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Archive of posts filed under the Adaptive Reuse category.

McNichols Brings New Place to Historic Space in Civic Center Park

by Camron Bridgford

During a time when new development is ballooning throughout Denver’s urban core at breakneck speed and redefining both the physical boundaries and culture of downtown, there is something refreshing about investment in time-honored but often overlooked buildings that capture a distinctive slice of Denver’s history.

Such is the case with the just-completed revitalization of Denver’s storied McNichols Civic Center Building—the second phase of a two-part renovation project on the civic structure—that nobly sits on the northwest edge of Civic Center Park.


While much time, funding and talent of Denver developers, architects and planners focuses these days on revitalizing real estate at the periphery of downtown, such as Confluence Park, River North and Five Points, the McNichols project is a clear reinvestment in the city’s long-standing roots, and reminds Denverites that intertwining our history with progress and growth creates more authentic place, not just space, for the city’s future.

Built in 1910 and originally serving as Denver’s first public library with funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie—for whom the building was originally named—the McNichols building has gone through several iterations over the past 100 years. Uses have included serving as home for the Denver Water Board, Denver’s Treasury Office, and later in 2010 as the inaugural site for the Biennial of the Americas, a conference of cultural, civic and business leaders from the Americas originally envisioned by then-mayor John Hickenlooper to showcase Denver’s investment in intellectual and creative capital.

In 2012, the building came under its current management by Denver Arts & Venues—the City and County of Denver’s agency that manages cultural and artistic venues, public art and programs—which established the space as a municipally-led setting for contemporary art and culture shows. While the building has been the backdrop for more than 30 exhibitions and 800 events since that time, there has always been the sense that aesthetically and functionally, the building had unfinished business in order to be used to its greatest and brightest capacity.


The building’s classic Greek-revival style architecture (and one of only a large handful of classically-oriented buildings and structures in the city, many of which are located in Civic Center Park) pays homage to Mayor Robert Speer’s investment in the City Beautiful movement during a time when Denver was going through a different growth spurt—one that incorporated expansive parks and boulevards to grow the city’s grandeur and recognition through beautification. Numerous renowned architects and designers of the time lent their talent to the park’s plan, including Edward H. Bennett, Frederick MacMonnies, Charles Mulford Robinson and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

The significance of the McNichols building to Denver architectural history is further emphasized by Civic Center Park’s 2012 designation as a National Historic Landmark, where it sits among the likes of celebrated buildings and places such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Civic Center Park is also one of only two civic center designations of its kind in the country, with San Francisco’s Civic Center holding the other title. Overall, less than three percent of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are designated with even greater iconic status of National Historic Landmark.


With the renovation completed in early September by local architecture firm Humphries Poli Architects, the building now features a refashioned, ADA-compliant main entrance; a reproduction of the building’s grand entry doors; new contemporary glass walls; and restoration of artistic ironwork on the original stairways that was discovered during reconstruction, among other changes and upgrades.

Visiting McNichols today, the building stands as a revamped cultural center dedicated to using its space for art exhibitions, civic engagements and other collective uses that, rather than serving as another development project highlighting the shiny and new of Denver’s urban growth, takes stock in the importance of a city maintaining a collective identity through its architectural history.

All photos by Steve Hostetler, courtesy of Denver Arts & Venues.


Camron Bridgford is a master’s candidate in urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado Denver, with a particular interest in the use and politics of public space as it relates to urban revitalization, culture and placemaking, and community development. She also works as a freelance writer to investigate urban-related issues and serves as a non-profit consultant.

Enterprise Enlivens 30th & Lawrence

The rise of the sharing economy has contributed to a renewed interest in the importance of community. The pooling of resources, trading of ideas, bartering of talents and services—these economic exchanges necessitate the existence of an underlying culture that prioritizes social ties. They also highlight the benefits that can arise from embracing diversity of thought, experience, and ownership.

Enterprise, a 66,000 square foot co-working space that opened last month, is here to create just such a culture.


Located at the intersection of 30th Street and Lawrence Street—in RiNo or Curtis Park, depending on who you ask—Enterprise is the most recent addition to the Denver area’s nationally-recognized cache of co-working spaces.

Formerly the Denver Enterprise Center, a business incubator space active from the mid-eighties to 2008, this mid-century office building had been shuttered and vacant for almost a decade before Focus Property Group identified it as a viable site for rehabilitation. Below is a photograph taken by James Florio in 2014, showing the side of the old Denver Enterprise Center facing 30th Street, before renovations began.


