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Doors Open Denver 2016!

It’s that time of the year again—Doors Open Denver—our city’s annual celebration of architecture, urban design, and planning!


April 23 and April 24 are the dates to remember. On that Saturday and Sunday, you will have the chance to…

As in the past, our Doors Open Denver headquarters will be at Denver Union Station, where you’ll be able to purchase tickets for the Insider Tours (if you didn’t buy them online in advance), pick up a handy Doors Open Denver site guide, buy a Doors Open Denver t-shirt, or just stop by to say hello!

Pre-Doors Open Denver Walking Tours
Once again I will be leading several special Expert Walking Tours of Lower Downtown and the Denver Union Station area to raise money for the Denver Architectural Foundation, the organization that puts on Doors Open Denver each year. I’m a Denver Architectural Foundation board member and serve on the Doors Open Denver planning committee, so I’m excited to again support the event by leading these walking tours. Tickets are $25 each (plus Eventbrite processing fees) and 100% of the proceeds go directly to support Doors Open Denver!

Here are the tour dates and links to the Eventbrite page to purchase your tickets:

  • Lower Downtown District – Saturday, April 9 – 1:00 – 3:00 PM – SOLD OUT 
  • Union Station District – Sunday, April 10 – 2:00 – 4:00 PM – SOLD OUT
  • Union Station District – Saturday, April 16 – 1:00 – 3:00 PM – SOLD OUT
  • Lower Downtown District – Sunday, April 17 – 2:00 – 4:00 PM – SOLD OUT 

I hope to see you on one of our special pre-DOD walking tours and at Doors Open Denver on April 23-24!

It’s the DenverInfill Blog’s 10th Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe, but it was ten years ago (July 5, 2005 to be exact) that I wrote the very first DenverInfill blog post. It had to do with an announcement for a new high-rise condo project called One Lincoln Park.

For that first year, the posts were simply dated entries in reverse chronological order on a static webpage titled for the month and located within the original DenverInfill website. You can find those posts via the “Older Archives” link under the Pages section on the right sidebar. It was in August 2006 when I transitioned to blogging software (remember Blogger?) and then on to WordPress, our current platform, in December 2009. For more on the history of DenverInfill, check out the About page or this post from our 5th Anniversary in July 2010.

Here are a few stats about the DenverInfill blog’s 10 years of existence:

  • Number of blog posts published: 1,613
    • Ken Schroeppel: 1,126
    • Ryan Dravitz: 351
    • Rick Anstey: 102
    • All Other Contributors: 34
  • Number of comments: Approximately 18,300
  • Number of images posted: 4,598
  • Number of unique development projects covered: 403
  • Number of posts that mention Union Station at least once: 454
  • Number of Facebook page likes: 4,057
  • Number of Twitter followers: 862
  • Average number of views per month: 80,000

The most viewed DenverInfill blog post ever? It’s not even close:

Guide to Suburban Denver Subdivision Names


The Guide to Suburban Denver Subdivision Names was originally published on September 1, 2006. Simply read from left to right and select any one word from each column!

That was from back in 2006 and has been viewed in excess of 100,000 times since then and is, ironically, one of the few posts that doesn’t really have much to do with the blog’s focus: Downtown Denver infill development. More recently, the biggest traffic day was June 13, 2014 when we announced both 1144 Fifteenth Street and SkyHouse Denver (about 10,000 views that day).

Who is the typical DenverInfill blog reader? According to Google Analytics (which knows way more about your web-surfing habits than you would care to know), that person is a 25-34 year old male living in Colorado, viewing the blog on his Windows-based computer using Google’s Chrome browser or, when not at his desk, on his Apple iPhone.

A big THANK YOU! to my contributing bloggers, particularly Ryan Dravitz, who has voluntarily given so much of his time and photography expertise to help make the blog successful. However, my biggest gratitude goes to you, dear DenverInfill readers. You love Denver and are excited by its growth and revitalization and, in particular, by the eradication of those soul-sucking black holes in the urban fabric: surface parking lots. Your support and interest in DenverInfill and your commitment to helping Denver become a more vital, sustainable, and urban city has greatly contributed to the success of this blog.


