Aurora sues Phil Anschutz and Walter Isenberg over Gaylord project

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Aurora has big balls -- and we're not just talking the globes out at Buckley. This morning, Aurora mayor Steve Hogan announced that the city, the Aurora Renewal Authority and RIDA Development Corporation is suing a group of eleven hotels -- five with a common owner or operator -- that had earlier sued to stop the 1,500-room Gaylord Hotel and Conference Center, which won approval and a tax subsidy from the Colorado Economic Development Commission seventeen months ago. Among the targets: Walter Isenberg and Phil Anschutz.

"Seventeen months ago," Hogan emphasized at the beginning of his speech, set before the backdrop of Union Station, where the company that owns or operates five of the hotels opposing Gaylord is developing a sixth. "Let me say that again: seventeen months ago." And since then, one of the hoteliers behind the suit against Aurora is using "public dollars" to develop the hotel at Union Station, "and no one is standing in his way," Hogan added.

That unnamed someone is Isenberg, whose Sage Properties is part of the Union Station Alliance redeveloping Union Station; Sage is putting a hotel on the second floor.

In addition to Sage, this "small group of hotels" includes another big name: the Broadmoor, the Colorado Springs property that is now owned by the very big Phil Anschutz.

In July, the hotels had filed a complaint with the state's Economic Development Commission over its award of RTA money to Aurora for the Gaylord project more than a year earlier; Attorney General John Suthers rejected that complaint. The hotel group then filed suit against Aurora and others; that case is pending.

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Free Lunch Photography
Phil Anschutz, right, with Jack Vickers at the recent dedication of a new Boys & Girls Club in Denver.
But Aurora isn't waiting around to see what action the court takes in that case. So it joined with AURA and RIDA, which is developing the Gaylord Hotel, on the lawsuit filed today in Arapahoe County District Court, which claims the opposing group of hotels intentionally interfered with a contract, intentionally interfered with business relations, abused the legal process and engaged in an unlawful civil conspiracy.

"The Competitor Hotels' obvious purpose in filing the frivolous lawsuit was to unlawfully maintain their competitive position by abusing the legal process to delay, impede, and prevent the City and AURA from preceding with...the competing hotel and conference center," the suits states.

"This is a small group of mostly downtown Denver hotels that are afraid of competition, and they are sending a message to businesses around the country that Colorado is closed to new business," Hogan said. "They are holding our region's future economic development hostage by conspiring to keep a competitor out of our state."

The Gaylord project has been controversial since it was first announced over two years ago; initially, there were concerns that the hotel was trying to grab the National Western Stock Show from Denver, where it has a thirty-year lease. Since then, the Stock Show has committed to staying in Denver -- and shortly after the RTA award was announced, the Gaylord company itself went through some restructuring.

But at the" A-List 2013: Making History" event held last week, RIDA was introduced as the new developer of the project. And today, Aurora made some history of its own. The city definitely has balls.

More from the Calhoun: Wake Up Call archive: "National Western Stock Show Board meets on same day that Gaylord could get state subsidy."


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