A $14 million investment bought the mid-century office building an impressive face-lift, with architecture and design services provided by Boulder architect/contractor Tres Birds.


The interior décor is clean and modern, smooth grays and bright whites accented by pops of color, awaiting personalization from future members. Drop-in tables; dedicated desks; office suites; conference, meeting, and class rooms are available for members at varying monthly rates.


Removable walls between office suites offer members the ability to grow and expand without needing to relocate. Sleek air conditioned phone booths accent the open work spaces, recalling ’60’s Star Trek set decoration brought into the 21st century by an Apple product designer.

Common spaces are dotted throughout the building. A library space on the lower level promises a quiet working environment, while a state-of-the art kitchen on the other side of the building features offerings from local brewery Ratio Beerworks, along with a nearby game room.


A coffee shop on the first floor is open to the public, and a rooftop patio offers an incredible view of downtown Denver.

Mobility options for Enterprise members and guests are diverse, with a B-Cycle station onsite, along with personal bike parking, seventy-seven rentable parking spaces, and four electric car charging stations.

Billing itself as a collaborative and innovative work space where the diversity of ideas among its community members are its distinguishing feature, Enterprise promises to be a welcome addition to the new economy in Denver.

RiNo Infrastructure Part 4: River North Park

Let’s continue our look at the new infrastructure supporting the transformation of Denver’s River North area from a gritty industrial zone to a thriving mixed-use urban district. So far we’ve looked at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, and Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction. Today in Part 4, we’ll focus on River North Park. To get a better understanding for the vision of the proposed River North Park, I met with Jamie Licko, Executive Director of the River North Art District. Thank you Jamie for the information and insight!

Plans for a park in the River North (RiNo) area go back to the city’s 2003 River North Plan and the 2009 River North Gateway Master Plan. The best location for the new park was determined to be along the South Platte River at 35th Street and Arkins Court. Not only is this location geographically central to the RiNo district, but it also puts the park directly adjacent to the proposed 35th Street Woonerf that will link the planned RiNo Pedestrian Bridge with the almost-finished 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge, as well as the proposed River North Promenade and the planned Delgany Festival Street (more on the 35th Street Woonerf, the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, the River North Promenade, and the Delgany Festival Street projects in future installments in this series).

Below is a Google Earth aerial with the future River North Park site outlined:


The southwestern two-thirds of the site was owned by Interstate Shippers, a trucking company, until 2011 when the city acquired the land for the future park. The northeastern one-third has been owned by the city since the 1990s and used as a Denver Police Department Vehicle Service Building.

Below are a bunch of existing conditions photos I took a couple of weekends ago.

Left: View looking northwest from the intersection of 35th and Delgany along 35th Street towards Arkins Court and the South Platte River, with the existing Police Service Building on the left. Right: View from the corner of 35th Street and Arkins Court looking south at the Police Service Building.

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Left: The river side of the Police Service Building from Arkins Court. Right: View looking northeast along Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building on the right.

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Left: View from approximately the same location as the photo on the right above but looking more north at the river and the TAXI development on the west bank. Right: The former Interstate Shippers Building as viewed from Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building beyond.

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Left: Looking southwest at the gap (vacated Delgany Street) between the new Great Divide Brewery Phase 1 building and the Police Service Building where the proposed Delgany Festival Street will go, with the Interstate Shippers Building beyond on the right. Right: Close-up of the Interstate Shippers Building from approximately the corner of 35th and Delgany.

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One final existing conditions image—a Google Earth bird’s-eye perspective that I’ve oriented to match the concept plan below:


OK let’s get to the plans for the River North Park! The following images are courtesy of Denver Parks and Recreation, the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, and Wenk Associates, the landscape architecture firm that designed the park.

The preferred concept plan for River North Park:


There are a number of really exciting features in this plan! I think the most exciting is that neither of the buildings in the park will be demolished; rather, they will be partially deconstructed to create both indoor and outdoor community spaces.

The Police Service Building consists of three major components. The center section of the building will be removed except for its structural framework, which will be preserved to create a cool outdoor space, Maker’s Plaza (#12 on the plan), where kids and adults can play and get creative. On either side of the plaza, the two remaining building sections will be remodeled into community spaces for neighborhood events, retail, workshops, and other indoor activities. Large artistic signage would wrap portions of the 35th Street and Delgany Festival Street sides of the building:




Similarly, the former Interstate Shippers Building will be partially deconstructed to create an outdoor pavilion area surrounded by the building’s skeletal supports while the remaining part the building would be used as community space:




Other neat elements of the park include a storm water garden, several large lawns, a community vegetable garden, groves of trees, children’s play areas, and direct river access (thanks to the replacement of Arkins Court with a promenade):



When looking at the Google Earth images and site photos above, it’s hard to imaging a beautiful park in this location. However, with everything that’s proposed or under construction around it—new streets and promenades and bridges and private-sector development on virtually every parcel—the transformation of this area will occur at a pace and with a level of coordination that is quite remarkable. If all goes as planned, construction on River North Park will begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed about a year later.

