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Eco-Friendly Populus Among Slate Of New Hotels Coming To Denver

A rendering of the Populus hotel

Denver’s Populus hotel, set for completion later this summer, is part of a new infusion of hotel rooms into a market that has seen its room count tick down in recent years.

The 265-room, 13-story hotel at 240 14th St. enters a hospitality market making an uneven comeback from pandemic-era tourism trends. Beyond that, the city of Denver’s effort to provide shelter for unhoused populations has removed several older hotels from the city’s stock.

That effort led to a net decrease in the number of hotel rooms in the city, said John Kelley, senior vice president of hospitality, gaming and leisure for Newmark’s valuation and advisory division.

“The city and county of Denver, along with nonprofit organizations, have acquired such hotels in an effort to address the critical shortage of affordable living options and provide immediate housing solutions for vulnerable populations,” he said.

About 500 hotel rooms were slated for conversion to housing at the beginning of this year, the product of the city’s first wave of hotel acquisitions.

New hotel construction in metro Denver rebounded in 2021 and 2022, setting the stage for a wave of deliveries this year. About 1,200 new rooms opened in 2021 and about 925 in 2022, according to Kelley.

This year, another 1,200 rooms are expected to be added to the local hotel market, he said, including those at the Populus hotel.

In its press materials, Populus developer Urban Villages describes the project as the first carbon-positive hotel in the United States. It defines carbon-positive as “a commitment to sequester more carbon in biomass and soil than the combined embodied and operational footprints of the building across its entire lifecycle.”

The hotel has no on-site parking, reportedly a first for Denver’s new-build hotels. 

Along with offsetting the building’s carbon footprint by planting more than 70,000 trees in Colorado’s Gunnison County, the hotel has set a goal of getting all its electricity via renewable energy sources.

To the east in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, another entrant to the city’s hotel market just opened in the historic George Schleier Mansion. Urban Cowboy Hotels, which has properties in New York and Tennessee, opened its boutique hotel at 1665 Grant St. The mansion was designed by the same architect as two of the city’s other downtown hotels, the Oxford and the renowned Brown Palace.

The sustainable features of Populus and the renovated Urban Cowboy play into a trend in tourism that focuses on green elements.

Research suggests that there is a growing interest among consumers in contributing to ecologically friendly experiences when they travel. The market for sustainable tourism in the United States is expected to grow from $258.1M in 2023 to $663.6M by 2033, a market compound annual growth rate of 9.9%, according to the research firm Future Market Insights.

The report suggests that among the key trends driving the nation’s sustainable tourism market are growing public awareness about organic foods and their low environmental impact and growing tourist motivation to reduce their ecological footprint.

“Not only do consumers today want sustainable choices, but they’re often willing to pay more knowing that their money is having a positive impact,” Urban Villages president Jon Buerge told Bisnow in an email.