The 32-acre site with the giant church on East Florida Avenue hasn’t changed much in three decades.
For years, it served as the home of mega-church Heritage Christian Center, serving thousands of congregants every week. Eleven years ago, it morphed into Potter’s House of Denver, a multicultural congregation that met in the 137,000-square-foot building until the COVID-19 pandemic took the church fully online last year.
Now, the sprawling campus is due for a transformation that will take it from the realms of piety to a world of paired homes and apartments — 168 of the former and 345 of the latter — if developer DHI Communities gets its way. And neighbors in the Four Square Mile neighborhood, a slice of unincorporated Arapahoe County wedged between Denver and Aurora along South Parker Road, will be watching as the metamorphosis unfolds.
“We know development is coming,” said Mark Lampert, known informally as the mayor of Four Square Mile. “The best thing for us to do is put our fingerprint on what is happening.”
That’s already underway. Earlier this month, Arapahoe County hosted a public meeting to get input on what neighbors want to see in a future 5-acre park on the property, dubbed Arcadia Park.
“They’re in need of more parks in that area,” Arapahoe County senior planner Molly Orkild-Larson said.
Orkild-Larson said she’s aware of neighborhood concern about potential traffic and density impacts from the project — buildings could go as tall as 50 feet. More meetings and hearings about the project go before the public and the county in 2022 as the approvals process moves forward toward a hoped-for September groundbreaking, she said.
Lampert said while his community never envisioned the church — built in 1989 — going away, they don’t want to see the capacious building become a canvas for graffiti artists and vandals, as occurred with the Barn Store less than a mile to the south.
The old gas station and convenience store, purchased by Arapahoe County in 2020, was finally demolished in November after sitting at the corner of East Iliff Avenue and South Parker Road for years, boarded up and decorated with graffiti and strewn with garbage.
“The upkeep of such a massive structure would be difficult and could fall into disrepair,” Lampert said of the church if left to sit unoccupied.
Potter’s House Pastor Touré Roberts said the pandemic, with its government shutdown of religious services, led the church to ultimately abandon its physical footprint in the Four Square Mile neighborhood.
“COVID-19 forced every church in America to rethink how to best serve their parishioners and the broader community,” Roberts said. “Due to the inability to gather and the economic instability of the pandemic, our church, like many other churches in the nation, experienced declining donations.”
Instead of trying to do upkeep on an “old building that needed significant repairs,” he said, Potter’s House decided to remain fully virtual.
“We decided that the best way forward would be to sell the property, continue our online offering that had proven a successful alternative and maintain our hands-on community outreach operations, which includes our food bank that feeds thousands of families per year,” Roberts said.
Kyle Henderson, managing director for the mountain region of DHI Communities, which is part of homebuilder D.R. Horton Co., said the Potter’s House site “is in an ideal location, surrounded by residential and close to commercial corridors.”
DHI’s project conforms with the Four Square Mile subarea plan for multifamily density of between 13 to 25 dwelling units per acre, Henderson said.
“The proposed development includes plans to provide a mix of residential options with aesthetic and architectural integrity which will complement and enhance the surrounding neighborhood – this includes a new public park, enhanced landscaping and attractive residential communities,” he said.
Henderson said DHI is under contract to buy the property “contingent upon the approval of the rezoning and site plan.” It’s too early to identify price points for what might get built there, he said.
According to the Arapahoe County assessor’s office, the property’s appraised value in 2021 was $12.2 million.
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