Next up in our RiNo Infrastructure series: Delgany Festival Street

New Adaptive Reuse Project: Steam on the Platte

Tucked away in the industrial stretch along the South Platte River below Mile High Stadium is a new adaptive reuse project, Steam on the Platte, which will bring urban energy to a part of Denver near downtown that hasn’t seen a lot of private-sector investment in the past century. Steam on the Platte is being developed by Urban Ventures and White Construction Group.

Located at West 14th Avenue and Zuni Street, Steam on the Platte is technically in the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood. However, because it lies in a narrow zone of land east of the river but west of Interstate 25, the location feels less La Alma/Lincoln Park and more Sun Valley, the neighborhood located on the west side of the river. The 3.2-acre site lies approximately half way between RTD’s Decatur-Federal and Auraria West Campus light rail stations and, just to the south, is Xcel Energy’s Zuni plant, which is planned for decommissioning in the near future.


In Phase 1, Steam on the Platte includes the restoration and reuse of four buildings, the largest of which is a 65,000 square foot brick-and-timber warehouse at 1401 Zuni constructed in 1928. Here’s a site plan, courtesy of Urban Ventures:


The new uses will include work space for tech and creative companies and a café. Here’s a before-and-after shot (courtesy of Urban Ventures) of the historic warehouse:


Below are a few renderings of what the inside of the historic warehouse will look like after the project is finished. These images are courtesy of tres birds workshop, the architect for the 1401 Zuni building renovation:



One of the other existing buildings that’s located right next to the river will be converted into a signature restaurant space. Several landscaped plazas and gardens will tie the entire complex together and link the development to the river. This rendering, courtesy of Wenk Associates, the project’s landscape architect, shows the proposed plaza space adjacent to the historic warehouse:


Phase 2 of the project envisions adding several new buildings for more office space and to bring multi-family residential uses to the development. This final rendering shows the vision for Steam on the Platte after Phase 2, as viewed from across the river. Click to embiggen!


Phase 1 should be complete by Fall 2016.

New Sunnyside Redevelopment Project: Cobbler’s Corner

By Matt Levesque

Cobbler’s Corner is a new neighborhood-scale commercial adaptive reuse and infill project, located at 2436 W. 44th Avenue (44th and Alcott). The project is being developed by place-maker Paul Tamburello’s Generator Development, the group behind the restoration of several LoHi buildings. The project includes the restoration of a 5,200 square foot building as well as the addition of two buildings adding approximately 9,000 square feet replacing the parking lot. When finished, the project will include space for two restaurants, five retail bays, and two live-work studios. The original building most recently housed the Germinal Stage Theater; however, this redevelopment will bring it more in line with its original use as a neighborhood retail location in the late 1920s.

This rendering shows the original building in the center which is being restored into retail and restaurant space.  The building is then flanked by new infill to include a matching facade on the 44th corridor with additional live/work studios and a courtyard behind.


Rendering of the Cobbler’s Corner redevelopment project in the Sunnyside neighborhood. Image courtesy of Generator Development.

This photo shows the most recent use of the building as the Germinal Stage Theater.  As seen in the rendering the windows are being restored in an effort to once again activate the 44th corridor with retail and restaurant use.


Existing building’s former use as the Germinal Stage Theater. Photo courtesy of Generator Development.

The new live/work studios that were built behind the restored building replacing the parking lot:


New live/work studios. Photo by Matt Levesque.

The new building built on the 44th corridor with a matching facade:


New infill building on 44th Avenue. Photo by Matt Levesque.

This photo shows the courtyard entrance between the two buildings.


New courtyard entrance. Photo by Matt Levesque.

The project is slated to wrap up as soon as October and should start welcoming its first tenants in the following months.


Matt Levesque is a resident of Sunnyside and has diversified experience in government, real estate, and information technology industries. He is an advocate for building a better city through the development of walkable communities and smart urbanism.

14th Street Ambassador Corridor Improved by Renovation at 414 14th

Recently I was able to get a peek inside the former Denver Public Schools Administrative Building at the corner of 14th Street and Tremont in the Central Business District.


