We’ve come a long way, Baby!

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By Virginia “Gin” Butler

My name is Gin Butler, and I’m a part-time ambassador at the Stapleton Visitor Center.

My association with Stapleton began with the formation of the Stapleton Development Corporation’s Board of Directors in 1995. My appointment to the board, like all of the members, was a perfect example of diversity, in that we were all from different socio/economic backgrounds, different cities and counties, professional experiences, and oh yeah, race and gender. Our common link was our excitement about the Stapleton Plan, the Green Book!

It didn’t take long for us to determine roles and responsibilities for each of us. My background in Human Resources assured my designation as the HR member of the board. As such, I had to staff SDC.

Our primary charge was to ascertain a way to fund the operation of the development corporation. Those meetings were highly entertaining. We discussed leasing out the runways for NASCAR races and we even began renting the terminal for high school proms (there were so many requests, that one staff member became known as the “prom queen”)!

The light bulb suddenly went off when someone casually said “let’s sell the property.”

That idea took flight, and we began scouring the nation for a prospect. Being the astute group we were, we quickly acknowledged we didn’t have the market acumen required to select a “master developer.” Therefore, we turned the project over to a professional headhunter to source a master developer.

That’s how Forest City Enterprises (now Brookfield Properties) was located and ultimately selected.

It’s now 18 years later, and as I sit in the Stapleton Visitor Center in the community’s eighth, great neighborhood, Conservatory Green, I can’t help but feel a little emotional when I stare at Stapleton’s overall map. What was once a booming airport and then an empty field, is now a bustling, thriving neighborhood. A visitor asked if I felt like I’d given birth, and I answered “yes, but I wouldn’t wish the gestation period on anyone.”

Did we choose the right developer? Yes we did! Forest City (now Brookfield Properties) has received multiple awards for sustainable development as a testament to that. Was the Green Book a good plan? Absolutely! In this position, I’ve come to realize that many residents thought the plan was “cast in concrete.” I find myself explaining that the Green Book was firmly “planted in Jell-O” as a guideline for development. The rapid need for infrastructure, schools, etc., often took precedence over some of the original ideas, such as a community golf course. However, the fact that other places in the world are now holding up the development plan as an example to follow is proof that it’s an excellent model.

As I mentioned before, the board was a microcosm of society at large. We wanted the same for the residents of Stapleton – we wanted anyone who desired to live here to be able to do so. For that to happen, we had to have multi-level home pricing and multiple builders. That continues today. We have nine builders now, and they have stood the test of time by continuing to provide homes that individuals love.

Roads are in, our schools are exemplary, the bike and walking paths are great, the HOA fees are affordable, and everything has the “community” feel we anticipated. Every time a resident or future resident says to me “Stapleton is exactly what we were (or are) looking for,” I can’t help but smile.

Is everything perfect? No! But as I said in the beginning, “we’ve come a long way, baby” and the rest is going to be just as exciting!