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As RK moves on, students will examine its Stapleton site

RK’s property, center, is surrounded by homes at Stapleton. (Google Earth)

As Stapleton was growing up around it, RK was growing, too.

The longtime Denver company now finds its outgrown headquarters, fabrication facility and yard at3800 Xanthia St.sittingalmost island-like among high-end homes.

“We are an industrial facility in the midst of half-million-dollar homes,” RK CEO Rick Kinning recently said of the site, which is two blocks from the Central Park Station on the A Line between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport.

“It just didn’t seem like this was the highest and best use of the property,” added Jon Kinning, RK chief operating officer and executive vice president. “It’s just kind of a unique property that has a lot of potential.”

So, RK will expand and consolidate business lines in a 280,000-square-foot building at Majestic Commercenter in Aurora. It will start relocating to the building in June.

The company will continue to use office and yard space at Stapleton, where it’s been since 1995, until it figures out what to do with that property.

“We’re trying to be good neighbors in Stapleton,” said Jon Kinning. “It’s been a good place for us for the last 20-some years, and we just want to see whatever ends up happening on the property fits with the Stapleton master plan.”

RK’s owners are open to myriad options for the 14-acre site, and they’ll be getting a whole host of ideas to help determine the property’s future.

Following up on a suggestion by architect Al Colussy, RK offered up its Stapleton headquarters for this year’s NAIOP Colorado Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge. Graduate students from the University of Denver and University of Colorado will create realistic, financially feasible development proposals for the site, which could help RK as it moves forward.

Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge
Thursday, May 3
Time: 5-8 p.m.
Place: Hilton Denver City Center, 1701 California St., Denver
Tickets: www.NAIOP-Colorado.org

“Definitely, there are some excellent ideas that are getting floated around, and some great questions. The teams are very impressive,” Jon Kinning said after a daylong event where students from the two universities garnered information on the property. “They had some really fun, creative ideas that should add value to the ultimate project.

Jon Kinning

Jon Kinning

“We’re just thrilled to be part of the process, and working on it is pretty exciting,” he said.

Following in-school competitions, on May 3 finalist teams from CU and DU will present their proposals for the RK property to a panel of commercial real estate “judges” and, that evening at a dinner in downtown Denver, to hundreds of industry professionals. (See NAIOP-Colorado.org for details.)

Bart Boranian Allen

Bart Boranian Allen

The Rocky Mountain Real Estate Challenge is Denver’s biggest commercial estate event. That gives the property great visibility, Jon Kinning noted.

Students have been hard at work on their proposals for several weeks.

“The experience has been great because we are able to apply everything that we have learned in our program in a real-life situation,” said Bart Boranian Allen, a master’s in real estate candidate at DU’s Daniels College of Business Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate & Construction Management. “We are meeting with general contractors to get pricing on all phases of the project. We are seeing if the vision will financially make sense based off what the market is telling us. Win or lose, the project has made us more prepared for our lives after the program,” he said.

Peter Polite Fisco

Peter Polite Fisco

“It is a rare chance to gain so much exposure to all of the different facets of the industry within such a short period of time,” added University of Colorado grad student Peter Polite Fisco. “While it can be somewhat daunting, every industry professional that we have spoke with has been more than generous with their time. You can tell the challenge fosters a strong sense of learning and understanding from the greater real estate community here in Denver.”

Allen said RK’s site is a great opportunity because “it is the last big parcel of land to redevelop in the Stapleton neighborhood, and it is next to a TOD site.” One of the challenges will be “coming up with a strategic plan to deal with the access,” he said.

Fisco agreed the property “offers many advantages as well as challenges that have forced us to think outside of the typical development process to create a plan that speaks to both the community needs as well as the bottom line.”

“While not technically a part of the Stapleton master plan, this site needs to speak to and function in harmony with the greater vision and goal of Stapleton,” he said. “The fact that the site is surrounded by single-family homes on three sides means that we have to get creative in order to provide the highest and best use but also be practical in what can feasibly be built in the area.”

“We’re really excited to see what they come up with,” said Jon Kinning. “There are a lot of smart people on those teams.”

RK provides mechanical, electrical and plumbing contracting services to construction, commercial and industrial customers, along with custom manufacturing; steel fabrication and erection; prefabricated buildings; facilities and equipment maintenance; and water treatment solutions.

The company expects to be fully operational in its new facility at 19503 E. 34thDrive by September. The building has been idle since GE Energy abandoned plans, after spending tens of millions of dollars on improvements, to open a solar panel manufacturing facility there. CBRE’s Murray Platt and Jim Bolt represented the landlord in leasing the building to RK. Alec Rhodes and Tyler Smith of Cushman & Wakefield represented RK.

Featured in CREJ’s April 18-May 1, 2018, issue

Kris Oppermann Stern is publisher and editor of Building Dialogue, a Colorado Real Estate Journal publication, and editor of CREJ's construction, design, and engineering section, including news and bylined articles. Building Dialogue is a quarterly, four-color magazine that caters specifically to the AEC industry, including features on projects and people, as well as covering trends…