The first phase of the $4 billion Stapleton project, a public-private collaboration between developer Forest City Enterprises and the City of Denver, is set to open in August. The initial phase of the massive 20-year redevelopment — the largest under way in the U.S. — includes the 740,000 sq. ft. regional retail center Quebec Square and a 150,000 sq. ft. neighborhood town center. Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Sam's Club anchor the retail center, while the neighborhood center will feature a 58,000 sq. ft. King Soopers grocery store. Borders Books, Just For Feet, Linen 'n Things and Office Depot also have signed on.

From 1929 to 1995, Stapleton served as Denver's municipal airport. When Denver International Airport was built in 1989, the city began considering alternative uses for the 4,200-acre site. Cleveland-based Forest City signed an agreement to buy and redevelop 2,935 acres in February 2000. The goal is to create a pedestrian-scale urban community that, over two decades, will grow to include 12,000 homes and apartments, 3 million sq. ft. of retail space and 10 million sq. ft. of office space.

“When the airport was built, we needed it,” says Emerick J. Corsi, senior vice president of development for Forest City. “Now it's in the way. If you remove the airport, you find under-served markets where you can create retail, housing and office.”

Forest City says it had no problem finding tenants, which bodes well for the project, Corsi says. “It's impossible to get into the area. The retailers were standing in line.”

Meantime, “Sustainable Stapleton” is one of 50 finalists from a pool of 250 nominees for the Stockholm Partnerships for Sustainable Cities Award. The award will be presented in June at the Stockholm Partnerships forum, a conference focusing on sustainable development in urban areas.