US Patent Office Belongs in Downtown

You probably have heard the news already that the federal government has just selected Denver, along with two other cities (Dallas and San Jose) to join Detroit as the four cities to receive a branch location of the U. S. Patent Office. The positive impacts of this for the Denver region are profound. Now, the speculation is on as to where in the Denver metro area that office should go. According to a Denver Post article from today (click here to view as a PDF), the options include Stapleton, Downtown Denver, Colorado Science & Technology Park at Fitzsimons in Aurora, Centennial, Greenwood Village, the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, and Lone Tree.

The U.S. Patent Office belongs in Downtown Denver.

Downtown is the obvious choice. Landing this new U.S. Patent office was a big win for the region, and Downtown Denver is almost in the exact geographic center of the region. The other proposed locations form a ring around Downtown. Being centrally located in Downtown would make it easy for people from anywhere—Boulder, the Denver Tech Center area, Lakewood and Golden, Broomfield, or Aurora—to get to the new Patent office.

The feds say that a location next to a transit stop is very important. While the other potential locations are found near existing or future RTD transit lines, the Downtown Denver option would put the U.S. Patent Office at the hub of all of RTD’s transit lines. Why place the office at a location that is accessible from only one transit line? That doesn’t make it very convenient for people from throughout the region to access the office by transit. Only a Downtown Denver location gives people from throughout the region the convenience of accessing the office by transit.

Those U.S. Patent Office employees will have very limited options for walking anywhere from their office at the other locations, but in Downtown Denver, hundreds of restaurants, shops, sports, cultural, and recreational options would be available within a short walk of the office.

Finally, locating this new Patent office in Downtown is by far the most sustainable option. A Downtown office would be proximate to the greatest number of people who could access the office by a mode of transportation other than the automobile. If the feds and regional officials are serious about sustainability (and just yesterday, Mayor Hancock announced his appointment of the city’s first Chief Sustainability Officer), then they will select Downtown Denver.

Mayor Hancock: I call on you to demonstrate your leadership and commitment to sustainability and to Downtown Denver by lobbying hard to bring the U.S. Patent Office to Downtown Denver.

DenverInfill readers, what I’d like you to do is contact Mayor Hancock by email ( or by telephone (720-865-9000) and tell him “The new U.S. Patent Office belongs in Downtown Denver!”

By | 2016-12-21T16:38:05+00:00 July 3, 2012|Categories: Economic Growth, Politics, Sustainability, Urbanism, Zoning & Regulation|34 Comments


  1. SC48 July 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

    I agree that this should – ideally – be in downtown Denver. However, based on the article’s physical description of what the government wants to build, sounds like it’ll be very hard to pull off downtown. Just not sure where the federal government would build a five building campus arranged in a quad downtown. Certainly have the space in the CPV, but that would likely be prohibitively expensive, and aren’t all of the lots behind Union Station already slated for development projects? Arapahoe Square would work too, plus its close to the Federal Courts, but it’s not as close to the future DIA train. Just seems like Stapleton would be a much better fit. Plus, maybe it will help spur some real “new urban” development out there, vs. the “new suburbanism” that’s prevailed to date. Would hate to see the suburbs land this, so I just think Denver’s lobbying efforts would be better spent on a more realistic candidate.

    (Also, if anyone has any insight on why this needs to be a five building development arranged in a quad, I would love to know. Sounds like a ridiculous, space-wasting design, custom tailored for the suburbs. Can this office really not fit in a single, dense & verticle office building?)

  2. Fezzik July 3, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I agree about Downtown, but I think both Stapleton and Fitzsimmons are attractive options, looked at from others’ perspectives. Downtown is obviously better in terms of being more central and having walkable places to find for lunch. But really, that’s the only striking advantage.

  3. Jay July 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    How do we make sure it doesn’t turn into a disaster like the Federal Reserve building?

    Would the patent office be able to take over existing office space?

    I’m asking these questions sincerely. I would welcome more neighbors to downtown. Especially if they can help us get ride of some parking lots!