Mmmm… infillicious!

So while I’m thrilled that the DenverInfill blog has managed to survive and thrive for a decade now, the real star here is the Mile High City. With billions of dollars of investment in Downtown, the amazing Denver voter and their support at the polls, and big ambitious projects like Denver Union Station—Denver has given us so much to work with, all we’ve done was offer some play-by-play and color commentary.

Speaking of Denver Union Station, you are invited to come to our DenverInfill 10th Anniversary celebration, doubling as our Denver Urbanists MeetUp #13, on Wednesday, July 8. You can read all about it here!

The SkyHouse Denver Site: Looking Back, Looking Forward

Ryan just posted the exciting news that the the 25-story SkyHouse Denver project is moving forward, as the surface parking lot where the tower will rise is currently being eradicated.

Long-time DenverInfill readers may remember our Worst Parking Lot contest of 2007. One of the five nominated lots from that contest was the surface lot at East 18th Avenue and Broadway—the one presently being dismantled for SkyHouse. While ultimately not the contest winner (that infamous honor went to the lot on Block 039 in LoDo, which is still as repugnant today as it was in 2007), we’re still very glad to see the parking lot at 18th and Broadway go away.

As part of the contest, we featured a “Before They Were Parking Lots” series of posts, which took a look at the buildings that once stood on each site. For the parking lot at 18th and Broadway, the former occupants were the Cosmopolitan Hotel and the Hotel Metropole.

With the Hotel Metropole already having been demolished, the Cosmopolitan Hotel bit the dust on May 20, 1984. A DenverInfill reader uploaded this video to YouTube of the Cosmopolitan Hotel implosion:

Thirty-one years later, a new building will finally rise at this site. That took longer than what I’m sure most people would have hoped for, but that’s the way it goes when there are so many sites available, only so much demand to go around, and that the completion of any high-rise development is a small miracle in an of itself. Who knows, maybe SkyHouse will be the catalyst for the redevelopment of the rest of the parking lots in this part of Downtown in the near future.


In any case, the repair of Downtown Denver’s urban fabric continues, and documenting and celebrating that process is what DenverInfill is all about. City-building is a fascinating enterprise that I, along with many of you, find exhilarating—so much so that sometimes we meet up just to talk about it!

Union Station Update (sort of)

On the first leg of our travels, we spent two days in Tulsa. We had never been here before so the city was a great discovery for us. It seems that the beautiful downtown resulted from the intersection of a 1920s oil boom and the art deco style of the era. The outcome is worthy of a visit.

But, as usual, I’m here to talk about Union Station or, in this case, the Tulsa Union Depot.

2011-01-10_Union_ Depot_Tulsa

I took this photo on January 10, 2011, a very cold day in Tulsa. After the last train left this station in 1967, the building fell in disrepair to the extent that the roof collapsed. Restoration was completed in 1983, and now the building is yet another fine example of Tulsa’s art deco architecture. Unlike Denver’s Union Station, this one no longer has a place in the city’s transportation system. It is an office building. And it’s a beautiful office building.

Doors Open Denver 2010 – This Weekend!

One of the best annual events in our fair city is Doors Open Denver. Each April we celebrate Architecture Month in Denver by opening the doors to dozens of the the city’s most interesting buildings and sites and letting the general public tour the insides. Best of all, it’s free!

This year’s DOD features over 80 buildings and sites. Most are clustered in and around the Downtown area but several are located in neighborhoods throughout the city. Here’s a map of the locations, and if you go to the Doors Open Denver website, you’ll find the list of all the participating sites organized several ways.

Doors Open Denver site map - click to enlarge

Over thirty of the buildings have special Expert Tours that occur at specific times during the weekend. Since capacity is limited on these Expert Tours, on the day of the tour, you must first get a free registration pass at DOD headquarters at Union Station for the Expert Tour you’re interested in.  The free registration passes are given out on a first-come first-served basis. Since the Expert Tours “sell out” quickly, I strongly recommend you get to Union Station early in the morning (they open at 8:30 AM) to get your Expert Tour passes for that day. Otherwise, no registration is needed and you can simply show up to any participating building or site at any time between 10AM and 4PM, Saturday or Sunday, for a self-guided tour. A few of the sites have special hours, so please double check the list on the DOD website.

