This fall will mark 10 years since the birth of an idea that added a transformational feature to Northeast Denver and Northwest Aurora. In 2013, a group of Central Park residents embarked on a mission to create a community gathering space. That ambitious vision was actualized with the opening of Stanley Marketplace, which has become a thriving hub for businesses, a gathering space for residents, and a positive destination spot for the community.
The History of Stanley
The journey began with Central Park resident Mark Shaker’s belief that his neighborhood needed a community space where families could gather. In July 2013, he started Flightline Ventures with fellow Central Park residents Lorin Ting and Megan Von Wald. “We began meeting with people and neighborhoods to present our vision of opening a beer garden that could serve as a gathering spot for friends and families,” says Shaker.
A pivotal moment for Flightline occurred in October of 2013, when the group pitched the idea at a meeting of their registered neighborhood organization. “An Aurora city official saw the Front Porch article about the meeting,” says Shaker. “He brought the article to co-workers, and they reached out to us for development in Northwest Aurora.”
City of Aurora officials showed Flightline the Stanley Aviation building, which boasts 140,000 square feet of space, resides on 22 acres of land, and is located at the nexus of Northeast Denver and Northwest Aurora. Flightline immediately envisioned filling the empty building with a community space, and in early 2014 they bought the property and commenced the project.
The scale and complexity of the project encouraged Flightline to reach out to Westfield, a development company that had experience managing large properties. In 2016, Flightline and Westfield formed a joint venture called Stanley JV and established a 50/50 partnership for Stanley Marketplace. “We believed in the opportunity to shape the surrounding area,” says Ally Fredeen, the General Manager of Stanley Marketplace. “We knew it would be special to bridge communities, and we shared the greater vision the Flightline partners set out to achieve.”
Although Stanley JV intended to have a grand opening in December of 2016, multiple delays circumvented this plan and required them to open just one or two businesses a week. “It was a circus,” says Shaker. “Construction was going on all over the place, and it was a really challenging time that almost broke us.” However, Stanley JV was able to overcome the obstacles, and in July of 2017 the marketplace was filled to capacity.
A Bustling Marketplace of Diverse Businesses
Stanley currently has 55 businesses operating in the marketplace, with 33 being original businesses that believed in the project’s vision and that are still flourishing today. Original restaurants include Rosenberg’s Bagels, Denver Biscuit Company, Logan House Coffee, Comida, Annette, Cheluna Brewing, Stanley Beer Hall, Maria Empanada, and Rolling Smoke BBQ.
Original retail shops include True, Sterre, June Ruby, Trunk Nouveau, Poppy & Pine, Goose & the Goat, and MindCraft Makerspace. And service companies that have been there since the beginning include Clementine’s Salon & Skincare, OpenAir Academy, Semion Barbershop, Neighborhood Music, Bounce Gymnastics, Fly Kickbox, and Kinesis Pilates. (See all of the original businesses listed at the end of this article.)
The success of these tenants demonstrates the favorable conditions in the building and the effective strategies of Stanley JV. The marketplace avoids major chains and only rents space to local entrepreneurs and independent businesses. “I’m a small business person,” says Shaker. “I like working directly with owners, seeing the owners as I walk around the marketplace, and giving chances to independent businesses that weren’t getting accepted in Central Park.”
To operate at Stanley, every tenant must sign the “Stanifesto,” a document outlining the philosophy of Stanley that emphasizes improving the community, uniting the residents, and caring for other people.
Variety is one of the keys to attracting people to the marketplace. Stanley has shops and restaurants on the bottom level, services and offices on the second floor, and fitness or recreational activities throughout the building. These options satisfy the interests of diverse visitors and increase the traffic flowing through the marketplace.
Ultimately, however, Shaker credits the success of the marketplace to the camaraderie of the businesses. “We call it the family,” says Shaker. “We have strength in numbers for those that support each other, share ideas, or help other tenants. And if someone signs a lease, they become part of the Stanley family.”
A Community Space
Stanley has achieved its goal of providing an energetic space for the community with a plethora of options that offer something for everyone. The bars and restaurants enable friends to drink cocktails and eat meals while filling the marketplace with a chorus of lively chatter and joyful laughter. The chairs and tables concentrated in the common area and scattered throughout the building offer comfortable spots for groups to sit and talk. The exterior features also foster a social environment. Visitors can gather on the outdoor patios, children can play at LuBird’s Light Playground, and the Field at Stanley offers a space for team sports and fun competitions.
A combination of free and paid community events provide opportunities for residents from all the surrounding neighborhoods to gather in one spot. “Community is in our DNA,” says Fredeen. “I don’t think Stanley would be Stanley without the community engagement that we see here—and you never know what’s going on at the marketplace on any given day.”
The Hangar hosts ticketed events for special experiences, such as symphony concerts, immersive art exhibits, or theatrical productions. But Stanley also offers free events, including Film on the Field, Rescue Puppy Yoga, concerts with local bands, activities for seasonal holidays, and festivals for diverse cultures. “We really like to ensure we have at least one community event a month where there’s no barrier to entry,” says Fredeen. “We curate events that are free for all ages, and no matter who you are or where you’re from, you can participate in our inclusive experiences at Stanley.”
Community events in the upcoming months include Stanley Summer Series, Back to School Silent Disco, Film on the Field, and Hispanic Heritage Month in September.
In the July 2023 edition’s NE News Updates, Front Porch made an announcement regarding Stanley Marketplace that contained incorrect information involving a change in ownership. We apologize for our mistake. There has been no change in ownership at the Stanley Marketplace. Stanley JV owns the marketplace and is a joint venture partnership between Flightline Ventures and Westfield Company.
Front Porch photos by Christie Gosch
Here is the full list of original businesses at Stanley Marketplace: OpenAir Academy, Goose and the Goat, Sterre, Trunk Nouveau, Mondo Market, Annette, Mr. B’s Wine & Spirits, True, Bounce, Zero Market, Poppy and Pine, Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, Logan House Coffee Co., Denver Biscuit Company, Cheluna Brewing Company, Misaki, Maria Empanada, Comida, Sweet Cow Ice Cream, Stanley Beer Hall, Rolling Smoke BBQ, Miette et Chocolat, Neighborhood Music, Clementines, Dental Solutions of Central Park, Semion Barbershop For All, Kinesis Pilates, Fly Kickboxing, The Hangar, Create Kitchen & Bar, June Ruby, MindCraft Makerspace, and Jody Thomas, PHD.