Denver may play hardball for last of huge National Western Center expansion land

The Office of the National Western Center plans to take ownership of the remaining 10 before the end of the year and has already filed eminent domain on five parcels to meet its goal, said office spokeswoman Erika Martinez.

A foreclosed residence near the National Western Complex, Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The shuddered El Duranguense Grocery on Brighton Blvd. in Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) national western complex; elyria swansea; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
The shuttered El Duranguense Grocery on Brighton Boulevard in Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. The property is within the boundaries of where the National Western Center is expanding. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver officials have acquired just under three-quarters of the properties they need to fulfill their $1.1 billion National Western Center expansion plans, leaving only 10 parcels left to go.

The Office of the National Western Center plans to take ownership of the remaining 10 before the end of the year and has already started eminent domain processes on five parcels to meet its goal, said office spokeswoman Erika Martinez.

“It’s an aggressive goal, but we began acquiring a little over a year ago and without the land, we can’t redevelop the site,” Martinez told Denverite on Wednesday.

Martinez said the city was using eminent domain — a legal process where governments use their right to take private properties for public uses — as its “last option.” She did not immediately say which five properties the city was using eminent domain to acquire.

The head of the Office of the National Western Center, Kelly Leid, gave an update Thursday on the city’s land acquisitions. He said the 10 properties that are left to acquire make up the majority (51 percent) of the land Denver has to buy to expand the National Western Center.

The property where La Mounton Business Park sits near 4877 National Western Drive still needs to be acquired and consists of about 10 acres, Leid said.

“Once we acquire La Mounton, we essentially have everything we need to develop phases one and two of the stock show,” he said.

Exhibition Hall and Elyria Plaza 47th Avenue Festival Street and Elyria Plaza at the front door to the new Trade Show/Exhibition Hall-looking Northwest during a future National Western Stock Show. (Courtesy of the city of Denver)
Exhibition Hall and Elyria Plaza 47th Avenue Festival Street and Elyria Plaza at the front door to the new Trade Show/Exhibition Hall-looking Northwest during a future National Western Stock Show. (Courtesy of the city of Denver)

In 2015, voters approved borrowing and tourist tax extensions that will provide the bulk of the funding for the National Western Center project. The city’s goal is to transform the National Western Complex and Denver Coliseum from the home of a roughly two-week agriculture event complete with professional rodeos, a horse show and a western trade show to a year-round destination and global hub for agriculture and innovation.

But in order to do that, the city has to buy about 106 acres of private property. Leid said he does not anticipate having to use the courts to force anyone off their property.

“It’s a process right,” he said. “So we get an appraisal. They get an appraisal. In a lot of cases, we’re able to come to terms by just splitting the difference — we agree to a number.”

When the city can’t agree with a property owner on a price for their land the next step is entering into the eminent domain process taking the negotiations to a legal level. If the city and property owners, still can’t come to an agreement the city can seek a court order to condemn the property or basically take it for an approved price.

“There’s a whole legal process you would go through to go through the courts to gain control over a property,” Leid said. “We have not had to do that yet with any property.”

An old residence next to the National Western Complex. Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) national western complex; elyria swansea; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
An old residence next to the National Western Complex. Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Residents could start seeing buildings the city’s acquired torn down this fall especially along Brighton Boulevard.

“The properties along Brighton are important because we are working on completing final design for the street improvements by the fall,” Martinez said. “We will begin construction on that corridor after the 2018 stock show so prepping for that is time sensitive. Another important piece to note is that this corridor will become a more important connection when the North Metro Line opens.”

The line from Denver Union Station to Thornton is expected to open in 2018.

A foreclosed residence near the National Western Complex, Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) national western complex; elyria swansea; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
A foreclosed residence near the National Western Complex,  June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In all, the stock show project is expected to replace 300 to 500 workers in the area with 108 full-time workers at the complex and another 6,000 to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs that result from the area being redeveloped, according to a plan filed with the state.

Some businesses have found it difficult to relocate within Denver city limits.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.