There are also a variety of other special events, such as self-guided Urban Adventure Tours, a photo contest, and activities for families and kids, such as Box City in the Wellington Webb building. I’ve served as a volunteer at Box City several times; check out my blog on the 2007 Box City. It’s a lot of fun.

Doors Open Denver is the perfect opportunity to explore Denver’s urban architecture by foot (or by bike or take Light Rail) and the weather this weekend looks pretty decent, so get out and celebrate Denver’s architectural and urban heritage this weekend at Doors Open Denver. I know I am.

Denver 1996

I really wanted to keep my photo-every-twelve-years streak alive, so I looked through my photo albums but couldn’t find a Central Platte Valley photo from 1997. Sorry. However, I did find this one I took from I-25 and 23rd Avenue during the summer of 1996. Close enough?


What’s interesting is how immature Elitch Gardens looks. Elitch’s opened in the CPV in May 1995 so at this point the new Elitch’s was only a year old. Coors Field is visible on the left edge of the photo, but there’s no Pepsi Center yet. That wouldn’t break ground until November 1997. In the foreground, Colorado Ocean Journey (now the Downtown Aquarium) had not yet broken ground either. That wouldn’t happen until April 1997.

No new development had occurred yet behind Union Station. It would be three more years before construction on Commons Park would begin. There’s one building in this view that isn’t there anymore and I totally do not remember it at all. It is the dark gable-roofed building immediately behind the blond-brick Postal Annex building, at approximately the location of the Gates building today. It was fairly tall—the peak of its roof is about the same height as the top of the Postal Annex, approximately 60 feet. Does anyone remember anything about that building?

If we were to do another 12 years, that would put us at 2008/2009, which is basically what we have today, so I won’t bother. But you could always peruse the DenverInfill Blog archives for photos of the Central Platte Valley and Auraria from those years. I’m sure you’ll find a few.

Denver 1985

Last week I shared with you two of my favorite photos of the west side of Downtown Denver, one from 1961 and the other, twelve years later, from 1973. Today I have two photos from 1985—another 12 year jump into the future. Unlike the first two, these two photos were taken by me.

I moved to Denver in July 1985 and on one of my first trips to Downtown, my friends and I managed to sneak onto the top 56th floor of Republic Plaza, Denver’s tallest skyscraper (the building was about one year old at the time). The 56th floor was completely unoccupied and was just the core and shell; it was a single open room covering the entire floor offering fantastic views in every direction. Fortunately, I had my Kodak 110 Instamatic with me, and so here are two of the photos I took.


This first one is taken in the same general direction as the 1961 photo, although aimed above Downtown buildings in the foreground. The Auraria Campus was just nine years old and none of the West Campus buildings had been built yet. This shot gives you a nice view of the Larimer and Lawrence Street viaducts. However, if you look closely one block to the right of the Larimer Street viaduct in the Walnut Street right-of-way, out by the industrial buildings you can see several sets of concrete piers that get shorter as they get closer to Downtown. That is the Auraria Parkway off-ramp from I-25 under construction. It doesn’t look like construction had begun yet on any of the at-grade portions of Auraria Parkway, which does a one-block jog, transitioning from a Walnut to Wazee alignment, between 5th and 9th Streets. In the far bottom right corner of the photo is the intersection of what was then Wazee and 9th Street, with the orange-brick historic building where Brooklyn’s is now located on one corner, and the Auraria Campus tennis courts (which were replaced a few years ago with the Metro State College parking garage) on the other corner.

The photo also provides a nice view of the original Mile High Stadium, and McNichols Arena. Just like in the 1961 photo, you can clearly see Lake Middle School and its bell tower next to Sloans Lake off in the distance.


