COMMERCE CITY — It’s been 12 years since the dogs took their final lap at Mile High Greyhound Park.
While there’s no plan to bring back the notoriously fast-paced canines to Commerce City, the long-abandoned site in the heart of the city where millions of racing fans placed their bets for more than half a century is about to get a fresh lease on life.
A dense mixed-use community, with 800 housing units and plenty of space for new retail opportunities, will slowly rise on the 65-acre parcel, injecting much-needed vitality into a part of the metro area long defined by a gritty industry set amidst an aging housing stock.
“I hope it does bring something positive for the city,” said Commerce City Councilwoman Jennifer Allen-Thomas, who was born and raised just blocks from the park. “Something — like the dog track — to be proud of for years to come.”
Work on the new $300 million neighborhood, aptly named Greyhound Park, began in the fall and will continue over the next few years. Earthmovers and construction crews could recently be seen dodging between giant piles of dirt, laying pipe and other infrastructure at the site, which sits at the northwest corner of East 62nd Avenue and Holly Street.
The first structure to go up will be a 223-unit affordable apartment building called The Landing at Greyhound Park. There will also be single-family houses, townhomes and market-rate apartments. The retail portion of the site could include sit-down restaurants and educational amenities, though specific plans have not been unveiled.
A 3-acre park is also planned as a community centerpiece.
René Bullock, a former councilman who now heads up the city’s chamber of commerce, said most of Commerce City’s economic might emanates from the older part of town, where the dog track drew thousands during hot summer nights starting in 1949.
Today, the sprawling Suncor oil refinery, set amid a tangle of highways and railroad tracks, dominates the landscape here.
The contrast between Commerce City’s older section and the city’s newer neighborhoods to the north, like Reunion and Buffalo Run, is stark.
“It’s really going to be uplifting for the southern part of the city,” Bullock said of the redevelopment effort. “The tax base for the city is here and all the impacts are suffered by the southern part of the city. Our time has come to receive something.”
The city has projected that at completion, Greyhound Park could create nearly 1,500 permanent jobs and generate $65.4 million in income annually.
“It’s gonna change the world down here,” Bullock said.
The road to the future Greyhound Park is long and tortured. After the last dog made the rounds on the oval on June 28, 2008, following a decades-long decline at the park as gambling in Colorado’s mountain towns and other forms of entertainment eclipsed a day at the track, the site sat empty and unused before the city’s urban renewal authority purchased it in 2011.
The venerable track itself was demolished starting in late 2012 and the city released a master plan for the site four years later. In 2018, city officials approved financing for the redevelopment effort. Commerce City teamed up with Delwest Development Corp. and sold the builder 40 acres in September to start the residential portion of the project.
“There’s a lot of pride in what the dog track was,” said Joe DelZotto, president of Delwest. “What we want to do is pay homage to the dog track.”
That could come in the form of greyhound sculptures placed throughout the site, or a museum in the community displaying relics from the track, DelZotto said. Whether that includes the famous mechanical rabbit — “Rusty” — that the greyhounds chased around the track is not yet known.
The city’s history museum at the corner of East 60th Avenue and Monaco Street has plenty of pictures, programs and other keepsakes from the track that were salvaged before the wrecking ball swung. Esther Hall, president of the Commerce City Historical Society, said some of those items could make their way over to the new neighborhood.
“Many people, like me, are anxious to see it go forward,” she said of the redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Allen-Thomas, the councilwoman, said she’d like to see a school built on the property to serve kids in the Adams 14 school district. She isn’t too concerned about Greyhound Park leading to unwanted gentrification of Commerce City’s core — the fact that the project has affordable units going up in the first phase assuages her that it will be a “welcoming community for all.”
“I do think this is a revival,” Allen-Thomas said.
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