  4. Shane July 3, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I agree that downtown would be the most central geographic fit and would likely be closest to most of the persons working with the patent office (attorneys, etc.). However, there may be existing federal buildings at the Federal Center which are not being used that can accommodate such a facility. This could be a much cheaper option than leasing space in a privately-owned building. Cost should obviously be a consideration and you fail to mention this.

  5. Randy July 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    I like the idea of Stapleton, being in closer proximity to the upcoming light rail station.

    Any chance this would fit on the 9th & Colorado site that is apparently slated for a Walmart?

    • Aaron July 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

      It’s heavy rail (EMU) not light rail.

      • Randy July 4, 2012 at 8:22 am

        Fine. Heavy Rail. Most commoners will refer to it as light rail/commuter rail/whatever. Not really the point.

        Stapleton has development space available. As mentioned in other posts, there is adequate access to Stapleton via highway, bus, and soon, rail.

        My primary question was about the 9th & Colorado redevelopment site. The latest plan is to drop a Walmart on the north side of 9th. Not a real good use of that site, IMO. I realize that the current traffic issues on Colo. Blvd. are bad enough as they are, but would the patent office be a more suitable use of that land?

        • Frank July 5, 2012 at 7:33 am

          If the NYC city “Subway” can be above ground and the Chicago “EL” can be below ground, our heavy rail portion can still be called light rail.

          • Aaron July 5, 2012 at 10:16 pm

            People in NYC do not call the LIRR a Subway. People in Chicago do not refer to Metra trains as the El. In Philadelphia they have Subway’s, Tram’s and they are using the exact same trains we are using on the East Corridor which they just simply call Regional Rail.

            At some point those underground lines in Chicago become elevated, and at some point those lines in NYC go underground. At no point do the heavy rail lines in Denver become light rail lines.

            Of course it still can be called light rail. It can be called “Denver’s magical flying trains” if we really wanted to. The ability to call it something doesn’t mean we should.

  6. Brett July 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I live in Arvada, and work in Lakewood in an office across the street from the Federal Center. It is only a short drive (soon to be short train ride) downtown from work, (a trip I make several times a month for work). The Downtown office seems MUCH more plausible and essential to the Metro area as a whole (including Ft Collins and Colorado Springs into the mix). Letting any portion of the metro (East, West, North, or South) have a monopoly on such an important facility seems ridiculous and against the general push to add healthy density to Denver.

    Stapleton would make sense if there were enough heavy traffic from multiple points, but the problem is, I-70 presents a bottleneck to get there (It’s the only major thoroughfare). Public buildings should be in places that are the most accessible to ALL of the public, not just select neighborhoods.

    Seeing as one would HAVE to travel through downtown, for the most part, in order to get to any other location (and deal with the problems this presents in trip time, congestion, and inefficiency) why on earth would one place the facility in any other location?

    Also, being at the front of a generation moving away from cars, The location should be easy to get to from ANYWHERE on public transit. Having to travel at least 2 lines to go out on a single line passing through a central hub, towards the edge of the major commercial area is not, in my opinion, easy.

    I shall be making the call soon.

  7. Kevin July 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    The City of Denver is already committed to bringing Federal facilities to the Stapleton (the FBI building is there) and has a strong relationship with Forest City, who is looking to build out the commercial properties in the area. There is already a strong commitment to the light rail station development in Stapleton…and it is on the same line as DIA. Hard to argue against Stapleton — who Mayor Hancock represented on the City Council.

  8. Darryl July 3, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    Sorry, but Downtown Denver is probably not going to get the Patent Office, for the same reasons that so many businesses have left Downtown Denver for the suburbs.

    1. The office should be close to the potential employees that will work there. Those employees are not living in downtown Denver, they are out in the suburbs. The suburbs are where middle class married couples with children live, that’s where you find good schools and reasonable housing prices. Downtown is where you live if you are single, young or have lots of disposable income.

    2. Commuting to downtown from the suburbs is not as great as the posters to this blog like to portray. Every manager of a downtown business is aware of the issues with RTD commuters – The availability of RTD rides outside of the rush hours is severely limited, which means employees are loath to work in the office late or early, or on weekends. Employees with kids have to deal with getting to their kids’ schools in emergencies (more often than not these happen outside of rush hour), or getting to after-school activities after work. Easier to deal with these situations with a car, which if you work downtown means dealing with the downtown parking situation. A suburban location won’t have these issues, and will make it easier for the feds to attract the type of employees they are looking for.

