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How Denver's Stapleton area went from an airport to a bustling community in 25 years

Posted at 7:25 AM, Feb 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 07:45:51-05

On Feb. 27, 1995, the last planes landed on the runways of Stapleton International Airport. It was the end of an era.

In the 1920s, Denver Mayor Ben Stapleton was determined his city would play a role in aviation. The airport was born in 1929, quickly becoming the fifth busiest airport in the nation.

No matter what the city did, the airport never seemed big enough. Bad weather and inadequate runways were always causing delays. As planes advanced and got louder, people living near the airport started demanding the airport be moved.

Sixty-six years later, it finally shut down and Denver International Airport was born.

Nadine Caldwell has lived in the same house near Stapleton for 61 years.

"About three blocks down the street was the runway," Caldwell said from her front yard. "We used to watch the planes take off."

Caldwell watched as a former aviation hub transformed.

"When the airport closed in 1995 things didn't happen right away. It was a very slow process," Caldwell said.

In 1998, the city of Denver chose a master developer for the old airport land.

READ MORE: The vision for what is now Denver International Airport came into focus earlier than you think

"What that presented for the city of Denver was this unique opportunity to transform runways, concourses and terminals and to turn this into a new vibrant community," said Tasha Jones with Stapleton Redevelopment.

Thirty-thousand people live in Stapleton now. There are more than 9,000 homes and counting and the developer has made an intentional effort to make sure everyone has the opportunity to live in the area.

"To date, there are 745 affordable for sale homes in Stapleton and 542 for rent," Jones said.

Stapleton is home to 21 schools and 1,100 acres of parks and open space.

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For longtime neighbors like Caldwell, the changes over the years have been a blessing.

"We paid $14,250 for our house. It's worth $350,000 now," she said with a smile.

The 12th and final neighborhood in Stapleton, called the North End, has launched. Home construction is ongoing.

READ MORE: What's next for Denver International Airport? Becoming a "city on our own"