by Glen Richardson
The Chronicle learned at press time that the Lowry Redevelopment Authority (LRA) has officially approved an Economic Development Conveyance for the Buckley Annex property, bounded by Monaco Parkway, First Avenue, Quebec, and Bayaud Streets. The Air Force is expected to transfer the deed as early as this month.
The LRA, a governmental entity jointly established by the cities of Denver and Aurora, enjoyed for many years a sterling reputation for its work in overseeing the redevelopment of the old Lowry Air Force Base, starting in 1994. But that reputation took a major hit in 2008 over the Lowry Vista project where for $10, LRA transferred to the International Risk Group (IRG) 80 acres of prime land intended for open space claiming it was too polluted to have any value. IRG quickly turned around and had the property rezoned for a massive mixed use project which stands to make tens if not hundreds of millions in profits for the developers.
Critics claim that the LRA, which was supposed to be sunset in 2007, has been beset by incompetence and cronyism in its waning years. The Lowry Vista project also destroyed the citizens’ trust that LRA would necessarily act in the public interest regarding the Buckley Annex.
The 70-acre property is the last remaining parcel of land to be transferred by the Department of Defense to the LRA. It will accept the property at no initial cost, but net profits, after all development costs and financing are paid off, will be shared with the Air Force. LRA will pay for approximately $45 million in development costs through land sales, traditional bank loans, tax increment financing and federal grants.
The redevelopment plan calls for roughly 800 residential units, including apartments, townhomes and both attached and detached homes, at a wide range of price points. Also planned is up to 200,000 square feet of commercial space, about half office and half neighborhood retail. The area will have a 4.5-acre community park and several small pocket parks. Several hundred existing trees on the site will purportedly be preserved under the plan. The number of trees that will be destroyed by the project was not delineated by LRA.
Neighborhood groups will likely look closely at the density of the project and whether it will create massive traffic jams on the surrounding streets. It is also expected that they will question on whether the purported open space of significantly under 10 percent is sufficient and whether so-called pocket parks are really illusory in nature. Finally public interest groups are expected to also look at whether clear conflicts of interest exist between the developers of Buckley Annex and present and past staff of LRA.