This second photo shows the Central Platte Valley behind Union Station. Just right of center is the old 20th Street viaduct (with billboards!) heading off into Lower Highland. One block to the left is 19th Street. About the only building still standing along 19th that appears in this photo is the small yellow building (the Xcel Steam Plant) at 19th and Delgany (now Wewatta). Visible in between the Tabor One and 1225 17th Street towers is Union Station with, behind it, rail yards and a huge industrial/warehouse building where the Glass House and Commons Park is today. On the left edge of the photo is a long horizontal industrial building where Little Raven Street now intersects with 15th Street.

Up next: Denver 1997-ish

Denver 1973

This is a great photograph. I don’t know who took the photo originally, but I snagged it from the 2007 Auraria Campus Master Plan document, which had included a small version of this photo in the chapter discussing Auraria’s history. With a little help from Photoshop, I was able to extract the image at a high resolution and present it to you today. The Auraria neighborhood and surrounding areas in 1973:


There’s so much here to talk about in this photo.

First, obviously, we have a great view of the Auraria neighborhood (originally the Town of Auraria before the consolidation of Denver City, Auraria, and Highland on April 3, 1860) before the Auraria Campus was created. The buildings that survived the demolition of the neighborhood to make way for the campus were the Tivoli Brewery, St. Elizabeth’s Church, St. Cajetan’s Church, Emmanuel Episcopal Chapel (Denver’s oldest surviving church, built in 1876, and now the Emmanuel Gallery), and the historic homes along Ninth Street Historic Park.

What’s also visible in the Auraria area is the old Larimer Street and Lawrence Street viaducts.  As in-bound and out-bound viaducts, they were one of the main ways to get between I-25 and Downtown Denver. They were replaced in the late 1980s by Auraria Parkway; the viaducts were removed and in their place today are mostly broad pedestrian walkways or narrow streets for local access and RTD busses. The street running in front of  the taller historic buildings where Kacey Fine Furniture, Brooklyn’s, and the Auraria Lofts are today—that was Wazee Street.  Behind those buildings, where the Pepsi Center is now located, were more rail yards. We also get a nice view from this angle of the 13th and 14th Street (Speer) viaducts that I mentioned in my Denver 1961 post. What was neat about those viaducts, as you can see in this photo, was that the out-bound 14th Street viaduct didn’t go elevated until about 14th and Wazee, and it ran along the Cherry Creek side of the Acme and Volker Loft buildings. But the in-bound 13th Street viaduct remained elevated until Larimer, and ran along the southwest side of the Acme and Volker buildings. The two streets then did a clumsy readjustment over Cherry Creek to eventually flow into the Speer Boulevard alignment we have today to the south.

Union Station is clearly visible in this photo, with the big boxy blond brick Postal Annex next door (replaced by the EPA Building and 1515 Wynkoop). What you see behind Union Station to the Platte River—yeah, that area has changed a bit, no?  We also see the old 15th Street viaduct (replaced in the 1980s by the current 15th Street which goes under the railroad tracks and features twin red pedestrian bridges), the old 16th Street viaduct (gone entirely), and, off in the distance, the 20th Street, 23rd Street/Park Avenue, and Broadway viaducts—all replaced in the 1990s/early 2000s.  The bright white grain elevator at 20th and Wazee—that’s where Coors Field is today.

Finally, there are a few remarkable changes in the Downtown area to note. Brooks Tower is there, but its companion building (formerly the Executive Tower Inn and now the Curtis Hotel) is not.  However, the black-glass modern Park Central complex on Block 075 is clearly under construction in this photo. Who would have ever guessed from their outward appearances that Park Central is older than the Curtis Hotel tower? In front of the Park Central site at 15th and Arapahoe is the side of the Central Bank building.

The two blocks of parking lots in the foreground of the Brooks Tower… that’s where the Denver Performing Arts Complex is.  The department store around the D&F tower has been torn down, but the Tabor Center is still a decade off in the future; although the Tabor Center’s other block between Lawrence and Larimer has not yet been razed. On the foreground side of 16th Street (pre-Mall, of course) you can see that the entire block where Writer Square is today has been leveled, as has the half-block to the left where The Larimer condo tower is today. Its neighbor, the blank-walled former-Dave Cook’s-now-Office-Depot building hasn’t been built yet. Also visible are the buildings that were there before Market Street Station was built.

