WTC Denver plans to hang its beret in River North

Feb 17, 2016

World Trade Center Denver has selected for its new campus a development team and a location in one of Denver’s hottest neighborhoods, River North Art District.

“We have spent the past year communicating with more than a dozen developers about the opportunity,” said WTC Denver president Karen Gerwitz.

WTC Denver chose Sean Campbell, who co-developed Industry, 3001 Brighton Blvd.; Trae Rigby, head of Saunders Commercial Development, a subsidiary of Saunders Construction; and Andrew Feinstein, a co-managing partner of the EXDO Event Center and an owner of some of the land proposed for the campus development.

“We have a bit of a blank canvas,” Campbell said. “We have one amazing shot to do something transformative.”

Plans could take about 12 to 18 months to hammer out, with a groundbreaking next year and delivery of the first phase in 2019, Campbell said.

No proposals have been submitted to the city, Campbell said. Financing will be arranged after concepts are firmed up.

“We are in the early stages. We have several interested parties,” Campbell said. “It will be a traditional mixed-use development in terms of financing.”

Gerwitz said the hope is to create a must-see destination that rivals Denver Union Station and Larimer Square.

Campbell and Feinstein control what are mostly vacant lots along 38th Street between Walnut and Blake streets where the new campus could take shape.

A key appeal of the location, Gerwitz said, is its proximity to a stop on the soon-to-open commuter rail line connecting Union Station and Denver International Airport.

That will allow foreign visitors easy access to the location from the airport, not to mention a quick ride downtown.

The campus may also include a flagship business hotel to host foreign visitors, as well as classrooms and meeting space to accommodate the numerous training sessions and events the group hosts.

The concept plans call for traditional office space for other trade-focused groups and companies, as well as shared office space, incubators and accelerators to help local startups break into global markets and foreign firms establish a U.S. presence.

“They see this as more a business development project more than a real estate development. How do we build our international community?” Gerwitz said.

Campbell said he is talking to nearby developers and land owners in the area about expanding the international focus into surrounding blocks, including housing for international students and retail space for ethnic restaurants and stores.

Details such as the number of buildings, as well as their height, square footage and architectural style, are all still being worked out.

Denver-based Oz Architecture will handle the master plan. But specific building designs will be solicited in an international architectural competition.

WTC Denver left its high-rise home of 27 years on 16th Street and Broadway early last year, in part because of limited space to host events and to bring in other trade-focused groups.

In the interim, WTC Denver chairman Jeff Popiel is hosting the group at Geotech Environmental Equipment, the north Denver company where he is CEO and president.

Aldo Svaldi: 303-954-1410, or @aldosvaldi