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Huge rail-served industrial park in motion

Rocky Mountain Rail Park
Rocky Mountain Rail Park will be immediately east of Colorado Air and Space Port at Interstate 70 and Manilla Road. Rocky Mountain Resources will occupy the parcel labeled “leased.”

A company determined to enter the Front Range construction market will create one of the largest rail-served industrial parks in metro Denver in decades.

Rocky Mountain Resources, a multifaceted company with offices in Denver and Los Angeles, will develop the approximately 620-acre Rocky Mountain Rail Park next to Colorado Air and Space Port (formerly Front Range Airport) in Watkins. Union Pacific will service the development, which will be shovel-ready by mid-2019.

The park will enable Rocky Mountain Resources to deliver aggregate to the Front Range on UP unit, or single-commodity, trains. It also will serve other rail-dependent companies and offer trans-loading services for businesses that need smaller, less frequent, rail deliveries.

Gregory Dangler

Gregory Dangler

“We were looking a couple of years ago to access the Front Range construction markets, and what was very apparent as we checked out the whole market for third-party (railway) distribution facilities was they didn’t exist. So, we quickly had to make a decision: Do we not distribute our products to the growing Front Range, or do we go out and do this on our own? We clearly decided the latter,” said Gregory Dangler, Rocky Mountain Resources president.

“What makes this so unique is the fact that we have an anchor user that is really allowing us to kick off the project,” said Aaron Valdez, a director at Cushman & Wakefield. RMR will occupy 150 acres. Rail-served sites from 5 to 270 acres will be available to other users, with another 150 acres of nonrail sites accessible to heavy industrial uses.

Sites will be available for lease, sale or build-to-suit. “They’re going to offer very competitive pricing,” said Valdez. “RMR is an outlier since they are so large. Basically, any rail-served site is quite expensive, and we are offering an affordable solution to users of all sizes,” he said.

“What was missing in the market and what hopefully we’ll be filling a void for is larger-scale freight movements via rail … where you can bring in hundred-plus cars of the same product. What that does for both the supplier and customer, and also the end user, is it lowers your freight costs, often by as much as 40 or 50 percent,” said Dangler. “With the big market and economic drivers, you really need an industrial path to match consumer and residential construction demands. We saw it ourselves … and then we also went out to other segments of construction and industrial use, realizing we’re not the only ones looking for a solution,” he said.

Dangler said in addition to aggregate from RMR’s Glenwood Springs mine, the park will handle “a lot of other commodities, but not necessarily owned by us,” such as construction materials including lumber, cement and fly ash, and sand for fracking, for instance.

Aaron Valdez

Aaron Valdez

“This park is ideal for building supply companies that want an affordable and, more importantly, a functional rail-served site for their business,” said Valdez, who is marketing sites with Cushman & Wakefield Managing Directors Alec Rhodes and Tyler Smith in Denver, along with Michael Flynn of the company’s Rail Advisory Group in Minneapolis. “We are very excited about the creation of Rocky Mountain Rail Park since it gives companies an opportunity to expand their warehousing and outdoor storage needs.”

The park is at a full interchange of Interstate 70 and Manilla Road. It also offers the opportunity for a tug road with the airport, which has twin 8,000-sf runways to handle cargo and recently received a Federal Aviation Administration license allowing it to launch commercial spacecraft as opportunities arise.

Rocky Mountain Rail Park will be a welcome addition to the airport as transportation infrastructure in general benefits “any vendor that operates out of Colorado Air and Space Port” and increases the airport’s marketability to companies that need that infrastructure, said Jim Siedlecki, Adams County communications director.

Valdez said with billions of dollars in public projects under way, including the Central I-70 Project, National Western Center, and DIA renovation and expansion, “We see an opportunity for rail use in Denver to increase over time.

“Traffic is a hot topic with everyone right now, and there are no signs of it declining. Every company that ships via rail is actually reducing truck traffic and pollution for all of us,” he said, noting each rail car takes the equivalent of four trucks off the road.

“It’s not like Denver is a tiny market where you only want to send a rail car a week. It’s one of the largest booming economies in the country from a growth perspective, so naturally it (rail transportation) makes sense,” Dangler said.

“Sometimes operators solve for what’s available, and that’s why a lot of these historic supply chains don’t have the current setup to support large-volume movements. We look at life a little differently. We don’t necessarily try to solve for what’s available; we try to solve a problem that includes our solution, which was, ‘Hey, this doesn’t make sense. Let’s create something new that is better economics and will naturally create a win-win for whoever participates,” he said.

Featured in CREJ’s Sept. 19-Oct. 2, 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…