Center of Aurora’s cityverse gets on track

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AURORA | For a city that lacks a true downtown, the intersection of East Alameda Avenue and South Sable Boulevard is about as close to the center of Aurora as it gets.

A light rail line zooms by north and south along Sable. A busy bus depot sits just across Alameda. The bustling Town Center at Aurora mall is across the way, and the Aurora Municipal Center just a short walk to the east.

But these days, the shopping center on the northeast corner of that intersection is hardly a hub of activity. Shuttered are the convenience store, burrito shop and several other businesses that once operated there. All that’s left are a handful of shops — a liquor store on one end, a day labor office, second-hand bike store and a few others. That, developers at Northstar Commercial Partners say, is set to change in a big way in the coming months as a massive redevelopment hits the shopping center, transforming it into residential and retail space dubbed “Parkside at City Centre.”

When it’s complete, the project will include 216 multi-family units and 35,000 square feet of retail space.

Construction on part of the project is set to start in February, said Kyle Forti, a spokesman for Northstar. The goal is to wrap up the retail project in early 2019 and the apartments in spring 2020.

Forti said Northstar bought the land two years ago and has viewed it as ripe for development, in part because of the easy access to light rail and the proximity to the Anschutz Medical Campus a few miles northwest.

Jason Marcotte, Northstar’s development team lead on this project, said the corner stands out today because it is one of the few underdeveloped stretches in the neighborhood.

“Taking this mostly vacant and distressed spot in an otherwise thriving area of town and helping place it back into productivity will create new opportunity and much needed space to live and create,” he said.

Aurora City Councilwoman Marsha Berzins, whose ward includes the development, said it is an important piece, in part because it sits close to so many other activity centers.

“It’s absolutely a crucial area,” she said.

Berzins said once the project is up and running, it could spur development of the Metro Center project across the street on the southeast corner of the intersection. That chunk of land has sat vacant for years, despite local leaders’ hopes that it too would be a hub of economic activity.

“It’s been trying to take off ever since I’ve been in office,” she said. “Hopefully it will be a catalyst to get things done, kind of a shot in the arm.”

For some of the tenants at the shopping center, though, the news that the buildings will be razed isn’t exactly welcome.

Ernie Clark has run Second Chance Bike Shop — which repairs and donates bikes to needy children — for two years out of a storefront in the shopping center.

Northstar gave Clark the space rent free two years ago when the charity was scrambling to find a home after being forced to leave a few prior homes closer to East Colfax Avenue.

Clark said that if he can’t find a permanent home this time around he might have to close up shop.

“I just want a place where we can keep doing this,” Clark said.

Julie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the city of Aurora, said staff is “actively looking for space for” the shop. She said anyone who knows of a spot where the shop could operate should call Clark at 720-270-5731.

Forti said Northstar hopes Clark finds a new home.

“We’re thrilled to have been able to provide a home for Second Chance Bikes for two years now, with donated space,” he said. “We remain big fans and wish him all the very best on his future work in the community. We hope to continue to stay in touch and help out when we can.”