Open for Business: Commercial investor says Aurora’s a good place to buy

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AURORA | When Brian Watson started in commercial real estate almost 20 years ago, one of his first projects as a broker was an office park near South Havana Street and Parker Road in Aurora.

Now, 14 years after he founded Northstar Commercial Partners, Watson has shifted his attention back to Aurora. This time as CEO with three major Aurora projects in just three months.

The properties — an office building near Parker Road and Interstate 225 purchased this month, a medical office building near East Sixth Avenue and Potomac Street purchased in April and a former furniture store on East Colfax purchased in March — total more than 365,000 square feet of space and the transactions totaled a combined $18 million.

All three properties were either vacant or close to it when Northstar bought them and Watson said his plan is to get the properties turned around and back to a productive use.

Watson said that while Northstar has properties around the state and throughout the U.S. — and they are always looking for investment properties around the region — good deals have popped up around Aurora in recent months.

“We are attracted to Aurora because it’s a dynamic environment. There are some great prospects for growth,” he said.

Northstar’s most recent acquisition in Aurora is the $13.5 million-purchase of Cherry Creek Place I, a 196,481 square-foot, six-story building on 8.7 acres at 3131 S. Vaughn Way. The property, which was in foreclosure when Northstar bought it, is home to Verizon Wireless, TransFirst Holdings and Air Methods Corp. The purchase is Northstar’s second at that site, following their 2009 purchase of the adjacent Cherry Creek Place II property.

City officials said Northstar’s recent efforts in Aurora a good sign for the city’s economy.

“Northstar continues to make strategic, valuable investments in our community, and for that I am both thankful and excited,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said in a statement after the acquisition. “This purchase is yet another indicator of the unlimited potential for doing business in Aurora.”

The Aurora Economic Development Council also hailed the announcement.

Wendy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Aurora Economic Development Council, said deals like Northstar’s show that Aurora is a good place to do business.

“This is another example of a company investing in Aurora because of the many assets we possess,” she said in the statement. “Our central location and proximity to DIA in addition to our skilled workforce makes Aurora a great choice for companies looking to relocate and expand. Northstar Commercial Partners will provide this much-needed space.”

Northstar’s first foray into Aurora this year came in March when the company purchased the vacant 56,281 square-foot building at 10180 E. Colfax Avenue that used to be a furniture store for $1.1 million. The property is being converted to an African business, culture and community center that is set to open later this year.

In April, Northstar purchased the 110,000 square-foot building at 830 Potomac Street for $3.4 million. The goal for the project is to take advantage of the property’s proximity to the booming Anschutz Medical Campus a few blocks north, possibly converting it into medical office space or housing for patients at the nearby hospitals.

Watson said that looking forward, the company will continue to look at projects in Aurora.

“We look for opportunities throughout Colorado and even throughout the country as well,” he said. “It just happened that the opportunities that we recently acquired happened to be in Aurora.”