ULI Colorado Blog

Stock Show Recap: Colorado as ‘Silicon Valley of Agriculture’?

By Jenni Lantz, Consultant, John Burns Consulting

On Thursday, August 18, ULI Colorado presented “Taking Stock of the Stock Show,” which explored the overhaul of the National Western Center and the surrounding area of Denver’s Globeville neighborhood. This Young Leaders Group Discovery Series attracted a capacity crowd of 155 to an event including a panel of speakers, bus tours, and a networking social at the cowboy-themed National Western Club.

In 2015, 65 percent of Denver voters passed 2C, a measure that extends a tourism tax to fund the National Western overhaul and Colorado Convention Center expansion.

“Taking Stock of the Stock Show” began with an introduction by Anna Jones, Executive Director of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative. The Collaborative oversees six main projects: National Western Center, Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea Neighborhood Plans, River North, I-70 Reconstruction, and the RTD Station Development. Jones spoke of the opportunity Denver has to transform the National Western Center and the surrounding area and reconnect it to the rest of the city. By working with the community and city, the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative hopes to revitalize this area while honoring its history and culture.

Pat Grant, Chairman of the Board for the National Stock Show Association and panel moderator, spoke to the history of the National Western Stock Show, which started in 1906 with a simple tent in Denver’s Elyria neighborhood. Today the stock show has grown to become the “Super Bowl of stock shows,” according to Grant with over 15,000 animals or stock, the largest horse show in the country, and one of the top four indoor rodeos. Yet the National Western Center is dealing with outdated facilities and a need for growth. The passing of Measure 2C will fund growth that will take the National Stock Show and the National Western Center into the future.

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Grant then welcomed the panelists to the stage of the Beef Palace auction hall: Kelly Leid (Executive Director, Office of the National Western Center, Office of the Mayor, City and County of Denver), Jocelyn Hittle (Director, Denver Program Development, Colorado State University), Mark Johnson (Founding Principal, Civitas), and Diane Barrett (Chief Projects Officer, Office of the Mayor, City and County of Denver).

Leid reminded the audience that Denver remains a cow town and should be proud of it. Over eight phases, the National Western Center will grow from about 140 acres to 250 acres. It will include almost three million square feet of new buildings while preserving many of the historic buildings. Currently in the land acquisition phase, the overhaul of the National Western Center looks to celebrate the past while realizing the vision of Colorado as the “Silicon Valley of Agriculture” where research and innovation will help face the challenge of feeding a world population growing to 9 billion by 2050.

Jocelyn Hittle discussed Colorado State University’s (CSU) part in making the dream a reality. Agriculture is expanding to a $41 billion economy in Colorado. There is a high concentration of publications and patents along the I-25 corridor, making Fort Collins to Denver a hotbed of agriculture innovation. The National Western Center is in a central location for this activity and a great place to connect urban and rural communities. CSU sees its partnership with the National Western Center as a great opportunity and will develop three facilities at the Center: a water resources center (in partnership with Denver Water) connected to the Platte River; an equine sports medicine center that will support the stock show and more; and the CSU Center, their “kitchen sink building” where CSU will educate people about where their food comes from.

Mark Johnson spoke about Civitas’ work with the city and others to create the master plan for the National Western Center’s future. The surrounding neighborhood, which used to be heavily industrial, originally had a strong connection to the Platte River. The new plans will rebuild this connection with multiple bridges, as well as move the new stockyards away from the river. The site will also include new public plazas, a 10,000-seat replacement for the aging Denver Colosseum, and a public food market similar to Seattle’s Pike Place.

Diane Barrett of the Denver mayor’s office wrapped up the panel discussion with a conversation about money. As the master plan vision came into being, Mayor Michael Hancock gathered a committee to determine how to pay for the expansion and overhaul. This committee met for a year and came up with a menu of ideas, including Measure 2C. The committee continues to work to fill the gaps in the roughly $850 million budget with state and federal grants, as well as public-private partnerships.

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Following the panel discussion and Q&A, Leid, Hittle, and Eric Shafran (Capital Projects Director, Office of the National Western Center, Mayor’s Office) led bus tours of the National Western Center project. These tours shed light on the borders of the new site, which buildings will be preserved, and which buildings will be demolished to make room for the new development.

Denver has a great history of public and private partnerships and successful major public projects such as Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport. The city of Denver is moving into another exciting time of redevelopment with the National Western Center expansion and overhaul. If you missed this event, you missed a fascinating look into the future of the National Western Center and its surrounding area. We have a lot to look forward to in North Denver over the next 10 years.

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ULI Colorado also thanked Caroline Miner, co-chair of the YLG Discovery series. She is completing her successful two-year term which included programs on Millennial trends, industrial trends, and the role of craft breweries in neighborhood revitalization.

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