World Trade Center to anchor 41-acre project in Globeville, abandoning previous plans in RiNo

A massive development just north of downtown Denver has found its anchor.

The World Trade Center Denver has selected the 41-acre Fox Park project in Globeville for its new global campus, the organization’s president and CEO, Karen Gerwitz, told Denver Business Journal in an exclusive interview Wednesday.

The move marks an abrupt change of plans for WTC, which for years had been planning to open its new Denver campus in the River North Art District. The organization had been working with developers Golub & Co. and Formativ on an office and hotel project near the 38th & Blake light rail station, but Gerwitz told DBJ that Covid-related delays, combined with changes to the project’s scope, prompted WTC to begin looking elsewhere.

Gerwitz soon turned to Fox Park, a mixed-use development that’s being planned at 4400 Fox St., near interstates 25 and 70.

In 2019, Vita Fox North LP, a partnership between Indianapolis-based Pure Development and Mexico City-based Interland, paid $56.5 million for the 41-acre site, which had been rezoned the previous year to allow for residential and mixed-use development up to 12 stories. Pure Development subsequently submitted plans to the City that proposed more than 2.2 million square feet of mixed-use space in the project’s first phase, all of which would be connected by 14 acres of parks and open space.

In late 2020, leaders with the City of Denver introduced Gerwitz to Jose Carredano, managing partner of placemaking for Pure Development, along with other members of the development team. The two sides were then able to reach an agreement within a matter of months.

Gerwitz said the opportunity at Fox Park represented “exactly the scale and scope” that she had been hoping for in 2016, when WTC announced that it would be moving out of downtown Denver and pursuing a new campus in RiNo. Fox Park will now feature a 600,000-square-foot World Trade Center Denver Complex that will combine office space with a vast range of uses, including a cultural center, International Exhibit Hall, a boutique hotel, performing arts theater, a conference center, global and local restaurants, retail, fitness center, maker space and art galleries.

The WTC’s complex will be part of an adaptive reuse of a vacant industrial building that previously served as the home of The Denver Post’s printing press. It will be located directly adjacent to Fox Square, an open-air plaza that will function as the centerpiece of the development.

“The World Trade Center’s brand is one that really can bring a project of this magnitude — 41 acres — to life,” Gerwitz told DBJ. “You look around the world at different World Trade Centers, and you see that there are huge multi-use complexes. Denver is ready for something like this, where we can really claim our spot as a global city. When you have an active World Trade Center that’s very visible and accessible to everyone, from students to large multinationals, to immigrants, to community members, then you actually start to personify Denver as a global city. And that’s exactly what we’re hoping to do.”

Pure Development partnered with Tryba Architects to craft the mixed-use vision for Fox Park. With WTC on board, the development team gains a key partner as it seeks to attract other tenants and build out the remainder of the project.

“We always envisioned this exciting development to be an authentic, placemaking experience, which celebrates diversity in this great community,” Carredano told DBJ. “Having the World Trade Center anchor this project brings that vision to life, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our partnership.”

WTC counts more than 300 companies among its local membership, and the new complex will offer a physical space for them to gather, Gerwitz said. She said the decision to walk away from the RiNo project was “tough,” but said there were no hard feelings.

“If I had met Jose in 2016, if he were here and he had this project, and this was one of the options, this would have been our choice,” Gerwitz said. “It just wasn’t presented to me at the time. This was not an easy decision, but it was an obvious decision.”

A Formativ spokesperson told DBJ in an email that the company, along with Golub, remains committed to the planned office development in RiNo, and said leasing discussions are underway with Newmark, which will be marketing the building.

“Formativ and Golub are excited for the World Trade Center Denver organization and the announcement of their new home at Fox Park,” the statement from Formativ reads. “We understand that project delays due to the Covid pandemic created a timeline that does not align with the organization’s need for a more immediate home. We wish them all the best and look forward to celebrating the opening of their new headquarters.”

The spokesperson declined to comment further.

Carredano said the development team is currently applying for tax-increment financing for the project. WTC’s campus is expected to break ground in the second half of 2021, and begin opening in phases in the fourth quarter of 2022.

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