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#1: Downtown Denver Infill Boom

We have finally reached #1 on the Denver’s Top 10 Urbanism Achievements of the Aughts countdown!  It came down to a toss up between Downtown Denver’s infill boom and the whole FasTracks/Union Station thing, but, in the end, I had to go with what had inspired my website and blog in the first place: urban infill development.

Over the span of a century, we built a city that was urban and dense and thriving.  Then, around our 100th birthday, we lost our way and started abandoning what we had built. We moved on to “greener” prairies beyond the city limits and left behind deteriorated buildings that were eagerly converted into weedy vacant parcels or barren surface parking lots. We were not the only big city in the country to do this, but we were particularly good at it.

Around our 130th birthday, we rediscovered the value of our original urban places. We started restoring and rehabilitating old buildings and renewing and revitalizing old neighborhoods. Old became the new new and places like Lower Downtown and the Highlands were getting hip again. By Birthday #140, we were running out of historic buildings to convert and yet the demand for being in or near Downtown Denver was stronger than ever, so “infill” became the the “in” thing. One by one, weedy vacant parcels and barren surface parking lots were transformed into condos and hotels and offices and apartments and shops and everything in between, and by the time our big Sesquicentennial rolled around, infill was everywhere. Recently the Great Recession has slowed Denver’s infill boom, but most political, demographic, and socio-economic indicators suggest that once the economy picks up again, Denver’s urban infill boom will continue.

So just how big was Downtown Denver’s urban infill boom from 2000 to 2009? As Thomas Jefferson would say, let facts be submitted to a candid world:

1127 Sherman, 1135 Broadway Residences, 1200 Delaware, 1200 Elati, 1400 Wewatta, 1515 Wynkoop, 16 Market Square, 1740 Franklin, 1755 Blake, 1800 Larimer, 1870 Vine Street Townhomes, 1890 Wynkoop, 1900 16th Street, 2100 Uptown Lofts, 2101 Market, 2245 Blake, 24 Walnut, 2428 Champa, 25th & Tremont Townhomes, 2999 Lawrence, 3040 Zuni, 450 E. 17th Avenue, 816 Acoma, 920 E. 17th Avenue, Adair Group Offices, Ajax Lofts, Alexan Prospect, Alfred A. Arraj US Courthouse, Antares Urban Townhomes, Argonaut Liquors, Art House Townhomes, Auraria Science Building, Ayr on 29th, Ballpark Lofts, Bank of Denver Headquarters, Blair-Caldwall Library, Blake 27 Brownstones, Blake Street Apartments, Boulder Street Townhomes, Broadway Plaza Lofts, Brownstones at Riverfront Park, Brunetti Lofts, Campus Village Apartments, Capital Grille, Capitol Heights Apartments, Central Court, Champa Square, Chroma Town Homes, City Park Residences, City View Townhomes, Cityscape Townhomes, Clay Street Residences, Colorado Convention Center, Confluence Heights, Corona Park, Creekside Lofts, Denver Art Museum Hamilton Building, Denver Art Museum Residences, Denver Justice Center, Denver Newspaper Agency Building, Denver Square, DHMC Pavilion, Diamond at Prospect, Diamond Lofts, DMHC Parking Garage, East Village Redevelopment, Embassy Suites Hotel, Emerson Uptown Lofts, EPA Region 8 Headquarters, Fire Clay Lofts, FirstBank at Colfax & Franklin, Flats 15, Flour Mill Lofts II, Four Seasons Hotel & Residences, Franklin Square, Frontview 40, Garden Factory Lofts, Gates Corporates Headquarters, Gilpin Grove, Glass House, Glenarm Place Condos, Golden Row, Grant Park, Hampton Inn Highland, Highland Bridge Lofts, Highland Court, Highland Crossing, Highland Lofts, Highland Square Lofts, Highland Terrace, Highlands Vista, Hilton Garden Inn, Humboldt Gardens, Hyatt Denver Convention Center Hotel, Inca 29 Urban Brownstones, Italianate Townhomes, Jack Kerouac Lofts, Jefferson at CityGate, La Villa de Barela, Lofts at Downing Street Station, Lombard Gate, Luxe Modern Row Homes, Marais Uptown, Merchant’s Row, Metro State Parking Garage, Metroview Urban Living, Monarch Mills, Museum of Contemporary Art, Off-Broadway Lofts, One Lincoln Park, One Riverfront Park, Park Avenue West Residences, Park Place Lofts, Pearl of the City, Pearl Street Victorianan, Piranesi, Portofino, Premier Lofts, Promenade Lofts, Quality Hill Townes, Rail Yark Marketplace, Renaissance Riverfront Lofts, Residence Inn by Marriott, Residences at 1882 Race, RiverClay, Riverfront Tower, Shoshone Heights, Shoshone Lofts, Speer Lofts, Spire, St. Joseph’s Medical Offices, St. Lukes Lofts, State Capitol Parking Garage, Steelbridge Lofts Annex, Strada Flats, SugarCube, Swallow Hill, TAXI, Tejon Square, The Bartholomew, The Beauvallon, The Dakota, The Delgany, The Edge at City Park, The Ellington Lofts, The Gathering Place, The Manhattan, The Mansion, The Metro, The Milan, The Park One Riverfront, The Point, The Proado, The Renaissance, The Station at Riverfront Park, Titanium Lofts, Tower on the Park, Townhomes at Riverfront Park, Umatilla Townhomes, Upper Larimer Lofts, Uptown Apartments, Uptown Lofts, Uptown Square, Urbans @ Curtis, Urbans @ Glenarm, Urbans @ Stout, Urology Center of Colorado, Villa Riva, Villages at Curtis Park, VOA Bob Magness, Walker’s Row, Washington Square, Waterside Lofts, Wellington Webb Municipal Building, Welton Place Townhomes, Wyandot Overlook, Zi Lofts, Zocalo Condos… and many more I’m sure I’ve missed.

