Breathing new life into historic Denver factory, but not all are sold

'Our Colorado' looks at development pros and cons

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DENVER -- A multiple block, multi-million dollar development is planned at an industrial former factory along the edge of RiNo and the Cole neighborhoods in Denver. 

Right now, Denver Rock Drill is thousands of square feet of former factory space at 39th and Franklin, but plans are in place to redevelop it to office space, retail, a hotel, and possibly residential properties. 

“It’s a combination of adaptive reuse and ultimately it will be a vibrant mixed-use development,” developer Trae Rigby said. “Really kind of a blank canvas.”

The buildings were originally constructed as part of a rock drill company in 1906. Many of those original buildings will be a part of the new development. 

“One condition (of the redevelopment) was that it stayed the same,” property owner Byron Weiss said. 

Denver7 asked Weiss why he chose to move his current materials business off the site so it could be built up. 

“It’s probably the last large parcel of land that is not developed in RiNo in this point,” he said. “It was time.”

Construction is expected to start within the year, and will be done in phases. Offices, then retail, then hotel and eventually possibly apartments or condos.

“Net new jobs to the City of Denver and amenities like restaurants, retail opportunities that don’t currently exist that the Cole neighborhood could benefit from,” Rigby said. 

But that neighborhood, which sits right next to Rock Drill, has mixed feelings about the development. Denver7 spoke to Danny Fritz of the Cole Neighborhood Association, who said Rock Drill will bring in jobs and tax revenue for the city, but also acknowledged the negatives. 

“It will displace people through increased rents, increased property values,” he said. “Some of the people just scratching by might not be able to keep scratching by and will have to move somewhere else.”

It’s the classic conundrum when it comes to development: remaking a blighted property is a good thing, but it brings with it consequences that include higher property values/taxes. 

Several events have already been held at Denver Rock Drill before full fledged construction begins, including the Denver Flea. Meanwhile, the neighborhood waits to see what will happen as the former factory starts a new transformation. 

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