$1B ’Reunion’ Gathers Momentum

Mon November 18, 2002 - West Edition
Troy M. Hawks

What is now little more than large open fields of windswept grasses along Denver’s northeast corridor will soon house some 30,000 residents. Shea Homes has begun construction on the first phase of 750 homes that will ultimately make up the $1-billion, 2,500-acre Reunion master planned community near the Denver International Airport.

Already, subcontractor Hogan Action of Denver has moved more than 273 acres or 1.6 million cu. yds. (1.2 million cu m) of land. According to Hogan Project Manager Brian Bushey, the company’s Caterpillar 637 twin-engine scrapers have played a key role in the excavation.

In addition, Hogan has excavated nearly 600,000 cu. yds. (456,000 cu m) of expansive soil from underneath several building sites. Bushey explained that clay soils were dug out 20 ft. (6 m) below some of the sites.

From there, workers added water to the soil to meet density requirements, then put the soil back in place for landscaping with a rome disk.

According to Jeff Willis, Shea’s director of land acquisition and sales, Reunion eventually will include more than 12,000 homes, 900 acres of commercial and retail development, and 320 acres of parks and open space, which will require more than 100 mi. (160 km) of asphalt, and 20 million cu. yds. (15.2 million cu m) of excavation.

Other subcontractors are landscaping the area around Shea’s onsite Welcome Center using Cat’s 14H graders and 85C Challengers with a disk, and John Deere 544G loaders.

According to Willis, the biggest issue for the moment is water, as it is throughout drought-stricken Colorado. Water used for dust control on the project has been supplied through south Adams County.

Shea and an additional two to three builders will construct eight different series of homes starting in the low $200,000’s.

A second phase of roughly the same size is expected to begin next year, Willis said. The 900 acres zoned for commercial development could include as much as 5-to-6-million sq. ft. (450.000 to 540,000 sq m) of building space.

Some retail services will be developed early on, but office and industrial development will not commence until the project is further along.

The Reunion site was identified in the mid-1980s as a prime location for a master planned community.

Shea has been working with a local landowner and the Commerce City government for three years to plan the development, which will include executive housing and golf-course estates later down the line..

Shea officials predict that Reunion’s quick access to E-470 and the airport will appeal to potential residents.

According to the Denver Regional Council of Governments, more than 100,000 new homes are expected to be constructed throughout the northeast corridor within the next 15 years.

The Reunion development should take 15 to 20 years to complete.