Owner pulls plug to heighten Larimer Square structures

larimer square rendering

Rendering of the two Larimer Square buildings, rising behind brick structures on the left and right. (Urban Villages)

The owner of Denver’s Larimer Square is shelving a development proposal announced in February that called for two new structures, both taller than the existing buildings, to be added to the block.

Block owner Jeff Hermanson and Jon Buerge, chief development officer with partner Urban Villages, said in an email last week that they’ve “taken a step back from our initial concepts” and convened an advisory committee to give input on the future of the block.

“The committee’s goal is to identify a workable, collaborative solution to Larimer Square’s challenges so Jeff and Urban Villages can bring forth a new plan to the public and to the city,” the pair said in response to emailed questions.

The Denver Post first reported the developers were rethinking the February proposal. 

The February development proposal called for one new structure to be added to each side of the block, behind existing structures.

Buerge said at the time that the building closer to Market Street would likely be eight to 12 stories with 300 apartment units, about 90 percent of which would be reserved for individuals making less than 80 percent of the area median income. The other building was to be taller – no floor count was given – and feature a mix of hotel rooms and condominiums, as well as retail and restaurant space.

“The plan we put forth was an economically viable plan that required no public funding and addressed the challenges facing the block,” Hermanson and Buerge said last week. “Because we are focused very heavily on preservation, the plan retained more than 90 percent of the historic structures, and demolition was limited to the rear of buildings.

“However, as stated, we’re shelving that plan to work collaboratively with the Advisory Committee on new proposed solutions,” the two said.

Critics of the original proposal include Dana Crawford, who owned the block before Hermanson and is credited with its revitalization.

In an op-ed published in The Denver Post last week, Crawford and Historic Denver Executive Director Annie Levinsky wrote that the two towers “would destroy the block’s integrity and scale, reduce the historic buildings to kitschy, storefront facades, and open a Pandora’s box on the future of more than 400 historic landmarks and districts in Denver’s neighborhoods.” 

The advisory committee met for the first time last week. Hermanson and Buerge said the committee consists of about 50 people.

Crawford and Levinsky, who wrote the op-ed, are on the committee.

Hermanson and Buerge said change is needed because of the age of the block’s structures, many of which date to the late 1800s.

“Part of that change needs to be a deep dive into the buildings’ systems as most have reached the end of their useful lives,” the two said. “Furthermore early restoration techniques have contributed to some of the buildings’ degradation. It’s time to make a significant, long-term investment; and the vitality of the city justifies it.”

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