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Archive of posts filed under the Revitalization 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  Since they purchased the building in 2007, MAC has replaced the outdated HVAC system, the roof, and the smoke detection and alarm systems.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.


West Colfax Mobility Improvement Project Completed

This past weekend, the West Colfax Business Improvement District (WCBID) celebrated the near completion of a mobility improvement project on West Colfax Avenue between Federal and Sheridan Boulevards. The project, which has been in planning and development for nearly three years, includes new pedestrian-scale signage, seven artist-designed bus shelters and entry monument signage on both ends of the corridor. The project aims to encourage pedestrian traffic and mass transit use on West Colfax and throughout the surrounding neighborhood by connecting people to local parks, light-rail stations and other destinations such as the new Denver Library branch set to open on West Colfax in early 2015.  All aspects of the project incorporate the WCBID’s logo therefore helping to create a brand for the up-and-coming West Colfax corridor. The “W” logo can be seen on the entry monument shown in the photo below.

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Funded by the Denver Office of Economic Development the new signage, bus stations, and branding is also intended to help jump start additional redevelopment along the corridor. Together with bicycle signage also being installed throughout the neighborhood, these new elements form a wayfinding system that is designed to comprehensively connect pedestrians and bicyclists to neighborhood assets. Together with the bus shelters, these directional signs and enhanced transit amenities support WCBID’s efforts to encourage pedestrian and bike transport in West Colfax and create a more healthy, dynamic and  interactive community culture that will support local businesses.

While this project certainly isn’t as monumental as the recent reconstruction of 14th Street downtown or as pretty as improvements to South Broadway or North Tennyson Street, for example, there is certainly something unique to be seen here. I believe that the exciting thing about this project (unlike so many other pedestrian improvement projects) is that it anticipates the pedestrians rather than simply acknowledging an existing pedestrian presence. As it exists today, there is very little pedestrian traffic on West Colfax, but with new developments coming online including Mile High Vista at Colfax and Irving and the redevelopment of the St Anthony’s hospital, there is potential for more pedestrian traffic in the near future. Additionally, acknowledging and enhancing what little pedestrian traffic is already on the street goes along way toward encouraging more pedestrians to make their way onto the corridor. Putting just a few more people in front of existing businesses and empty storefronts just might be the ticket that sparks additional redevelopment.

Here’s a closer look at the components.

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The wayfinding signage (above) and entry monuments designed by Tom Rodgers with Hyperform Design Cooperative (as part of a larger master plan for the corridor executed several years ago) are designed to reflect the rich history of mid-century “Googie” signage on Colfax Ave while also giving the corridor a bold modern look. The entry monument on the east end (pictured earlier) replaced an existing, but tired, welcome sign located at Colfax and Irving, while on the west end of the corridor, Dan Shah of the WCBID somewhat miraculously managed to convince the Walgreen’s corporation to mount an identical sign on the concrete wall surrounding their parking lot at the intersection of Sheridan and Colfax. The wayfinding signs are located on both sides of Colfax Avenue and occur on nearly every block throughout the corridor. They help to continually reinforce the theme set up by the entry signage.

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The bus shelters, designed by local artist Emmett Culligan, also pay homage to the mid-century modern car culture with their unique “inflated” stainless steel columns and bright colors (as seen in the pictures above). Each of the seven shelters is painted a different color of the spectrum and has matching plexiglass panels. As you travel down West Colfax from east to west the stations are placed in spectral order from red to purple. Interestingly enough, however, the shelters aren’t actually new. In order to complement the WCBID’s other sustainability goals (you can see the solar streetlight in the photo above) the BID and the artist worked with RTD to refurbish and place seven identical bus shelters along the corridor. This was no easy task as only three of the shelters already existed on West Colfax. In order to create the rest of the set, RTD and the BID swapped out three non-matching shelters from West Colfax with matching shelters elsewhere in the system and pulled one more matching shelter out of storage. A pretty amazing feat if you ask me. Once the refurbished shelters were placed on site, the artist simply mounted his inflated stainless steel tubes to the corners of the existing shelter to finish off the new look (the “inflated” tubes are made by blowing compressed air into extremely hot steel to create the “air-stream” like forms).

So next time you’re traveling by on West Colfax (in whatever transit mode you happen to be taking) check out the new bus shelters and wayfinding signage. And maybe (if you’re so inclined) linger a bit and imagine a fully revitalized corridor complete with shops, restaurants, new housing and, most of all, healthy and sustainable pedestrian street life. It’s not so much of a distant future.


Adaptive Reuse: Avanti Food and Beverage

Adaptive reuse—that’s planner-speak for the repurposing of an old building—is an important part of helping cities revitalize and grow in a sustainable way. Some adaptive reuse projects are no-brainers, where the historic and architectural quality of the existing building is so great that to demolish the building instead of reusing it doesn’t make any sense. Good examples would include the Colorado National Bank (now the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel) and The Source.

Then there’s the adaptive reuse project called Avanti Food and Beverage at 32nd and Pecos in Lower Highland. The existing building looks like this today:

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Okay, maybe not an architectural masterpiece, but that’s alright! Even if the structure itself isn’t all that glamorous, the reuse of an old building—in addition to being an environmentally friendly option—helps preserve some of the neighborhood’s physical scale and offers a reminder of fast-changing Lower Highland’s economic roots. This structure, built in 1935, was occupied by Avanti Printing and Graphics for many years. Here’s a view of the inside:

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After its physical transformation is complete, this will be the home of Avanti Food and Beverage, a “collective eatery.” The concept behind this project is really cool. Most people are now familiar with coworking spaces, where small start-up companies share office space and resources and collaborate with each other. Avanti Food and Beverage will be very similar, except it’s for restaurants instead.

The building will house eight different restaurants, each operating out of a modified 8′ x 20′ shipping container. This allows restaurant entrepreneurs, particularly up-and-coming chefs, the opportunity to launch a new restaurant or test a new food concept for a fraction of the cost of building out a traditional restaurant space, all while fostering creativity in a cooperative “restaurant incubator” environment. Customers will have a great selection of affordably priced and innovative food, plenty of indoor and outdoor seating areas to share, and two bars offering adult beverages.

Here are a couple of images, courtesy of the Avanti development team. Here’s an example of the shipping container-turned-kitchen:

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and here is the ground-level interior floor plan showing five of the eight shipping container/restaurants, shared seating areas, and one of the bar areas:

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Three more restaurant spaces, the other bar, and additional seating will be built out on the roof, providing awesome views of the Downtown Denver skyline. Here’s a rendering of the rooftop deck, followed by a photo I took from the roof (the power lines will be buried):

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The building will be given a thorough makeover and new windows will bring a lot of natural light to the interior. The grounds will be landscaped along with additional patio seating overlooking Highland Gateway Park:

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Renovation work will be getting underway soon and the project is planned to open Spring 2015.   

The Avanti Food and Beverage project is fantastic in so many ways. It renovates an old building in disrepair; it infuses energy and activity next to a small public park; it adds an innovative concept to Denver’s booming culinary scene; and it brings another great dining option to Denver’s hottest restaurant neighborhood.


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.