Building a Newer (Cooler) Denver

The 20 commercial real estate projects you need to know about.

March 2016

—Illustrations by Maïté Franchi

Forget the mountains. The most inspiring view in Denver right now may come courtesy of the towering cranes filling the skyline. Dynamic commercial projects are transforming the city into a denser, more functional, and (arguably) more compelling place to live. How? Let us introduce you to some of the new buildings next door (organized by neighborhood).

Union Station

Build it, and the private sector will come.

More than one expert we spoke with called the $500 million renovation of downtown’s Union Station a “once-in-a-generation” project. They were talking about the quality of the work, sure, but also about the fact that the long underused station presented an opportunity to create a city-defining landmark. Open for a little less than two years, the refurbished depot has a hotel, restaurants, bars, and retail outlets, not to mention a bustling transit center. The hope was the project would spur investment—and it has done just that. “The developments happening in LoDo prove an axiom that there needs to be a there there,” says Chris Frampton, one of the master developers of the Union Station project. With Union Station serving as a people magnet, developers are blending millions of square feet of cubicle-ready office space with residences, shops, eateries, and hotels—rather than constructing single-use towers that would leave our streets stagnant at night.

Platform At Union Station

1650 Wewatta St.

Developer: Holland Partner Group (Vancouver, Washington)
Size: 21 stories; 240,000 square feet
Completion Date: March 2015
Cost: Not available

  • Project Summary: East West Partners’ Chris Frampton calls the Platform “the holy grail of urban development”: a bevy of moneyed consumers…er…residents in the middle of a busy commercial district.
  • Design: One of the first 20-plus-story residential buildings in the Union
  • Station neighborhood, the Platform offers postcard-worthy views of the Rockies and Union Station’s iconic electric orange sign.
  • Eat: Tupelo Honey Café—a North Carolina–based chain famous for Southern brunches, including fried chicken and handmade biscuits that will bring back memories of playing up in the holler, even if you have never actually played in one—is slated to open in the Platform’s first-floor retail level during the fourth quarter of this year.
  • Live: Residents of the 287 apartments (rents start at $1,585 for a one-bedroom unit and top out at $7,000 for two bedrooms) can relax in the 14th-floor pool and Jacuzzi or untangle during instructor-led classes in the on-site fitness studio.

The Triangle Building

1550 Wewatta St.

Developer: East West Partners (Denver)
Size: 10 stories; 225,000 square feet
Completion Date: December 2015
Cost: $85 million

  • Project Summary: The Triangle Building turned an ideally located but ill-shaped plot of land into a hub for LoDo workers and commuters.
  • Shop:  A Capital One Cafe, where bank customers can lounge in a Starbucks-like setting, will fill part of its 6,500 square feet of ground-floor retail. The baristas double as bank tellers. (Seriously.)
  • Work: New York City–based WeWork, a co-working chain, snapped up 72,000 square feet of office space to open its first Denver location, while Liberty Global, a cable provider, grabbed 70,000 on the top three floors.
  • Ride: The city will put the Bike Hub at Union Station—160 two-wheeler parking spots that can be leased daily, monthly, or annually—inside a key-card protected structure in an adjacent plaza.

The A Block At Union Station

1881 16th St.

Developer:  Continuum Partners (Denver)
Size: 310,055 square feet
Completion Date: Fourth quarter of 2016
Cost: $120 million

  • Project Summary: A 12-story boutique hotel, one of the project’s two structures, will be located a short shuffle from the station for the new RTD rail line to and from the airport. Tenants of the second building (a five-story, 53,000-square-foot office building with retail on the ground floor) probably won’t mind the convenience, either.
  • Eat: Two restaurants—one is being developed by the duo behind Boulder’s Frasca Food and Wine; the other dining tenant hasn’t been signed yet—will move into the hotel.
  • Stay: The Kimpton Group, managers of Denver’s Hotel Monaco on Champa Street, will operate a 200-room hotel here. The interior designer says the aesthetic will convey a “modern alpine lodge”—which, we’re assuming, means bearded bellhops wearing flannel uniforms.
  • Work: Bank of America has leased 3,500 square feet on the first floor for a retail branch, while Antero Resources, an oil and gas company, will take floors two through four. Continuum Partners, the project’s developer, will assume residence in the penthouse.

1601 Wewatta

Developer: Jordon Perlmutter & Co. (Denver) and Hines (Houston)
Size: 10 stories; 300,000 square feet
Completion Date: November 2015
Cost: $300 million

  • Project Summary: The amenities at 1601 Wewatta—from distinctive dining options to five bucolic terraces—exemplify the lengths to which developers are going to lure office tenants.
  • Eat: The California-based Grill Concepts restaurant group will locate its eighth Public School on Tap on the ground floor. With 24 craft brews on draft, the classroom-inspired eatery will serve upscale pub grub like shrimp and cheddar grits. Grill Concepts will also operate Wewatta Point, a seafood restaurant, on the first floor.
  • Play: Colorado Athletic Club’s eighth facility will occupy the second floor. As usual, the club will offer unlimited fitness classes, strength and cardio equipment, and smoothies at its Energy Bar Café.
  • Work: 1601 Wewatta’s anchor tenant is Hogan Lovells (an international law firm with more than 2,500 attorneys spread across 46 offices), which will set up shop on the top two-and-a-half floors.

—Photos courtesy of (from top) Markus Bryon/MBR Studios, Anderson Mason Dale Architects, Semple Brown Design, Hines

Blessed Union

Mark Falcone of Continuum Partners and Chris Frampton of East West Partners, Union Station’s masterminds, provide perspective as the huge venture winds down.

5280: What were you worried about when you began?

Mark Falcone: What was there not to worry about in 2008? The writing was on the wall that the market was in for a long struggle.

Chris Frampton: It was four years before anything got going again.

MF: My father has a great little saying he shared with me: “Son, for a good piece of real estate there is no problem that time can’t heal. If you don’t run out of money first.”

What was your goal for Union Station?

CF: I always talk about the virtuous cycle. Maybe you start with residential, maybe office, maybe retail. But one helps the other. CEOs want their employees to walk downstairs to 300 restaurants and bars and for them to have breakout sessions at baseball games.

Are you worried about developers ruining what you’ve started?

CF: We’re not because we know everyone who’s coming in. And it’s not just our project that’s wrapping up. The entire Union Station neighborhood will be under construction by December 2016.

What aspect of Union Station are you most pleased with?

MF: I’ll admit I didn’t want the interactive fountains. Frampton regularly sends me photos of kids in their wet, hanging diapers, which is what I was concerned about. But I think we got that right. I feel personally very proud of that.

Left: Chris Frampton (photo courtesy of East West Partners), Right: Mark Falcone (photo courtesy of Continuum Partners)