A story of how an aeroportophile may also be a urbsophile; planning is the key

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Defunct airports take flight with creative new uses

Never good to lose an airport

Good planning from Stapleton to the new Denver International is a good model

For an “aeroportophile” (opposite of a NIMBY?), the loss of airports, as listed in the Administrator’s 2-17 Fact Book is a sign of “airport closure”. However, this USA Today article points out that there may be life after runway destruction and in the case of the demise of Stapleton, DUE TO GOOD PLANNING, resulted in a new, improved, up-sited DEN (a/k/a Denver International) PLUS a vibrant community in its stead.

Upon the demolition of the old Stapleton in 1995, plans were announced to redevelop much of the 7.5-square-mile tract over the next two decades. As with all real estate, “location, location, location” is the mantra! This plot benefitted from the pre-existing highway infrastructure befitting a major airfield- Interstate 70 –and only 5 miles Northeast of downtown Denver.

For the full story, click on this link and read the full account for transitioning from airfield to open field to new community [selection of master developer, demolition, environmental remediation, zoning, infrastructure planning]. The reuse of the property near the urban center is called “in fill”, as named  by redevelopment experts, the anthesis of the dreaded urban sprawl.

The details of the plan per Stapleton Development Corporation, the nonprofit company chartered by the city of Denver to develop the old airport site:

  • cost of implementing the master plan
    • $4 billion over its 20-year life.
  • to be built:
    • 8,000 single-family homes,
    • 4,000 apartments
    • 3,000,000 square feet of retail shops,
    • 10,000,000 square feet of offices
  • 100 acres of regional parks and open space,
  • a nature area,
  • an 18-hole golf course
  • a bicycle path along the course of Sand Creek.
  • northern corner of this open area will link with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, a vast preserve 20 times the size of Central Park in New York that is being created on the site of a former chemical munitions factory.

Originally, it was expected that few of the old airport infrastructure would be preserved, but evidentially a bridge is a bridge:


The article focuses a great deal on the reutilization of the tower from







Here is the tale of the tower:

…after sitting vacant for more than 20 years, the tower building reopened as a 32,000 square-foot “eatertainment” 

concept with six bowling lanes, shuffle board, bocce courts, karaoke rooms, a sports bar and a wide variety of other 

indoor and outdoor dining, drinking and social gaming opportunities.

“Dozens of ideas for reuse of the tower were presented over the years, including demolition, but there was a desire 

in the community to preserve the tower in order to visually convey the history of the land as the former Denver airport,” 

said Robert Thompson, founder and CEO of Punch Bowl Social, the company that turned the control tower building into 

a fun zone.

It would have been easier for Punch Bowl Social to demolish the old building and create something from scratch. Instead,

 they were able to preserve the historic structure, re-using some of the original precast panels that adorned the building 

exterior. Inside, there are plenty of nods to the golden age of flight.

“The hostess stand is made from a vintage steamer trunk. Reclaimed airplane dials are mounted on the walls, vintage 

luggage is stacked in shelving around the bowling cage, and we have signage from the original Stapleton International

 Airport throughout,” Thompson said.

And while the interior walls are covered with what appears to be polka-dot paper, the pattern is actually made from 

an aerial view of Stapleton from 30,000 feet.

“The air traffic control tower is the most visible and iconic representation of the history of this area,” said Denver City

Councilman Christopher Herndon, whose district includes Stapleton. “The Punch Bowl Social project embodies the spirit

of reimagination and reactivation Denver embraced when we envisioned a vibrant neighborhood filling the footprint of

the former Stapleton airport.”

Here are more images of the new in-fill plan and completions:



Yes, we may be rabid aeroportophiles, but with careful transition planning (closing airport1 to be replaced with airport2), we may also be an acceptable urbsophile. moment


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