The story of a family who saw the future in the land
The Fulenwiders were real estate pioneers who built a Colorado empire
To understand the future of Denver International Airport, you need to start with the past of the Fulenwider family.
Lloyd Caleb “L.C.” Fulenwider came to Colorado from Missouri and started Globe Investment Co. in 1904, which changed its name to L.C. Fulenwider Inc. in 1930.
“He was a farm and ranch guy,” his grandson, Cal Fulenwider III, says. “He was a broker, put farms and ranches together, and that’s how we came to own the ground by the airport, (which was) finally incorporated in 1938.”
L.C. Fulenwider Sr. helped write the first Colorado real estate license laws, many of which are still on the books today. He owned one of the area’s first cars, which he used to ferry clients to properties.
“He was a pioneer,” says Fulenwider CFO Marcy Lujan, who has been with the company for 25 years. “They look at their land and want it to be something that they can be proud of in the future.”
L.C.’s son, L.C. Fulenwider Jr., transitioned the company from farm and ranch into residential-commercial brokerage, property management and insurance, Cal III says. That led to a host of firsts: in 1959, Denver’s first residential condominiums, followed by Denver’s first high-rise condo, as well as the first ski resort condominiums in Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge.
Cal III got into the development side of things in the late ’80s, starting with a development called Polo Club North. He says his father wasn’t initially happy about the change in direction, but came around.
“That was the late ’70s through early ’90s, prime hit 20 twice, so I went from being a self-proclaimed brilliant developer to like, whoa, what’s happened?” he says. “We are now 100 percent development-oriented.”
The Fulenwider development portfolio includes Greenwood Village, Polo Field West, the Marriott Courtyard at DIA, Frontier Airlines Headquarters, the 25-story Chase Bank Building and the 31-story Larimer Place Condominiums.
And then there’s DIA, which sits on some of the 40,000 acres L.C. Fulenwider Sr. assembled during the early 20th century.
“Anything that’s got our signature and thumbprint on, we take seriously,” Cal III says, “And we’re proud of it.”
Around DIA, the company has partnered with Shea Homes to develop Reunion, a more than 3,000-acre master-planned community anchored by the Buffalo Run Golf Course.
Other DIA projects include Denver International Business Center, a 300-acre business park at 72nd and Tower Road, anchored by FlightSafety International, a Berkshire Hathaway Company; and most recently, Peña Station, a mixed-use transit oriented development (TOD) at DIA’s front door, anchored by the North American headquarters of Panasonic Enterprise Solutions.
“What we learned back in the ’80s from the ULI (Urban Land Institute) panel was we weren’t going to be getting major employers in and around the airport until we had put all the necessary infrastructure in place,” Fulenwider says. “We needed places for people to live, to play, to shop.”
The evolution of the airport is now such that major employers are starting to look at DIA, he says.
“The whole purpose of the rail stop was to design a pedestrian-oriented rail stop that would be a magnet for major employers who wanted to locate around the fifth-busiest airport in the country, which is literally at half-capacity. It can double in size, which will put it without a doubt as the No. 1 airport in the world, passenger-wise.”
The new development is going to be unlike anything North America has seen, Fulenwider says.
“It’s going to be smart, sustainable, secure, healthy,” he says. “It will be very high-tech, very sustainable, very secure, and we’re working on a health-wellness center as an integral part of that. It should really set the stage for development in the northeast quadrant, along with what we’re doing at Reunion.”
Cal Fulenwider III still holds Colorado Real Estate License No. 1, which originally belonged to his grandfather.
“He died when I was 2, but I’ve always sort of felt his presence in all of this,” he says. “The airport is to Denver today and Colorado as Union Station was back in the 1880s. The fact he had the foresight to put something like that together is pretty cool. And it’s our responsibility to follow through with it.”