    3. This not going to be an office that the general public is going to be interacting with. These buildings are going to filled with patent examiners and support staff. Proximity to downtown law offices or other federal offices is not a requirement to get their job done. Better to put the offices closer to the skilled workers who are going to working in the buildings.

    Responses to other comments – Stapleton is accesible by three highways: I-225, I-270 and I-70. And downtown Denver lunch locations are way overrated compared to other business hubs in the metro area, and especially with other comparable cities.

    • Dan July 3, 2012 at 7:58 pm

      You should just go ahead and move to Dallas or Houston.

    • Rob C July 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

      I think that has to be the most nonsensical comment I’ve read on here in a very long time. Thanks for your insight.

      • Dan July 4, 2012 at 12:55 pm

        At least he apologized first.

    • Aaron July 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      1) There have been well documented demographic shifts in the city over the past few decades and it’s a national trend not isolated to Denver: The middle class are returning to cities to raise families and are pushing the poor (for better or worse) out to the suburbs.

      2) There’s a million ways to handle all of those situations this is not the 1950’s. Fastracks when fully implemented should help with those off peak commutes. Cab’s, car share, etc. can be used on those few real emergencies (and still save you money in the long run). Additionally a suburban location will all but ensure you get stuck in traffic and miss your kids after school activities if they are close to rush hour.

      3) Skilled workers live in central Denver, skilled workers live in Broomfield, skilled workers live in Stapleton, skilled workers live in Littleton etc. Downtown Denver is the most central so it excludes the least amount of the talent pool, and believe it or not the age when the people living in the center of the city are predominately unskilled is over.

      That being said the issue with downtown is the same issue that’s always existed: It is more expensive to operate a business there. The reason businesses do it is because the cost is worth the access to the talent pool, and the degree of interaction that can occur.

      • Darryl July 4, 2012 at 10:12 am

        Yes, the middle class are returning to the city. Also, as young city dwellers settle down and have children, they are less likely to leave Denver for the suburbs if there are acceptable alternatives like Stapleton or Lowry. That doesn’t mean that they want to live and work in downtown Denver. It can be just as easy to commute from urban neighborhoods like Stapleton to a suburban location as it is to commute to the central core, especially if you’re driving.

        And RTD still hasn’t come up with a good answer for off peak travel. Budget constraints will not allow RTD to run empty trains and buses during off-peak times, so there will always be big differences in routing and travel times between peak and off-peak periods in the RTD system. Parents aren’t going to take the time to work out car share arraignments or wait for a cab when their kid is sick or injured at school (and one cab ride can wipe out your entire monthly transportation budget, especially if you’re dependent on the subsidized downtown ECO pass).

        I’m not disparaging the skill sets of people living in the central city, I’ve lived and worked there for over 20 years.
        I’ve had to hire people for jobs in both downtown and the suburbs. Believe it or not, many people prefer living in the ‘burbs and don’t want to deal with the hassles of commuting downtown, be it by car, bus, or train. No matter what mode of transportation you choose, a long commute still takes significant time out of your day, and working closer to your home reduces the time spent commuting.

        I also note that you didn’t address the school system issue, which is a big deal with parents. Parents will do a lot to avoid school systems they don’t think are right for their kids, that’s the main reason a lot of them live in the suburbs.

        • Aaron July 5, 2012 at 11:10 am

          It is hard to commute from some urban neighborhoods to Stapleton. Most neighborhoods in Denver are closer to downtown than they are Stapleton. Stapleton also does not have as many transit options so if you wish to avoid being stuck on I25 or I70 most people will have to take the train downtown to Union Station first and then transfer to Stapleton. On a side note I know someone with a family who lives in Platt Park and quit a job in Stapleton because they could not put up with that commute.

