In our first post about the new 32-story office tower proposed for Downtown Denver’s Block 162 by the Patrinely Group, I mentioned I would have a follow-up post that provides some background on the redevelopment efforts for this key block in central Downtown. Here it is.
First, if you’re not familiar with the saga of Block 162, check out some of the 29 previous posts I’ve published about the block (Fontius Building Part 1 and Part 2 are particularly informative), plus a few oldies from the original DenverInfill website, such as my post of November 13, 2005 and several from June 2006 (including my rant of June 8). Also of note is my Inside the Fontius special feature. However, the single best source for the story of Block 162’s redevelopment through late 2007 is my friend Joel Warner’s excellent Westword article, Evan Almighty.
The dilapidated Fontius Building on Block 162, March 2007.
I recently met with Evan Makovsky, as I have done periodically over the past few years, to discuss the latest in Block 162’s redevelopment. Shortly after Mr. Makovsky assembled the properties on Block 162 and completed the beautiful restoration of the Fontius into what is now known as the Sage Building, the US economy tanked. The Great Recession put a major hold on Mr. Makovsky’s plans for any new construction on Block 162.
A newly restored Fontius (now Sage) Building during the DNC, August 2008.
During the recession years of 2008-2011, there was still planning work that could be done until the economy improved. Makovsky’s team evaluated various development concepts and explored different design alternatives for the block, most of which were based upon a core vision that included office and hotel uses. Additionally, several development scenarios incorporated an urban Target store onto the site. As the economy strengthened into 2012 and beyond, negotiations with Target continued for a potential store on Block 162. However, during this time, Target was also reevaluating the configuration and size of their urban stores. Consequently, Makovsky and Target went through numerous rounds of design iterations spanning several years. Ultimately, however, a deal with Target for Block 162 did not materialize.
Meanwhile, Mr. Makovsky also explored another scenario that would have incorporated a public observation tower into the redevelopment plan. His team explored different design, phasing, siting, and program options for an observation tower on the block, but the options that proved to be financially desirable had drawbacks in other areas that would not have resulted in the best plan for the overall development.
Even developing hotel and office towers concurrently on the site is a challenge. Hotel and office developments have different financing requirements, construction schedules, and other characteristics that make it difficult to coordinate them into a single project. Therefore, instead of possibly missing out on the current strong economic conditions by trying to combine both towers into one development, Mr. Makovsky decided the best way to make progress on the block’s redevelopment was to split the office and hotel towers into separate components and let other developers pursue the vertical development, with Makovsky mostly participating as the land owner. That’s where the Patrinely Group comes in, which has an option on the office component.
The future hotel tower at 16th and California is still in the conceptual stage, and which firm or firms would develop the hotel tower remains to be seen, with several options under consideration. Integrating the hotel tower with the historic McClintock building at 16th and California will require significant collaboration and consensus with the city, the historic preservation community, and others. Potentially, the hotel component could advance to a point where it and the office tower could be built more-or-less at the same time. Alternatively, the hotel tower could be developed later as a stand-alone project from the office tower. Either way, the conceptual design for the block creates synergistic relationships between the podiums of the two towers and a unified aesthetic to the block, regardless of whether the towers are developed concurrently or separately.
The story of Block 162’s redevelopment will continue to unfold over the next several years. Fortunately, the local economy is booming and demand is strong for both hotel and office uses, so the future for Block 162—featuring one of the largest gaps in Downtown’s urban fabric—looks pretty good.