42-acre `urban center' planned near I-25 in Centennial

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City council has given the green light to a proposed 1.8-million-square-foot, mixed-use project that will be the city's single largest commercial development.

Following its first public hearing on Oct. 7, the city council unanimously approved rezoning and development agreements for The Jones District, a 42-acre “urban center” development that cable and online-university entrepreneur Glenn Jones plans to build on a large parcel he owns near East Mineral Avenue and Interstate 25.

Plans were submitted this past March for the ambitious project, which could cost more than $200 million to build out over a period of 20 to 25 years and will include commercial, retail and residential components in buildings up to 15 stories tall.

The proposed development had a favorable hearing before the city's planning and zoning commission on Aug. 28. Following the OK from council, Mayor Cathy Noon said: “This project is a large, well-thought-out, cohesive development with magnificent potential” and will be a boon for future city tax revenues.

Being designed by Barber Architecture Corp. of Denver, The Jones District will be built around a “central green” public space and will feature wide sidewalks and a planned connection to the Dry Creek light rail station.

Architect Michael Barber told city councilors Oct. 7 that his firm has been working with Jones on the project for the past 19 months.

The proposed development site, which is adjacent to Jones International University's headquarters and just north of IKEA along I-25, is the city's largest undeveloped parcel of land under single ownership.

Mary Bliss, Jones' vice president for real estate and facilities, said: “This is the highest and best use for the land and a Class A project we will all be proud of.”

Explaining that the development's pedestrian-friendly street grid and numerous public spaces will emphasize “walkability,” Bliss added: “We're looking to create a lively nighttime community, one that doesn't go dark at 5 o'clock.”

The project will be Centennial's largest private commercial venture to date, dwarfing The Streets of SouthGlenn, which is just over 1 million square feet.

Made up mostly of office buildings “compatible in scale with the surrounding buildings to the west,” Barber said the development would also contain “ground floor retail” and possibly a hotel adjacent to I-25.

The entire development, Barber added, would feature a “thematic architectural design” with ground floor “arcades to provide for public uses and protection from the elements.”

Although the architect has designed up to 20 percent of the project to include residential development, at the public hearing both he and Bliss said that the housing component of their plan “was not a top priority.”

“We left residential in the plan but that is not the emphasis of what we are doing,” said Bliss.

The Jones District is the first large-scale development to be proposed using the city's new “form-based” zoning standards, adopted in 2011.

The new Land Development Codes were enacted, according to city officials, to make the zoning process less time-consuming and more predictable and business-friendly, especially for large-scale developments.

Jones and his team have yet to announce when they hope to break ground. “The next step, now that we have approval,” said Bliss, “is to move forward with the marketing plan.”

The next step for the project, according to Centennial spokesperson Allison Wittern, is for The Jones District “to bring site plans for specific buildings and parcels to city council. The timing of this,” she added, “depends on what market opportunities present themselves.”

Chairman and CEO of Jones International Ltd., Glenn Jones built his Colorado business empire over the past four decades, working first in cable television and, in more recent years, by capitalizing on the growing field of online education. He was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 2013.

Following the unanimous council approval for the project on Oct. 7, Noon said, “Congratulations and welcome Jones District! We are very excited.”