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AURORA, CO-A proposal from the second largest city in the Denver metro area is one of eight finalists in the Western US for about $70 million to design, construct and operate a 138,000-sf recreation center. The proposal was submitted by the city and the Salvation Army, which would operate it.

The Salvation Army’s Western Territorial office in California in July will announce which cities will get the funding for the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers, says Joe Kremer, a long-time volunteer for the local Salvation Army operation, who was involved in putting together the bid for Aurora. The development site is 15 acres at 111 Havana St.

Joan Kroc was a long-time supporter of the Salvation Army when she was alive and came up with the idea for recreation centers to help under-served areas while living in San Diego. Kremer says the site in Aurora has the type of demographics that the Salvation Army is targeting. He says that the Salvation Army likely will fund at least six of the finalists so the odds are pretty good that Aurora will make the final cut although the amount of money is still to be determined.

Some 2,000 questionnaires were recently sent out to Aurora citizens to see what kind of features should be included. The center would be designed by Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, which has done many of the suburban rec centers in the Denver area and across the country. The firm so impressed the Salvation Army that is using it to consult on several projects outside of Colorado, according to Kremer.

Aurora plans to commit $1 million to the rec center project, about half of which would come from federal community block grants and the other $500,000 from the city’s general fund.

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer tells GlobeSt.com that he sees no downside to the investment. For a modest investment, it will get a center that will provide recreational amenities to an area that represents “a good cross section of the overall demographics of Aurora,” he says.

If the Havana Street proposal is chosen, construction could begin in late 2006. No businesses currently leasing space in the on-site facility, including the Concorde Career College, would be immediately displaced. The Ray and Jean Kroc Corps Community Center project is one of several redevelopment efforts under consideration for the Havana corridor. With more than 44,000 motorists driving the commercial corridor daily, the Havana District remains a critical part of Aurora’s economy, generating approximately 14% of the city’s retail tax base. The district serves as gateway into the city and is close to redevelopments that are underway at Lowry, Stapleton and Fitzsimons, giving the corridor the potential to become the “Fourth Corner” to an expanded area of revitalization, according to an Aurora spokesman.

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