          For transit to downtown off peak frequency is already adequate on several existing lines and buses. RTD is lacking in frequency to some places like Thornton and Arvada, but Fastracks should fix that. Look at the proposed off peak and peak commutes for Fastracks, and read RTD’s annual Fastracks report to DRCOG which includes the budget if you do not believe me. Scheduling a car share takes less than a minute, and hailing a cab downtown takes a few minutes (If you do the math both will save money if only used for emergencies).

          You are right some people prefer to live in the burbs and work in the burbs. But if you say to someone in Ken Caryl ‘here is a job in Stapleton’ even if they prefer to work in a suburban location they are unlikely to take it. But a lot more people from places like Ken Caryl will take a job downtown. Putting a business in Stapleton will not improve the commutes of people unless they live around Stapleton. Less skilled people (and people in general) live within commuting distance of Stapleton than downtown, and due to zoning that is highly unlikely to change in our lifetimes. That commuting issue is the fundamental issue with edge cities (what we are essentially making with this ‘Aerotropolis’ and ’corridor of opportunity’ nonsense the mayor is spewing), and why businesses are willing to pay significantly more per sq ft to be downtown.

          I didn’t address the school system issue because it is irrelevant to where a patent office should be located. Places of employment do care that there are good schools within commuting distance. DPS has good schools and is not the only school district in commuting distance of downtown. The issue with DPS is the disparity between schools, and although I believe that’s improving I agree it is still unacceptable. You will also see this disparity between schools in Adams county schools in the suburbs closest to Stapleton.

          This argument is really just academic though. I am 99% sure Hancock will be advocating for Stapleton due to his priorities staying in his former council district.

        • Freddie July 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

          I didn’t realize the suburbs were more centrally located than the central core. Thanks Darryl.

    • Larry July 4, 2012 at 11:23 am

      Darryl, a central location means that you can attract employees from the entire metro area not just the suburban part of town where it is located. As soon as you put it in the suburbs, you are only going to draw from the part of the city where you put it. For instance, if you put it in the TechCenter, it is hard to draw any population from the northwest part of town (without sitting in a hideous rush hour jam). Also, if you want to use mass transit in Denver (which folks on this blog tend to favor), your destination really has to be downtown, Mass transit in Denver does not do well in suburb to suburb commutes.

      It looks like the rest of the commentators took care of most of your other incorrect assumptions.

      But I do agree that Stapleton will probably wind up being where it goes for the myriad reasons that others have already mentioned. I fear that it may displace some of the TOD that is being planned there if not placed into their suburban office park closer to I-70 and Havana.

    • Frank July 5, 2012 at 7:36 am

      Downtown is still central. So, the east, west, south and north suburban workers will be inconvenienced equally. Also, it is the functioning area for public transportation.

  9. Ballpark July 4, 2012 at 12:50 am

    I think the decision is a slam dunk for Stapleton, primarily due to the proximity of DIA, Lightrail, and converging highways. Remember, it’s not just Colorado residents that will be visiting the site, but numerous air travelers as well. Stapleton also has the room to cater to the design to any new development.

    For those who would like to see it downtown, where could you envision it going? Central Platt is unlikely… Arapahoe Square..? Not really. I’d love to see it go in the sea of parking lots around 19th/Lincoln/Broadway – but have a hard time seeing it fit anywhere else.

  10. Corey July 4, 2012 at 9:05 am

    What about building it at the Greyhound bus station site? Greyhound wants toove and the site is in the downtown Federal District. Greyhound should move near the 38th and Blake or Alameda train stations.

  11. Ray July 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I used to live next to the US PTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. There are height restrictions and limited space in DC proper and given the number of employees they have at headquarters, there’s really nowhere to go but suburban Maryland or Arlington/Alexandria. I believe they also have height restrictions in the close-in DC suburbs in Virginia (i.e. Pentagon City, Crystal City, Alexandria, Arlington/Rosslyn) due to flights at Reagan National. Thus the “office campus” in Alexandria with the tunnels etc. The Denver branch will only have 125 employees. That’s not an office campus. That’s maybe two or three floors of a downtown office building, if that. I have no idea why these Denver folks think the PTO needs an “office campus” here just because the headquarters is an office campus– it’s not like the PTO built the headquarters as a “campus” because of something intrinsic to the organization, it’s because of local height and space restrictions. People seem to have this fantasy that the Denver branch is going to be this huge office complex.

