59 acres of federal land in Lakewood hits the market — again

A vacant 59-acre plot of land in Lakewood with a convoluted history is back up for sale, two years after it could have been the site of a 500- to 600-unit low-income housing complex.

The parcel at the corner of West Sixth Avenue and Simms Street, and next to a W-Line light-rail station, is owned by the federal government and was listed for sale by the General Services Administration last month. The starting bid is $15 million.

Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul described the property Wednesday as a “blank slate with some good bones and good things surrounding it,” even though it has a 15-acre section that would need to be remediated for environmental contaminants like asbestos.

“It’s got great highway access, it’s at a light rail stop and some of our biggest employers are in a radius around it,” he said.

A dense transit-oriented development, with multi-family housing and some retail, could be a good fit, Paul surmised, considering its proximity to the Denver Federal Center and St. Anthony Hospital.

Once home to the Denver Ordnance Plant, a World War II-era ammunition production facility, the property was first put on the market by the federal government seven years ago. Lakewood had proposed building a laboratory at the Federal Center in exchange for the land.

That deal never happened and the property was relisted in 2016. Soon after, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless sued to stop the auction, citing the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which gives agencies that serve the homeless the right of first refusal when surplus federal properties are sold.

The coalition pitched a two-phase approach to housing up to 1,000 people there with the use of temporary structures — trailers, geodesic dome shelters or large insulated tent structures. The proposal faced fierce opposition from neighboring residents and businesses.

Ultimately, a federal judge in 2019 ruled that the coalition had not adequately explained how it would finance the multimillion-dollar project and upheld a rejection of the project by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Cathy Alderman, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, said her organization would no longer try to make a claim on the property.

“It’s a huge missed opportunity for people experiencing homelessness and for affordable housing, which is desperately needed,” she said Wednesday.

Bidders have until June 15 to make an offer. So far, no bids have been made.

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