This gorgeous building, now known as 414 14th Street on the Ambassador, was originally erected in 1923 for the Denver Public School system and housed their offices until the 1970’s. It was added to the City and County of Denver’s list of historic landmark buildings in 1994. Most recently, it served as offices for the Denver Art Museum.

The Downtown Denver Partnership has designated the 14th Street corridor the “Ambassador Street” because of its proximity to sites popular for out-of-towners, such as the Colorado Convention Center and the Performing Arts Complex. The building’s prime central location on the Ambassador Street, along with its historic importance, caught the eye of owners Dunkeld-14-LLC (a partnership that includes principals from Hyder Construction). They closed on 414 14th in 2013 and with the help of DURA financing, they are in the midst of performing an impressive renovation.

Redeveloped on spec, Dunkeld-14 is now seeking tenants through Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors to fill this 43,000 square foot office space. Tenants could potentially lease the entire building, or subdivide the three floors into multiple offices. Though many of the original building’s details are being restored (like the stairwell and hallway pictured below) each lessee will have the rare opportunity to select their own finishes.



Though the owners are not currently seeking LEED certification, the building is being adapted to meet LEED-Silver standards. Negotiations with Xcel Energy have resulted in a brand new electrical system, with a state-of-the-art transformer vault installed at the rear of the building. High speed fiber-optic cable was added, and the interior features a brand new variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system that offers up to 35% in energy savings because of its ability to allow for zoned thermal control in large spaces.


All of the 150-some original windows were sent out of state to be professionally insulated and glazed, preserving the original character of the building while bringing it up to today’s energy-efficient standards. Lower level bike storage and shower rooms will cater to the cyclists in the city, while 42 dedicated parking spaces at the rear of the building are an undeniable bonus for potential tenants.

The 3-story building was originally shaped like a U, with the open space facing the rear. Dunkeld-14 has added an impressive secondary entry alcove to this space that adds over 6,000 square feet to the original building footprint.


With its unique blend of modern technological improvements and historic 1920’s charm, 414 14th is sure to be snapped up soon. We’ll check back in for an update when the renovation is complete.

Thanks to Jeff Caldwell at Pinnacle Real Estate Advisors for the tour!

Turntable Studios Brings Micro-Apartments to Denver

MARCH 5 UPDATE: JG Johnson Architects has finalized the renderings for Turntable Studios.  The three photos posted below include the final sign design and color scheme for the building.





Denver’s first micro-apartment building is under construction! The project is called Turntable Studios, and its introduction to Denver’s rental housing mix marks an important step toward expanding the affordable housing options for would-be city dwellers.


courtesy of JG Johnson Architects

Micro-apartments (also called micro-units or micro-housing) have been part of the housing mix in dense international cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo for decades, but they are just starting to catch on in the U.S. Though the maximum square footage varies depending on the source, most authorities consider a one-room apartment unit that is between 150-350 square feet to be “micro.”

There is a reason that micro-apartment development is on the rise. According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of single-person households in America has increased by 10% from 1970, and presently accounts for more than a quarter of all households. This rise in single-person households coupled with steadily increasing housing prices has created a new real estate market segment that appears quite willing to sacrifice square footage for affordable rents and desirable urban locations.

Though the concept has not yet reached Middle America, fast growing cities like Boston, San Francisco and Seattle have been offering micro apartments for several years now. Their introduction to the rental market has presented a challenge to city planning departments, who have no previous experience guiding policy decisions that speak to the unique housing arrangement that places kitchen components within mere feet of sleeping quarters. Nevertheless, the demand for affordable urban units in the U.S. is undeniable and Denver will soon have its first offering, courtesy of Nichols Partnership.

Probably best known locally for developing the Spire condominium building downtown, Nichols Partnership is in the midst of adapting the former VQ Hotel building next to Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High into 179 apartment units that will range in size from 330 square foot studios, to 820 square foot 2-bedroom units.

Originally erected in 1967, the 94,000 square foot, 13-story cast-in-place concrete structure stands out because of its unique design. It is shaped like a silo, with the elevator bank at its center and 16 hotel rooms per floor spoking out from the circular hallway.  Each of these rooms is being converted to an apartment unit, complete with a kitchen (featuring full-sized refrigerators and built-in microwaves), a full bathroom with a sliding barn door, and living / sleeping area.


Because of the limited square footage, the unit floorplans had to be carefully arranged. Nichols Partnership  tested the design with a real-life mock-up unit, to ensure the spaces were laid out to maximize livability for the future tenants.

turntable studios bed

Courtesy of Nichols Partnership

The windows are being re-glazed and each unit will feature a Juliette balcony, so that tenants can open up their doors and enjoy their remarkable view of downtown Denver.


