Denver, CO
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The Lower Downtown Historic District, or LoDo, is framed by Cherry Creek/Speer Boulevard, 20th Street, Larimer Street, and Wewatta Street. The neighborhood contains Denver’s largest collection of 19th century mercantile and warehouse buildings. In the mid-20th century, the district became a skid row when highways and airports usurped the business of the transcontinental railroad and Denver Union Station. Fortunately, some of Denver’s preservationists and developers had the foresight, beginning in the mid-1960s, to save the historic buildings and redevelop them into mixed-use buildings with restaurants, lofts, offices, and retail space. LoDo now is one of Denver’s most sought-after districts in which to live and work.1

Celebrated with arts festivals and holiday lighting, Larimer Square is among the most visited blocks in Denver. Located between 14th and 15th streets on Larimer, Denver’s first main street, Larimer Square displays 16 historic buildings saved from demolition in 1965 with the leadership of preservationist and developer Dana Crawford. The buildings were redeveloped as art galleries, restaurants, shops, and offices.2

Larimer Square redevelopment entailed reducing the heavy through traffic from four lanes to two, adding on-street parking, and widening the sidewalks for sidewalk dining and pedestrian amenities such as street trees, lighting, and benches. Semple Brown Design and Civitas were the project designers. The block artfully combines layers of history with contemporary attractions and popular venues for people-watching. As the city’s first designated historic district, Larimer Square became a pivotal project for preserving and redeveloping the rest of LoDo.3

Among the two dozen new downtown infill buildings developed in the past 15 years, the Palace Lofts, designed by ShearsAdkins with RNL, offered a new typology for urban housing in Denver. This high-density, large-parcel infill site, located at 15th and Blake streets on the site of the infamous 1860s Palace Variety Theatre and Gambling Hall, offers underground parking, ground-floor retail, and office space, with upper floors devoted to modern urban-loft living. Building setbacks provide large rooftop terraces and other outdoor living space.4

SugarCube, located at the corner of Blake Street and the 16th Street Mall, adds contemporary texture to LoDo’s historic urban fabric. Designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects in Toronto, SugarCube’s 10 floors offer 37 luxury rental apartments above the first four and six floors of commercial space, which are sheathed in a buff-colored brick envelope. The partially solar-powered building offers retail and restaurants on the ground floor, with wide sidewalks joining the mall. The design of the residential portion, clad in black iron-spot brick, creates a rhythm of punched window openings and balconies with mountain views.5

One block north, on the corner of 16th and Wynkoop streets, is Denver’s treasured Tattered Cover Book Store (LoDo), an adaptive reuse of the 1896 C.S. Morey Mercantile Building, originally one of the jewels of Warehouse Row, as Wynkoop Street was once known. This multilevel “bookstore with benefits” offers wall-to-wall books, a café, lecture halls, meeting rooms, and 98 residential units, 76 of which are designated affordable housing. Tryba Architects renovated the building, which is dedicated to the private delights of reading and the public delights of discourse, and proudly serves as a town center for the neighborhood.6

Located across the street from the Tattered Cover LoDo, on the northwest corner of 16th and Wynkoop streets, the new LEED-Gold Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 Headquarters Building models EPA’s core value of sustainability. Designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects in Portland, Oregon, OPUS A & E, and ShearsAdkins, the building is sensitive to the surrounding context and continues the vibrant street life with ground-floor retail and restaurants. It also serves as a gallery of sustainable architecture features, with tours to show off the atrium’s “sails,” which direct daylight into the building core, and green roofs hosting a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array.7

  • 1. Cheney Ferguson. Colorado Urbanizing: Experiencing New Urbanism. Colorado Chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism. CNU 17.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.