Adaptive reuse: Not just for the great indoors

Preserving and restoring the native landscape and wetlands along Westerly Creek also were a priority within the landscape.
Blake Williams Director of business development, Consilium Design, Centennial

Blake Williams
Director of business development, Consilium Design, Centennial

What is the hype over the buzzwords “adaptive reuse?” Some of it stems from the need to reduce urban sprawl. Some of it may be because as designers, engineers and consultants, we care about revitalizing and repurposing old buildings – particularly when they have historical significance. How cool would it be to tell your teenager they made the first ejection seats were made here (Stanley Marketplace) or this used to be an 1880s machine hall (The Source) or this used to be a space for housing boilers and engines to generate electricity for the Denver Tramway Co. Rail system (REI)?

Yes, we can champion the reuse of old buildings and landscapes. These projects are fun, challenging, re-establish history and craft the future.

Stanley Marketplace, located in Aurora, is one such project that has embodied the adaptive reuse concept to the fullest. What started as a couple of neighbors thinking of starting a beer hall has now morphed into a $30 million repurpose of the old Stanley Aviation building. It consists of over 140,000 square feet of restaurants, a beer hall and brewery, retail, services, and an events space for weddings and other large events. The space is 100 percent leased and has over 50 tenants, all of whom are local and will be opening this fall.

Flightline Ventures and Westfield Development are the developers of the project and to illustrate their commitment to reuse, repurpose and sustainability, they have created a “Stanifesto.” It is a core belief, a mission statement, a manifest with a bigger purpose. To quote the first paragraph of 13, “This is no ordinary marketplace. We are a community of like-minded businesses and people who believe in doing things differently: sustainably, thoughtfully, creatively, with way more than the bottom line in mind. We have grand ambitions and we are guided by mighty beliefs.” Pretty strong corporate mantra wouldn’t you say?

Those core beliefs are illustrated throughout the space and you will readily recognize the indoor adaptive reuse when you visit the site. What may not be as recognizable are the sustainable principles integrated into the outdoor living space. A jet engine testing canopy structure has been repurposed as an outdoor shade structure, taxiways and runways allow for pedestrian access and open-air markets, interior metal joists have been repurposed into bicycle racks, recycled concrete has been integrated into seat walls and retaining walls, and steel gabion cages utilize old runways as architectural elements. In addition, the red hangar doors and the original Stanley Aviation signage have been designated as official landmarks with the city of Aurora, so these elements must remain intact no matter what happens to the building in the future.

Additional sustainable practices include bio swales in the parking areas to capture parking lot runoff. This allowed for three times as many shade trees to improve the aesthetics of the parking lot and reduce heat. Preserving and restoring the native landscape and wetlands along Westerly Creek also were a priority within the landscape.

Life is full of teachable moments – the adaptive reuse of these historic buildings could serve as a museum tour for the day. Not only will you get an education, but also you can get food, beer, coffee, spices and camping gear to boot. Few projects raise the bar this high. So challenge yourself to look at the “old” with the “new” in mind and make a difference.

In closing, try to envision a new use for an old space. Instead of building a typical tree house in your backyard for the kids, why not put a single-engine Cessna up there? The design team for the project includes Consilium Design Landscape Architects and Workshop8 Architects. The contractor was White Construction.

Featured in the October 2016 issue of Land & Development Quarterly

Edited by the Colorado Real Estate Journal staff.