Not too bad for a 1.5-mile radius of Downtown, huh?

The Aughts were a pretty darn good decade for urbanism in Denver. Let’s hope for an even better decade in the Tens… there are a lot of surface parking lots to go!

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9 Comments

  1. Shane says:

    Nice choice, Ken. Had to be #1. Though FastTracks may be the #2 of the 00’s, it may actually turn out to be #1 of the 10’s.

    What’s crazy about Denver’s infill boom is how sudden it was. Having grown up in Denver, I was just a kid when the “cash register” building was finished (that was pretty cool for a ten-year-old dork like me), and I was able to travel to the top floor of the Republic Plaza 6 years later to see some amazing views (yes, it was empty). But, like you’ve said, there was really no new development (outside of Coors Field) until 15 years later when CPV started to pop up. From the time I left Colorado to live in San Diego after college in 1998 to when I came back for law school in 2003, I was amazed at how much Denver had changed and grown in 5 years. And it haasn’t slowed. For instance, I hear commercial vacancy rates in downtown are lower than they were in 2001-2003 after the last slowdown. Cleveland rocks? No way. Denver Rocks!

  2. Ed Briscoe says:

    Thanks Ken,

    I am curious. Do you have any measures of the total activity in the last decade? Total square feet or total cost, maybe.

  3. Ken says:

    Ed, no unfortunately I don’t. Some of the bigger projects had announced costs/budgets but for most smaller projects, those details tend to be confidential. Also, total SF for residential properties isn’t usually reported, just the number of units.

  4. Paul says:

    I’m amazed at that list of developments within 1.5 miles of Denver. Wow. And the fact that it is probably not an exhaustive list makes it a double “wow.” Do you have a rough estimate of the number of units that were added during the last decade?

  5. Eric says:

    Nice work! We are always so eager to hear/talk about new projects that we often forget about what we have accomplished. This is great–cheers to an even better decade!

  6. Eleanor says:

    Thanks for your Top 10 countdown. I enjoyed it!

  7. Austin says:

    Great job Ken! Really shows what ten years can do. I wonder what a 1990s list would look like…

  8. Freddie says:

    Yeah, this top ten kicked ass. I can’t disagree with the order either.

    I love the way some of the taller buildings have changed the look of downtown – like the way the skyline looks when your driving SE towards I-25 on Spear and the skyline first pops into view, nicely framed between two little street walls. That 4 seasons building really makes a difference in that view.

    But even more I like the street level improvements throughout downtown, the additional pedestrian activity and nightlife, etc. And there’s even an entire new urban neighborhood! That’s the stuff that REALLY helps change a city into something special.

  9. ohwilleke says:

    Interesting list. Overwhelmingly housing, with a sprinkling of hotel space and a little bit of other stuff. But, there are quite a few losses (e.g. Children’s Medical Center, the late night post office, the Rocky Mountain News building) to balance out the gains of “other stuff.” It will be informative to compare the 2010 census with the 2000 census for these census blocks. How many thousands of new residents moved in?