Turntable Studios will offer a variety of amenities, such as a fitness room, swimming pool, and community room on the first floor, along with additional storage space for tenants.  The hotel’s former top floor restaurant space will be converted into penthouse apartment units and a common area. The development prioritizes access to multi-modal transportation, with plans for 144 covered bike racks, and its proximate location to I-25 and two light rail stops.

Property management company Boutique Apartments is already accepting inquiries for the project, which is scheduled to begin leasing in June, 2015.

Be sure to check back for updates, as we will certainly be keeping an eye on the development of this exciting new addition to Denver’s housing mix! Thanks to Melissa Rummel and Jodi Kopke for the tour!

Montessori Academy of Colorado Renovates Ideal Laundry Building

The Montessori Academy of Colorado (MAC) elementary school recently completed phase one of its multi-million dollar restoration of the Ideal Laundry building in historic Curtis Park.


With the help of New Markets Tax Credit Loans (a federal program designed to stimulate economic growth in low income urban neighborhoods by providing private investors in Community Development Entities with tax incentives), and the Denver Office of Economic Development, MAC was able to finance a renovation that nearly doubles the usable square footage within the building.

Occupying nearly half of the 2500 block of Curtis Street, the Ideal Laundry building has been a prominent fixture in the Curtis Park neighborhood for over one hundred years. According to a 2010 Application for Landmark Designation to the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission, the building was initially erected in 1910 as a laundry facility where artesian well water was pumped on site. The building changed ownership several times over the years; additions were made, interior walls were erected and dismantled, and exterior doors and windows were boarded up and then uncovered again.  The photo below is from the Denver Public Library’s digital collection, taken in 1988 when the building was home to a watering hole called Eric’s Pub.


Adapting an historic industrial facility for use as an elementary school is a complicated venture.  Since they purchased the building in 2007, MAC has replaced the outdated HVAC system, the roof, and the smoke detection and alarm systems. This most recent renovation converted spaces like the one pictured below into several new classrooms, a library, art and music rooms, a small kitchen, staff lounge and conference room.


Though the interior of the building is being completely upgraded, MAC has managed to preserve some of the original character of the building, as you can see in the photo of the windows of the infant care room below.


Phase two of MAC’s renovation (“Future Phase” on the Slaterpaull Architects rendering below) is scheduled to begin later this year and will include a media center, gym, and rooftop garden. Many thanks to Abby Hagstrom, Jaclyn Greenbaum, and Nancy James for the tour!


Industry Denver Accelerates River North Revitalization

By Liz Munn

If you’ve been to the River North (RiNo) neighborhood lately, you may have noticed that INDUSTRY at 29th and Brighton Boulevard is buzzing with activity. Located in the former Denargo Market area that once housed over 60 food vendors and wholesalers circa WWII, 3001 Brighton Boulevard is now the anchor for an ambitious redevelopment project that brings office spaces, restaurants, and residential living to the nine-acre site.

Here is a photo of the revitalized warehouse building taken from the other side of Brighton Boulevard:


The interior features 120,000 square feet of shared office spaces that range in size from a single desk to 5,000 square feet. The development took place in two phases, with every space leased before construction was even completed. The lessees are predominantly creative-tech companies, such as Uber, who is the anchor tenant for Phase 1 of the development. Companies share a café, dining area, a few kitchens (one of which always has a keg on tap), common areas and conference rooms.

Here are a few photos of the building’s shared spaces:





The building’s original skylights were restored, allowing abundant natural light to brighten what could have been a shadowy and cavernous warehouse space.


Industry’s north-east side currently houses Tengu, a noodle shop. Two more restaurants, The Griffin and Will Call are currently under construction and slated to open for business within the next couple of months.

Though the redevelopment of the former market is almost complete, construction is far from over at the Industry site. Phase III is currently under way, a building that combines three floors of parking with two floors of office space, expected to be complete by early 2015. Eventually, the parking lot that currently sits to the north of the building will be razed and replaced with townhomes.

Here is a rendering of the completed development, courtesy of Industry:


Check the DenverInfill blog in the future for updates as the new infill phase at Industry gets underway.


Liz Munn grew up in the shrinking city of Cleveland, Ohio, holds a B.S. in Sustainability from Washington University in St. Louis and is currently a Master of Urban and Regional Planning candidate at the University of Colorado Denver. She is pursuing a professional career in urban development, with a special interest in brownfield revitalization, infill and adaptive reuse projects.