The Denver Post–A site long associated with a pillar of Boulder County's high-tech past could house one of the current reigning tech giants: Amazon.
The massive StorageTek campus in Louisville is under contract to California's Bancroft Capital, which is using it to woo Amazon as the web retail giant hunts for a second headquarters.
Officials from Bancroft confirmed their intent to the Colorado Real Estate Journal, which first reported the story Monday. Bancroft confirmed to the Camera on Wednesday.
"We've been chasing this deal for a decade and a half," said founder Doug McDonald. "Amazon is a great fit for Boulder County and could be a game- changer for public transportation and connectivity."
Phillips 66, which spun off ConocoPhillips in 2012, owns the 432-acre site. In regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Phillips 66 discusses the site as being "held for sale" and values it at $50 million. Bancroft declined to confirm the price.
Located just off Northwest Parkway and U.S. 36, the property has been mostly vacant for the better part of a decade.
The campus was long home to Storage Technology Corp., which was bought by Sun Microsystems in 2005. While Sun initially had plans to continue operating lab space there, it reversed course, vacated the property and put it up for sale in 2007.
ConocoPhillips bought the property for $58.5 million in 2008, with plans to create a sustainable energy research center. At the time, a company spokesperson said Louisville's proximity to national labs, major universities and Denver International Airport drew the energy giant to Boulder County.
Similar factors could lure Amazon. The mega-retailer has said it is seeking a metro area with at least 1 million people, with decent public transportation, access to outdoor recreation and a culture of inclusion to take in up to 50,000 new employees.
The announcement of a desired HQ2, as it's been deemed, two weeks ago sent cities and states into a feeding frenzy, vying for the estimated $5 billion project. The Chicago Tribune tallied 100 municipalities that expressed interest, including Austin, Texas; New York, Boston, Chicago, Washington/Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Ottawa and Toronto.
The New York Times identified the Denver metro area as the best potential choice for a landing spot for Amazon, which will keep its original headquarters in Seattle. Amazon already has presence in the area, including a large fulfillment operation in Aurora and a planned office and distribution center in Boulder.
All Colorado bids will be directed through the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation and are due Friday. The cities of Denver and Aurora also are putting in bids on sites, according to Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development for the organization.
"We're looking for sites that boast connectivity, ability and mobility for a highly educated work force," Bailey said. "The ConocoPhillips site is nestled in a nice work force region. There are some attractive assets to the company that a company like Amazon could benefit from."
At least some backlash from growth-wary citizens is expected. The expansion of Google in Boulder — by at least 1,000 employees — was a tough sell. A strong anti-growth movement has risen up, though two Boulder ballot measures to curb development failed in the 2015 election.
Though Boulder won't have a say, per se, in Amazon's plans, the company did say it wants to go to a "business-friendly environment." That will likely include economic incentives, which would be handled by the governor's office and the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.
Louisville Economic Development Officer Aaron DeJong said any discussion of financial incentives was premature. Addressing potential opponents, DeJong said that the site has always been home to big business.
"This 400 acres is on the books to be a primary employer," he said. "It's zoned for that, it's in our comprehensive plan."
Whatever happens, Bancroft's purchase represents forward momentum on a property that has long been stagnant. Indeed, the firm went under contract in June, before the Amazon announcement earlier this month, and was a losing bidder when Sun put it up for sale a decade ago.
McDonald said Bancroft has always viewed the site as ripe for redevelopment into a "corporate-anchored," walkable, mixed-use project including retail, hospitality and something else Boulder County needs desperately: housing.
Bancroft has had a hand in developing other properties in Boulder, includingthe Ball Aerospace campus, the former Amgen facility now home to McGraw Hill (and Google's overflow), and The Peloton, now completing the last of its rental-to-condo conversions.
"Whether it's Amazon or not," said Bailey, "we have a finite supply of land west of the metro area. Louisville is sitting on a very unique parcel that represents a unique opportunity."