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Q&A: Stapleton takes off

Forest City Stapleton Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, was recently named master developer for 4,700 acres in northeast Denver, the former site of Stapleton Airport. Tom Gleason, vice president of public relations, says there's a strong need for retail in the area. To meet that need, Forest City is building Quebec Square, a 740,000-sq.-ft. regional mall that is the first phase of the Stapleton redevelopment project. The mall, which opens July 4, 2002, will generate significant tax revenues to help launch future phases. Although in a suburban location, Quebec Square will have a distinctly urban flavor.

SCW: You have nearly 3,000 developable acres of land in your project, with 1,100 acres reserved for parks and open space. Why have you decided to begin development with the 75-acre site for Quebec Square?

Gleason: There are a couple of reasons. First, there is a strong need for a regional retail facility in that quadrant of northeast Denver. Second, there are the revenues produced through the anchors — The Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. They will produce significant tax revenues, which will then be utilized for tax-increment financing for the infrastructure for the balance of the project. This will create an important economic engine, if you will. We will ultimately develop all of the developable land, which we will take down over a period of 15 years.

SCW: How will this mall contribute to the overall quality of your project?

Gleason: What will be unique about Quebec Square is that it will have more of an urban character than you typically find in a regional center. There are areas specifically designed to be strong pedestrian connections to facilities that already exist nearby. So, for example, United Airlines employees (there are 1,200 working in a nearby flight training center) and guests of the former airport hotels, which are all still very successful, will be able to walk to Quebec Square utilizing the retail opportunities there on their lunch hour, after work or whenever they choose.

Our goal at Stapleton is to create a pedestrian-oriented community. As we discuss potential relocation here with major employers, we can point out to them that within walking distance employees will have a diversity of housing — from receptionists to CEOs — as well as schools, parks and open space and a variety of retail. For example, just south of Quebec Square — a short walk, in fact — we're starting a 150,000-sq.-ft. neighborhood center to be anchored by a 60,000-sq.-ft. grocery store, which is also badly needed in the area, and a variety of smaller retail pads.

SCW: Do your three lead retailers — The Home Depot, Sam's Club and Wal-Mart — often anchor the same center?

Gleason: Sam's and Wal-Mart are often found together, but I don't know if The Home Depot has been with them that often. I think it's testimony to the fact that the market is so hungry in this quadrant that it makes sense for them to all be together.

The whole center will total 740,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart will have 207,000 sq. ft., Sam's 130,000 and The Home Depot 117,000. We're in discussion with a number of other retailers to complement them, including clothing stores, restaurants and home furnishing outlets.

SCW: Tell us about the other components of your planned community.

Gleason: It will take fully 20 years to develop. We anticipate at full build-out it will have 12,000 homes and apartments for 30,000 residents. Also, we anticipate about 10 million sq. ft. of office space, and 3 million sq. ft. of retail. The total estimated cost will be about $4 billion.

But again, what will be really unique about the retail space in and around Quebec Square is that the residents won't even have to get in their cars to go shopping.

Steve Lewis is an Atlanta-based writer.

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