Salina, Kan. company.
"It's a great corner across from a really emerging regional center," Boos said. "Fitzsimons is going to have a huge impact there for a very long time." The University of Colorado is moving its Health Sciences Center and medical school to the campus, and will be joined by Children's Hospital.
Lighthouse wants to start demolition of the defunct Heaven on Earth Inn that occupies the site by early next year and plans to open the new hotel by mid-2007, Boos said.
The project is the first foray into the Denver market for Lighthouse, the hospitality arm of the Blue Beacon family of companies. The parent company's core business is Blue Beacon Truck Washes, which operates 100 truck washes in 40 states. Blue Beacon has one location off Interstate 70 in Denver and plans another, Boos said.
The location near Interstate 225 would make it an attractive opportunity even without Fitzsimons, said Kim Prentice, director of real estate for the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority. The interchange at Colfax is the highway's only interchange that does not have a hotel, he said.
"It's a normal market opportunity for anyone, even if Fitzsimons wasn't here," Prentice said.
The development also won't preclude the redevelopment authority's plans for a hotel on the Fitzsimons campus, he said. For now, though, those plans are on hold as the Department of Veterans Affairs negotiates a deal to build a 1.1 million-square-foot VA hospital on 30 acres at the corner of East Colfax and Potomac. The site previously had been slated for a hotel.
The hotel could serve as a springboard for development of the Colfax corridor bordering Fitzsimons, where about 5,300 people are employed.
With the number of employees projected to grow to 13,000 by 2008, the transformation of the corridor is a matter of time and money, said Mark Franzen, project manager for Aurora's Urban Renewal Division. It's likely to take another 12 to 18 months for the market to respond to the development activity, he said.
"We're seeing increased interest every day," he said. "The thing that's really going to put things over the edge is the opening of Children's Hospital." The Aurora Economic Development Council has been evaluating the types of projects that should be developed in the area surrounding Fitzsimons, said director Wendy Mitchell.
"One of the key pieces was the medical school," Mitchell said. "There are a lot of people who want to do combined research, so you may get office businesses, and some stuff on campus may be relocated in boundary area."
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