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Density Will Help Downtown Denver Thrive

The River Mile will become part of downtown Denver.

As businesses and residents increasingly move into Denver’s downtown area, density and alternative transportation are the keys to keeping the city livable.

Denver’s population is expected to increase from 700,000 to 900,000 over the next 20 years, Larimer Square owner Jeff Hermanson said. 

“The goal is to make it a great experience,” he said. “To me it’s a commitment to density.”

Larimer Square, which last year floated plans to redevelop the block, has been conducting a public outreach program to gather feedback from as many segments of the community as it can, asking about what they envision for Denver’s most historic block. Originally, the plans included two new buildings to be constructed.

“If we are able to add more density, we’d love to add some form of housing, and we’d love for the housing to be diverse,” Hermanson said.

Hermanson also said it is critical that the city invest in its infrastructure.

The River Mile will add density to the city.

“Denver’s growth is outpacing its new infrastructure,” he said. “People are frustrated by the congestion. You can create a better environment with infrastructure investment." 

Downtown Denver Partnership President and CEO Tami Door said that in the next five to 10 years, downtown’s residential population will continue to grow and new neighborhoods will evolve and develop. She pointed to Arapahoe Square and the River Mile as neighborhoods where development activity will pick up significantly. 

“There will be increased density and connectivity and more enhanced mobility options,” Door said. “There will be an emphasis on biking, better pedestrian connections overall and innovative ways to move around our city.”

Larimer Square owner Jeff Hermanson

Door also noted that work to renovate the 16th Street Mall will begin and 500 more trees will have been planted throughout downtown. The Upper Downtown Plan, which is just being completed, also will be underway and include streetscapes and activated public places.

As more companies are drawn to Denver, Door expects new office buildings to be constructed in Upper Downtown, considered to cover the area about two blocks on either side of the 16th Street Mall from Curtis to Civic Center Park and along Broadway. 

“There will be more office buildings developed, and there will be a significant number of office buildings redeveloped," she said. “It will be an epicenter for visitors — the Convention Center is in that zone, and the Sheraton is making a major reinvestment in that property. It’s really sending a strong message that the visitor will be well taken care of in this area.”

More developers will focus on sustainability, making greater investments in their buildings and on their properties to address climate change. They’ll incorporate more integrated systems to reduce the cost of operating buildings.

“Employees are going to seek that out in buildings and companies they choose to work for,” Door said.

Larimer Square has made a commitment to adding green to the city’s landscape by planting a garden — known as Larimer Uprooted — on the roof of Larimer Square’s parking garage. 

Revesco Properties President and CEO Rhys Duggan

“It’s a demonstration of how you can grow food in cities,” Hermanson said. “There are other examples, but ours is particularly interesting because of our concentration of restaurants and the importance of restaurants on Larimer Square.”

In the coming years, downtown’s reach will extend past Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park to include Revesco Properties’ The River Mile.

“Do you remember when LoDo wasn’t considered anything?” Duggan said. “I think we all fall into the trap of our ‘now’ glasses. Light rail will tie us together. Multimodal will tie us together.”

Duggan, a self-described “total car guy,” said he rarely drives any of the seven cars he owns because he can get pretty much anywhere he needs to on his scooter. His vision for the River Mile includes an autonomous shuttle system that will link Denver Union Station to the River Mile and Meow Wolf, the 50K SF immersive art exhibit set to open in a five-story building he’s developing in the Sun Valley neighborhood.

Light rail also will connect the newly renamed Empower Field at Mile High and the parking lots south of the stadium that are slated for mixed-use development with parks, shopping and residential buildings, including affordable housing. 

The key to the project’s success will be re-dredging the South Platte River from Speer to Colfax boulevards. That will allow him to add trout — he has already done that twice — and other recreational opportunities such as a standing wave course and tubing. 

“That will get our property and a lot of others out of the 500-year flood plain,” he said. “That stretch of the river has always been off-limits to the public — it’s old industrial railyards.”