Skip to content
Archive of posts filed under the Historic Preservation 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.

2016-10-02_mcnichols-1

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.

2016-10-02_mcnichols-3

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.

2016-10-02_mcnichols-2

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.

2016-07-05_Enterprise_1

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.

2016-07-05_Enterprise_5

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.

2016-07-05_Enterprise_4

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.

2016-07-05_Enterprise_2

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.

2016-07-05_Enterprise_3

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.


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.

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-aerial

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:

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-site-plan

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:

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-restoration

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:

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-interior-rendering2

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-interior-rendering1

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:

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-courtyard-rendering

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!

2015-11-21_steam-on-platte-vision-rendering

Phase 1 should be complete by Fall 2016.


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.

2015_4_7_41414th

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.

2015_4_7_41414th_2

2015_4_7_41414th_1

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.

2015_4_7_41414th_4

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.

2015_4_7_41414th_5

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!


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.

2015-01-29_MAC_1

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.

Ideal_Laundry_close_up_of_sign

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.

2015-01-29_MAC_2

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.

2015-01-29_MAC_3

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!

Montessori_floorplan_board_small


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:

2014-11-05_IndustryFacade

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:

2014-11-05_IndustryHall

2014-11-05_IndustryKitchen

2014-11-05_IndustryEntry

2014-11-05_IndustryCommonArea

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

2014-11-05_IndustrySkylights

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:

2014-11-05_IndustryRendering

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.


Colorado National Bank Hotel Conversion Final Update: Part 2

In Part 1 of our coverage, Ryan gave us a comprehensive overview of the grand opening of the new Marriott Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel that has been carefully crafted out of the historic Colorado National Bank building at 17th and Champa in Downtown Denver. In this post, we’ll add a few more photos of the project and some additional observations.

This project is a HUGE win for Downtown Denver. Take a classically historic building and transform it into a new hotel, with the modifications approved by the Denver Landmark Commission:

2014-06-11_CNBHotel-02

2014-06-11_CNBHotel-01

This building was vacant for about a decade. Thanks to Stonebridge Companies and the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, this historic building was transformed into the beautiful building it is today. Here’s a photo of Councilman Brooks and others from the development team cutting the ceremonial ribbon on June 5, 2014:

2014-06-11_CNBHotel-03

A few more images of the building at grand opening:

2014-06-11_CNBHotel-04

2014-06-11_CNBHotel-05

If you haven’t yet checked out the inside of this awesome historic structure, featuring a stunning three-story atrium of white marble colonnades and a series of historic murals by Colorado artist Allen Tupper True, I highly recommend you do. The lobby bar and the hotel’s restaurant, Range, are fantastic.

While infill development is a big part of Denver’s growth as a city, adaptive reuse projects like the Marriott Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center hotel are equally important to Denver’s urban evolution and preserving its heritage as a major city.


Union Station Transit District: 133 Years in Progress

A beacon of preservation stands tall amid all of the construction and rumbling noise of Lower Downtown: Denver Union Station. On the eve of the grand opening of the Union Station Transit Center, let’s take a look back at the history of Denver’s venerable train station.

The first train arrived in Denver on June 24, 1870 with only one “station” for the Denver Pacific Railroad. This train’s arrival was no small feat and was certainly not assured. Thanks to visionaries and the deep pockets of early Denver promoters and businessmen such as John Evans, David Moffat, Walter Cheesman and William Byers, a spur railroad line had been quickly constructed to connect Denver to Cheyenne. The Union Pacific Railroad had bypassed Denver completely by agreeing to build the transcontinental railroad through southern Wyoming rather than through Colorado’s more treacherous mountainscape. So significant was the arrival of this first train in 1870 that the city named one of its streets in the far-away eastern edge of town after the first conductor who was aboard that train—Billy Ogden.

As more railroads came to Denver over the decade, each built its own depot separate from the other. However, Union Station was constructed following national trends of combining these disparate rail stations into one. Originally opened in 1881, the station served as the gateway to Denver for those coming to the city by train. There have been three incarnations of the station. The original structure was a stunning example of Second Empire design and was a monument to Victorian-era architecture. Unfortunately, much of this building burned down in 1894 when a fire sparked inside a restroom. The stone walls remained. This edifice was reused and rebuilt with a much lower roofline (removing much of the ornate design) and a stone clocktower. Today, we see the remnants of the original building through the east and west wings, but the large Beaux-Arts lobby section of the current building was completed in 1914 as an expansion of space to accommodate the huge influx of visitors and train-travelers to Denver. As the summer months approach, Denver will be celebrating the centennial of this section and the reborn grandeur of what remains as Union Station.

1881 Union Station with original clocktower and ornate roofline. Photo courtesy of History Colorado (F50.839)

1881 Union Station with original clocktower and ornate roofline. Photo courtesy of History Colorado (F50.839)

1894 Union Station after fire with new clocktower and simplified roofline. Photo courtesy of History Colorado (F50.883).

1894 Union Station after fire with new clocktower and simplified roofline. Photo courtesy of History Colorado (F50.883).

Union Station was a prominent transportation center through the 1950s but was eclipsed in use by the growing popularity of air travel and the move toward a more auto-dependent society. What is perhaps most miraculous is that Denver never demolished its old train station during the spate of urban renewal efforts that ruled over the city during the middle and late 20th century. During the Peña administration, voters of the city rejected efforts to turn Union Station into the city’s convention center complex. That scenario from 1985 was the last big threat to the survival of the station area as we know it today. It did reflect just how vexing the “problem” of Union Station had become. What should a city do with its underutilized and empty former train station? It turns out, for Denver at least, the answer resided in what the station had historically been used for—train travel.

Through a monumental planning effort, the City and County of Denver, RTD, and numerous public and private partners (as well as Denver voters who rejected the convention center idea in 1985 and Metro Denver voters who approved FasTracks in 2004), have achieved a truly magnificent milestone in the preservation and adaptive reuse of Union Station as both a hotel and public transit space. Large numbers of people will once again walk through the station’s grand atrium in order to access transportation, including trains! For a big part of the 20th century, Denver was demolishing historic buildings and creating an infrastructure that catered to the automobile by building more roads and parking lots to appease consumer demand. All of that is changing and new choices are being promoted with the continued preservation efforts in the Lower Downtown Denver Historic District and the soon-to-be-reopened Union Station.

(Thanks to Michael Vincent, star-intern and CSU student at the History Colorado Center for his assistance in researching and writing this blog entry).


Downtown Reinvestment: Colorado State Capitol Update #3

A couple of months ago, we reported that the white scrim was starting to come off of the Colorado State Capitol dome and it would take around six weeks before we would start to see the gold dome completely uncovered. The time has finally arrived and the gold dome has never looked so good!

The dome doesn’t look real compared to the shape it was in before. Even with an overcast backdrop, the new gold looks very sharp!  Here are four pictures of the dome from today

 

 

The Colorado State Capitol building is getting a once in a lifetime restoration; we should feel very lucky we are able to see this! The project will be fully complete by late summer.