Denver’s most famous block may soon be controlled by a North Carolina-based firm.
Asana Partners, a real estate firm headquartered in Charlotte, is under contract to buy Larimer Square.
Jeff Hermanson, the block’s current owner, confirmed the pending deal after BusinessDen told him it had obtained a document identifying the potential buyer.
“As I stated in my letter to tenants, it was important to me to find a new owner for Larimer Square who would respect the legacy of this historic block and bring the resources to ensure its continued vitality,” Hermanson said in an email. “We can confirm we have selected a potential buyer, Asana Partners. Given the status of the transaction, we cannot provide any additional information right now, but will make an official statement once a transaction has closed.”
An Asana Partners executive declined to comment.
The sale would be the first in more than a quarter century for the 1400 block of Larimer Street, which was the first local historic district designated in Denver. Hermanson, CEO of Larimer Associates, has owned the buildings since 1993. Denver-based Urban Villages helps manage the block.
Asana would buy the block under the name AP Larimer Square LLC, according to the document obtained by BusinessDen, which was sent to current tenants. That entity was registered with the state on Nov. 3, records show.
Asana, which focuses on retail properties, entered the Denver market in mid-2019 when it purchased a building along Tennyson Street. It has made purchases along the Berkeley retail corridor three more times since, paying a total of $6.9 million, records show. The most recent purchase was in March.
Larimer Square is considered the oldest commercial block in Denver. Some structures along the block date to the late 1800s.
Denver developer and preservationist Dana Crawford originally assembled the buildings along both sides of the street under her ownership, and the block was designated a historic district in 1971. In 1986, according to Westword, Crawford sold Larimer Square to the Hahn Co., which owned shopping malls around the country. Hermanson owned restaurants along Larimer Square before buying the block from Hahn seven years later.
The future of Larimer Square has been a subject of public discussion in recent years.
In early 2018, Hermanson and Urban Villages proposed demolishing portions of the block and building two new structures, both significantly taller than existing ones.
The parties said the older buildings along the block need tens of millions of dollars’ worth of renovations, and the added density would have made undertaking those renovations financially feasible. The project would have needed the Denver City Council to amend the block’s 64-foot height restriction. After criticism of the proposal — including from Crawford — and the formation of an advisory committee, the proposal was abandoned.
Hermanson and Urban Village opened a storefront on the street in early 2019 in an effort to gather more public feedback regarding the block’s future.
“Larimer Square is not going to stay how it is,” Urban Village’s Jon Buerge told BusinessDen that February. “It’s going to change.”
Hermanson subsequently pledged not to demolish any historic buildings in connection with redevelopment. While some structures date back more than a century, others — like those occupied by Ocean Prime and Starbucks — have been added more recently. Hermanson also owns a parking garage facing Market Street that backs up to Larimer Square.
In recent months, amidst a pandemic that has posed significant challenges to the retail sector, Larimer Square has seen some notable tenants close, such as The Market in Larimer Square, which opened in 1979. The block has attracted a number of new tenants, although most are on shorter-term leases. The street has been closed to vehicular traffic for months, allowing restaurant seating to spill into the streets.