The City of Denver, anticipating the need for more space for court operations, has zeroed in on the southern side of the 700 block of West Colfax Avenue for future growth.
On Monday, City Council voted 12-1 to approve the purchase of 700 W. Colfax Ave. and 1449 Galapago St. for $3 million. A week earlier on Aug. 13, the body voted 10-1, with one member abstaining, in favor of purchasing 710 W. Colfax Ave. for $4.2 million.
The 700 W. Colfax parcel, owned by Urban West Group, consists of a 12,940-square-foot, two-story building on a 0.2 acre lot. A three-story garage is across the alleyway at 1449 Galapago St.
The 710 W. Colfax parcel, owned by R&R Engineering Properties LLC, consists of an 11,250-square-foot, one-story building on a 0.34-acre lot.
Combined, the parcels take up about two-thirds of the block. The sole building not included is the Denver Diner, which sold to a developer in July.
The city is more interested in the land than the structures. Speaking to a council committee in July, Lisa Lumley, the city’s assistant director of real estate, characterized the 700 block as one of two blocks along the Civic Center/Colfax corridor that have redevelopment potential.
The 600 block also has redevelopment potential, Lumley said, but the owner of the Rocky Mountain Orthodontics building at 650 W. Colfax Ave. already has a letter of intent from someone else to purchase the property. (On Sept. 5, after this article was published, Rocky Mountain Orthodontics CEO Tony Zakhem said in an email there is no longer an active letter of intent for the property.)
The city considers the site valuable because of its proximity to the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse, located two blocks away.
“What we have not seen until this year, which became apparent in the last couple months, is the growth the courts are experiencing,” Lumley said at the Aug. 13 council meeting. “And not just courts for courtrooms, but then it is also the supporting and ancillary services that are provided in our buildings around this general area, that need to stay in this general area.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn said Aug. 13 that the timing of the deals was motivated by the fact the properties were on the market.
“If we don’t purchase them now, they may be unavailable and under a significantly different kind of use and potentially cost more money down the line,” he said.
Councilwoman Deborah Ortega was the one person to vote against both purchase agreements, saying she wants a master plan laying out all the city’s real estate needs, as opposed to being approached about one-off deals.
“I understand the courts have the need for more courtrooms, but I think we need to understand the big picture of where we’re going and what our long-term needs are, so we don’t keep getting these big financial requests asking us to approve our needs piecemeal,” Ortega said Aug. 13.
The county hasn’t recorded the sales yet. The 710 W. Colfax Ave. deal isn’t expected to close until next year to allow the current owner to do a 1031 exchange.
The city isn’t necessarily done with the block. At the July committee meeting, Lumley said the real estate division also is interested in possibly purchasing the Denver Diner site at 740 W. Colfax Ave. and the Buddhist temple at 1450 N. Speer Blvd. She cautioned, however, that although “we’ve already had some conversations, we’re not actively trying to pursue something right now.”