It is difficult to imagine that Stapleton’s neat and tidy residential streets were once home to a bustling terminal and seemingly endless runways. Since construction began on the grounds of the old airport in 2001, though, the area has steadily grown into a new urbanist community with more than 19,000 residents. There are mini shopping areas, a farmers’ market, movies in the park, oodles of open space, and plenty of bike lanes. But to some residents, one vital detail is missing: A natural-foods grocery.

That could change by the end of the year. A group of residents from Stapleton and neighboring areas are working to open a 10,000-square-foot natural foods store, which they plan to call the Northeast Community Co-op Market and will be a member-owned business (think: REI). “There is a real food desert between Quebec and I-225,” says Chris Englert, vice chair of the group’s board. “There is a good opportunity to turn our desert into an oasis through natural foods, and it is a great opportunity to build bridges for community.”

The idea isn’t new; residents have begged for a natural grocery like Sprouts or Whole Foods for years. “They all said no,” Englert says. “There weren’t enough rooftops to support their business models.” Despite that, this summer, a group of residents raised money for incorporation, organized a board, and started recruiting members in a build-it-and-they-will-come approach. The first meeting had a few dozen people. Now, the market boasts more than 600 members who’ve paid a onetime, $200 membership fee. But there’s a catch: There is no store—at least not yet.

The group still needs to find a home and is considering several locations in the area, including a spot at Aurora’s Stanley Aviation Marketplace (2501 Dallas Street). In order to meet their end-of-the-year opening goal, the group plans to have more news about the location in February.

In the meantime, members get free admission to the group’s events, like a coffee and chocolate pairing on January 31. And while some neighborhood residents balk at the idea of investing in something that may not happen, Englert points out that the group has met all membership goals and is following a national standard for establishing co-ops. Basically, the board wants the market to happen as much as the new members do. “Even though King Soopers does have natural foods, the support to have a locally run business in this neighborhood, reaching the food needs of the community, is an enticing need,” Englert says. “There are exciting opportunities behind the co-op to be the heartbeat of this tri-community area.”

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Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner
Natasha Gardner is a Denver-based writer and the former Articles Editor for 5280.