Denver: Coca-Cola looks to build new bottling plant on airport land

A Colorado Coca-Cola distributor is looking to strike a $271 million deal with Denver International Airport to build a new bottling plant on its property. If the project is approved, it’s a big win for the airport’s commercial development plans.

A subsidiary of Swire Coca-Cola USA, which produces, sells and distributes the beverage throughout most of Colorado, is seeking to secure a 75-year ground lease to build the manufacturing plant, according to a March 23 proposal. The new facility would replace both its production center at 3825 York St. and its sales center at 2145 E. 40th Ave.

If finalized, Swire would lease 97 acres east of Tower Road and north of Peรฑa Boulevard, with more than 1 million square feet of new construction. Denver City Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, April 5, to consider the lease agreement, according to a meeting agenda.

“As part of our long-term planning and growth goals, we are seeking to lease property near Denver International Airport for potential future business use,” said Swire Coca-Cola USA spokesperson Jenifer Freeman in a Friday email. “While no final decisions have been made, we plan to keep the community informed about potential future development of the site.”

The move represents the next chapter in the Pepsi vs. Coca-Cola battle in Colorado. Last year, PepsiCo Beverages North America announced its plan to open its largest U.S. plant in Denver this summer.

It bought more than 150 acres at the Denver High Point development area near DIA to replace its facility at 3801 Brighton Blvd.

On Coca-Cola’s end, Swire plans to put $350-500 million into the project, with the airport also putting up to $10 million for infrastructure work, according to the proposal. Swire aims to create up to 200 new jobs as a result.

The company would be given three opportunities to extend its lease by eight years each, with the potential to reach a total of 99 years. It’s also presented with a right of first refusal for 30 extra acres.

The airport is marketing for commercial development, with a real estate team dedicated to “a visionary master plan to transform 16,000 acres of commercial airport land at Denver International Airport,” according to DEN Real Estate.

The airport first received an inquiry from Swire with its interest in the site, said DIA spokesperson Alex Renteria.

“This development will be the first within our Second Creek Campus District, and is a prime location for light manufacturing and distribution use,” Renteria said in a Friday email, adding that it would keep more than 700 jobs within Denver.

Swire Coca-Cola USA serves 13 states, including most of Colorado. In the Centennial State, it operates eight facilities with 1,250 employees, Freeman said.

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