The year 1973 was probably an exciting year in Denver. They were on the cusp of the city’s greatest building boom, probably not unlike how we all felt in 2005. In the next twelve years, from 1973 until the date of the next photo I’m going to feature (1985), over forty towers (yes, you read correctly, 40) were built in Downtown Denver. Now that was a building boom!

Denver 1961

Today I’d like to share with you the first of several of my favorite photos that show the changes in Downtown Denver over the past fifty years. The photos generally focus on the western (Auraria and Central Platte Valley) side of Downtown.

This first image (used with permission from the personal collection of my friend, Rob Winzurk) is an amazing photo taken by his father in 1961. It is remarkable in that it shows several significant buildings that are no longer with us, all in one view, and in color.


In the center foreground is the University Building, which still stands at the corner of 16th and Champa, along with the Gas & Electric Building at 15th and Champa off to the left. Across Champa from the University Building, the bright red sign of the Downtown Woolworth’s store is clearly visible. Also in this view are four prominent buildings that are gone.

One block to the right of the University Building, at 16th and Curtis, is the Tabor Grand Opera House (linked photos courtesy Denver Public Library Western History Collection). Built in 1881, it was one of the finest and most elaborate opera houses in the country. It featured a 1,500 seat auditorium and a grand atrium lobby capped by a stained-glass rotunda. Next to the Tabor Grand at 16th and Arapahoe is the Post Office and Customs House Building, built in 1885.  Both buildings were demolished in 1964, three years after this photo was taken, to make way for the Federal Reserve Bank, completed in 1968, which now occupies the entire block. Here’s a zoom-in of those two buildings:


Directly above and behind the University Building are two buildings at the corner of 15th and Arapahoe: the Mining and Exchange Building on the left, and the Central Bank Building on the right. The handsome Mining and Exchange Building was built in 1891 and featured a statue “The Old Prospector” at the top of its spire. The building was demolished in 1963, two years after this photo was taken. Brooks Tower took its place, and The Old Prospector now rests in the plaza at the entrance to the tower. The Central Bank Building opened in 1911 and featured a beautiful curved brick facade and two-story columns at the corner entrance.  The building was a victim of the late-1980s real estate bust. The pathetic story went something like this: The Central Bank Building went into foreclosure and was sold as part of a portfolio of real estate assets to some British firm, which was in financial trouble itself and was involved in a complex lawsuit with a bunch of banks and insurance companies. The British firm eventually decided that one way to help improve its financial position was to “eliminate” some of their troubled assets. Despite valiant efforts by Denver’s historic preservation community to save the Central Bank Building (it was declared a Denver Landmark in 1988), the overseas firm apparently didn’t give a crap about the historic importance of some building in Denver, Colorado, and, in 1989, submitted a demolition permit to the city. At that time, the city could legally delay a demolition permit for only ninety days, during which Mayor Peña pleaded with the firm to spare the building. Ninety days later, in front of a crowd of protesters, a demolition crew smashed the building to bits. Today, the site is a parking lot. Had the Central Bank Building survived however, it would now share its southwest common wall with the parking garage of the new Four Seasons. Here’s a detailed view of those two buildings:


Of course, there are other buildings in this 1961 photo that are no longer around, such as the department store once attached to the D&F Tower, and other nearby buildings that were replaced in the 1970s and 1980s by the Tabor Center, Writer Square, various shiny office towers, and surface parking lots. Behind the D&F Tower, the old Speer Viaduct (also known then as the 13th and 14th Street Viaducts) heads west to interchange with the “new” Valley Highway. Farther in the background, rail yards and industrial buildings cover the Central Platte Valley where the Pepsi Center and Elitch’s now stand and, to the left, the white painted Tivoli Brewery is surrounded by its pre-campus Auraria neighborhood. Finally, Sloans Lake shimmers in the distance, with the silhouette of Lake Middle School clearly visible in front of it and, in between the school and the white boxy industrial building below, is the profile of the one-deck-high Bears Stadium.

In the next photo: Denver 1973.