Innovation and preservation in Colorado

Posted in: Aviation, Cultural Resources


The interior of the new marketplace preserves original materials and layout, including the floor, second story catwalks, and offices. Sections of the floor removed for underground utilities have become outdoor pavers. Chunks of the former concrete runways delineate a popular beer hall patio.

The history of Stanley Marketplace, a preservation adaptive re-use project in Aurora, Colorado, is steeped in advances in aeronautics and aviation.

The project involved the re-use of a 1954 Stanley Aviation hangar 140,000 square feet in size as a redevelopment project. The building serves as a neighborhood commercial center hosting numerous specialty shops. Creative financing included the use of historic preservation tax credits for the $25 million renovation.

For contributions to aviation history, the property became a City of Aurora Historic Landmark in 2015. It is the subject of a Aurora History Museum exhibit, entitled “From Manufacturing to Marketplace: Innovation at Stanley Aviation.” Founder Robert Stanley was a groundbreaking test pilot, inventor and entrepreneur. He invented various types of ejection seats and escape capsules, as well as other aeronautic components.

The Stanley Aviation plant almost doubled in size with a 1957 expansion. The decidedly modern building gained iconic neon signs in 1961 and 1967, which have been preserved. Other architectural features are clean lines, ribbon windows, triple-height retractable hangar doors on the west elevation and a simple horizontal red stripe that encircles the building. Previously located strategically near Air Force facilities and Denver’s Stapleton Airport, the plant became a leader in aeronautics engineering, as well as one of Aurora’s major employers within two years.

Original building materials on the exterior and interior embody the history of the building and are prominently featured. The numerous restaurants, salons, shops, bakeries and galleries in the marketplace provide a popular gathering place.

The Stanley Sign on the left, pre-renovation, 2015, and on the right, after preservation, in May 2017.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dianna Litvak is a public historian who specializes in surveying historic farms, ranches, post-World War II neighborhoods and linear features such as roads, irrigation ditches and railroad grades. A native of Denver, Dianna enjoys developing interpretive exhibits for properties as diverse as the Colorado State Capitol, Denver Union Station and the National Western Stock Show. She also serves on the Colorado National and State Register Review Board.

Other blog articles by Dianna include:

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