Original Publication Date: August 5, 2019
Author: Margaret Jackson, Bisnow Denver
Invent Development Partners co-founder and President Jon Dwight has an ambitious plan to transform two properties straddling Walnut Street in RiNo. When completed, it will debut as a mixed-use transit-oriented development that includes office space, hotels, residences, restaurants, shops and an event venue. Dwight put the properties under contract nearly three years ago. He closed on the second parcel last week after the the occupant, Mile High Express, relocated its new refrigerated and frozen facility in Aurora. ID put the 50K SF General Welding site at East 40th Avenue and Walnut Street under contract in April 2016 and began pursuing the adjacent 74K SF Mile High Express site, which it put under contract that November and launched into master planning of the two sites. Fast-forward to 2018 when the city implemented a new zoning code allowing for greater density and the state identified 126 opportunity zones that are eligible for federal tax incentives. One of Dwight’s sites — General Welding — is in an opportunity zone. “We were hearing the buzzword but hadn’t keyed into it,” he said.
But Halpern Real Estate Ventures CEO Jon Halpern had his New York-based company looking for an opportunity zone co-general partnership investment. So, when Dwight sought the help of Cadence Capital Partners to raise equity for the project, the company connected him with Halpern, who invested in the entire project — called Train Denver — though the two parcels’ financing are structured separately because of the opportunity zone. “Opportunity zones are not all created equal,” Cadence partner Matt Burskey said. “More and more we’re starting to see developers who need help.” Train aligns with Halpern’s opportunity zone investment strategy of partnering with seasoned local developers and leveraging the company’s experience in urban infill development in emerging neighborhoods, Halpern said.
“The RiNo submarket has become a focal point of investment activity, and we believe that the opportunity zone tax benefits will act as a tailwind, driving both capital flow and business demand to the area,” he said. “A project like Train Denver stands to benefit disproportionately, given its location at the fulcrum of future development activity, and steps from the 38th and Blake [commuter rail] station, providing excellent connectivity to the Denver CBD and the Airport.” The property is bisected by Walnut Street, a one-way thoroughfare that connects downtown Denver with RiNo. The project, expected to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2020, will have two levels of restaurant, retail and entertainment space, up to 200 residential units, a 200-room full-service hotel and a select-service hotel with a yet-to-be-determined number of rooms. The 275K SF office building will have decks on every level and a fitness center will serve both the hotel and the office building. “Millennials are a big driver,” Dwight said. “The amenity package is absolutely key. It’s not been done in Denver at this level.”