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Archive of posts filed under the Historic Preservation category.

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.

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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.

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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  Since they purchased the building in 2007, MAC has replaced the outdated HVAC system, the roof, and the smoke detection and alarm systems.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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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A few more images of the building at grand opening:

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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.