    • UrbanZen July 5, 2012 at 10:51 am

      Yes, thank you. It’s not like we just landed the relocation of the pentagon. They could easily take any one of the 5 office buildings East/West is commited to build as part of the Union Station development, and even get the floors they need “built to suit”. I think the CPV is a no-brainer. The majority of the users are going to be coming from the Boulder/Interlocken areas, the Tech Center, and DIA. There’s only one place equidistant from those locations.

    • Freddie July 5, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      A Denver-area “campus” is what the article Ken cited eludes to.

      • Freddie July 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        Dang it! I always get elude and allude mixed up. *blush*

    • SC48 July 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Thanks for pointing that out Ray, I missed the number of employees on my first read. I’m officially switching my vote from Stapleton to Downtown. With only 125 employees, the 5-building campus design makes absolutely no sense, and a downtown office building close to Union Station makes perfect sense. I don’t even know why a “campus” would be considered. Given the number of employees contemplated, that would amount to 25 employees per building! Although, I have to admit, the comedic element in designing a campus of five buildings, each of which is designed to house only 25 employees would almost be worth it. Hopefully the powers-that-be realize this, scrap the “campus” design and start seriously looking downtown.

  12. Jack July 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    As was suggested in another media source, I like the sizable vacant land at the southwest corner of West Colfax and Osage, just across the street from the Auraria Center for Higher Learning campus, and adjacent to the FasTracks West Rail Line which opens in nine months. This lot can easily contain five buildings as what is been evidently specified, and is accessible to many services and goods and much more.

  13. Brendan July 6, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Hancock will probably push to put it out by DIA. I have no faith that he will make any effort to get it downtown.

    • Dan July 6, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      On the money, Brendan. That’s his neighborhood (as former City Councilman) and his stated development agenda as mayor.

      We need to remember, this is an office in Denver serving a multi-state region. Both regional (air, train, and car) and local transportation are important, but so is lodging and entertainment for those who travel in. I don’t know what other federal agencies the patent office coordinates with, but it is doubtful they are housed at the Fed Center – primarily Bureau of Land Management and other land/mineral type agencies. The Fed Center does make sense considering land at no cost and plenty of it. There is reasonable lodging nearby but little entertainment – perhaps a development opportunity for Lakewood.

    • Troy July 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm

      Agree, especially given the aerotropolis nonsense he’s been pitching lately

  14. Brent July 7, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I think everybody assuming Stapleton is a slam dunk because of its proximity to rail should take another look at the Stapleton site plan. Unless this project is miraculously incorporated into the immediate station area and the TOD plan (which is unlikely), the office component of Stapleton is no more walkable than the Tech Center.

    Stapleton may very well be a slam dunk. But not because of rail. More because it is central and easily accessible – to Downtown (I-70 or surface streets), the Tech Center (225), Boulder (270), and the airport. And sure, rail might be an option for the most-motivated. But the double-standard I see accepted as gospel by most Denverites (Stapleton = good, walkable; Suburbs = bad) is ridiculous. Take out a map, draw yourself some half-mile station radii, and tell me how much more of Stapleton is transit-accessible than even the worst parts of the southeast corridor.

    The same would apply for the Federal Center, actually… sure, there’s a train out there. But it’ll be *far* from most of the actual buildings.

    Transit relies on short distances, and to have short distances, you need density. If the Patent Office is truly concerned about transit access, downtown is really the *only* guaranteed good option. If the PTO goes someplace else (and I think they probably will), well, then we’ll know that it was all just talk, and other factors were more important in the end.

  15. Andrew July 14, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Build up, not out. I agree with those that have said there is no need for 5 buildings. I also emailed the mayor’s office. If Denver wants to become a tech hub, it needs to put services in and attract companies to LoDo. This is already happening to a degree, but it needs to continue. The patent office would be a great next step. The simple fact is that young, talented software engineers/developers/entrepreneurs want to live in urban areas. Stapleton and the Tech Center are not attractive to most of today’s young professionals and recent college grads.

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