The owner of a pair of century-old buildings in downtown Denver wants to top them with dozens of floors of apartments in a project that’s been under consideration for more than a decade.
The plans by Denver-based AIR Communities, which were submitted to the city earlier this week, would result in a 53-story, 596-foot structure in the 1600 block of Champa Street.
“It will be an iconic-looking building in the skyline,” AIR Senior Vice President Patti Shwayder told BusinessDen.
If constructed, the tower would become the city’s sixth-tallest building. It would be the second-tallest building with a residential component, trailing only the Four Seasons building at 1111 14th St.
The project — which is still in an early design stage, and could change as AIR seeks city approvals — would affect the nine-story Boston building, which was built in 1890 at 828 17th St., and the eight-story Kistler Stationery Co. building, constructed in 1916 at 1640 Champa St. Between them, the two buildings have 158 apartments.
The project would also affect the existing parking garage next to the Kistler building, and the connected parking garage across the alley facing Stout Street.
All the structures are owned by AIR, whose formal name is Apartment Income REIT Corp. The company was formed in 2020 when Denver-based real estate investment trust Aimco split into two companies. AIR owns and manages apartment buildings, while the other company, still called Aimco, develops them.
In the concept plan submitted to the city, AIR Communities calls for the tower to be centered above the existing Kistler building and the parking garage next to it. The existing floors are included in the 53-floor count. Denver’s Tryba Architects drew up the plans.
AIR Senior Vice President Patti Shwayder told BusinessDen the company and predecessor Aimco have owned the properties since 2001, and have been planning the tower project since 2011.
“We look around our portfolio to see opportunities, and this is a good one,” she said.
Shwayder said the property’s current zoning allows for the tower height. The company received some needed approvals from Denver’s Landmark Preservation Commission back in 2013, but will need to go before the body again, she said.
“The Denver real estate market is hot, and now seems like the right time to press forward,” said Shwayder, adding the city needs more housing.
By submitting the concept plan on Tuesday, AIR’s project would not have to incorporate income-restricted units as required by a city law passed earlier this month, because concept plans submitted by June 30 are grandfathered inunder previous regulations. The city has seen a surge of concept plans ahead of the deadline.
Shwayder said the interior of the Boston and Kistler buildings would be renovated as part of the work. The entire resulting project, counting both the existing buildings and the new tower, would have a total of 585 units — an increase of 428 compared to the current count.
“The facades and landmark-defining features will not only be preserved, but enhanced,” she said.
Shwayder said AIR is thinking of the project as having multiple distinct “neighborhoods” within the one building, such as the historic base units versus new construction, and cheaper versus pricier units. The plans show 13 units on a typical floor of the tower, but as few as four per floor at the top of the structure.
AIR would not actually develop the project, she said, but instead hire a firm to do so. The developer could be Aimco, she said, or it could be another firm.
Shwayder said the project likely wouldn’t break ground before 2024, which would correspond to completion sometime in 2027. She noted that broader economic conditions could affect that timeline.
The two tallest buildings currently under construction in Denver are Riverside Investment & Development Co.’s 30-story 1900 Lawrence office tower and Amacon’s two-tower condo complex, which will top out at 38 stories. Both structures will be around 400 feet, enough to rank about No. 20 in terms of the city’s tallest buildings.
AIR’s project isn’t the only massive thing to be proposed downtown recently. In February, South Carolina-based Greystar submitted plans for a 47-story apartment tower on the parking lot at 650 17th St.