Perfecting Pleasantville

In many ways, Cherry Creek North represents the best of Denver. So why are the neighborhood's leaders so consumed with making it even better?

January 2008

The Cherry Creek North Design Advisory Board (DAB), essentially a council of elders alongside the BID, reviews exterior changes to neighborhood properties. Saiber, the DAB's chairman, says the board reserves the real scrutiny for applications that might truly alter the neighborhood feel, so Starbucks is free to replace a ripped awning, but a new roof might be another story. The DAB's enormous influence is largely due to the lofty profiles of its members. This includes Saiber, whose firm has been in Cherry Creek North for 20 years, and longtime clothier Lawrence Covell, one of the DAB's original members, a leader of the BID, and for decades an advocate for maintaining the area's cozy integrity. "We have no enforcement authority," Saiber says, "but we tend to be respected."

NorthCreek and Pura Vida surely will alter the area's vibe, albeit in a way that seems to appeal to the locals. Pura Vida's aim, says managing partner J Madden, is to "target the communion of mind and body" for its privileged clients (up to 1,000 people, the membership cap at press time) by offering comprehensive workout facilities, classes, myriad therapeutic and regenerative treatments, and, management hopes, lectures from doctors in fields such as acupuncture and bio-identical hormones—anti-aging techniques, to the uninitiated. A multimedia tour on the Pura Vida website features interiors that mimic the feel of an Ian Schrager hotel, and the site displays snapshots of exercisers, some toned and young, some quite old. Pura Vida will allow no one under 18 and has no daycare options. "We figure people with kids will know how to handle that," Madden says.

It's a far cry from the former no-frills tenant. "The neighborhood got the wind knocked out of it a bit when Tattered Cover left," Madden says. "But hopefully we'll be the heartbeat that's returning." Madden looks a little like Hugh Hefner, only—fittingly enough for a veteran health club executive—younger and more cut, and he speaks with the self-assuredness you'd expect from someone who substitutes a lone initial for his first name. "We are using the dart in the bull's-eye marketing strategy because of our location," he says. "Everyone in the metro area who's familiar with this zip code knows who lives here, who shops and socializes here. There's a gap in the high-end health club market geographically, but we're right in that hole in the donut."

Across Fillmore Plaza, NorthCreek residents will have an exclusive, Gramercy Park-style locked courtyard, along with numerous decks and terraces from which they can look down on their Cherry Creek neighbors. Originally 44 units, the complex now has 29 after some buyers doubled up. There is no model unit; residents can build out their interiors however they'd like, and they have one year from their purchase date to complete construction. Many residents are empty-nesters or mountain homeowners who want a pied-à-terre when they're in town. "A lot of them are from Aspen, and we call this our 'ski-in, ski-out' location," Steel says.

The tallest part of the complex, along Detroit Street, features condos starting at $1 million, many already occupied. The building along Second Avenue has eight units starting at $2.6 million. The final phase, which will be completed by the end of 2008, is a row of "brownstones," townhouses with decks looking out over Fillmore Plaza, giving owners luxury box seating for the promenade's numerous attractions. Parts of the underground garage will be public-access, but only NorthCreek residents will enjoy valet parking.

Local zoning rules also dictate that any new residential buildings have retail on the ground floor, emblematic of Cherry Creek North's fervent desire to promote its businesses. NorthCreek, however, won't have any restaurants or bars. "With the money they're spending, they don't want that kind of nighttime activity underneath their windows," Steel says. Saiber adds that more NorthCreek-type renovations may be on the way, condos roosting atop storefronts. "The whole intention of this rule is to create vibrance," he says. "We want a consistent elevation of the retail experience."