With their high-profile buildings, Mark Smith and Craig Nassi bring to life wildly different visions of downtown living.
One project is a blank canvas, where big bucks and city support are creating a brand new neighborhood in the Central Platte Valley. East West Partners’ Mark Smith embraced the city’s master plan for this vacant lot and created an urban neighborhood that extends downtown beyond Union Station. His Riverfront Park buildings are brick and steel and echo the flavor of LoDo. “I’m a purist,” says Smith. “These are masonry buildings because I love old buildings and I love the way they were built.” His company is the Central Platte Valley’s biggest landowner, holding more than 30 acres in their portfolio. And with that comes the ability to define the look of the area. They build the buildings, they choose the retail anchoring the ground level. “When you develop one building at a time you can’t control what’s across the street. Here we can control a consistent look and feel for the entire neighborhood,” Smith says.
It may be Denver’s newest neighborhood, but the Riverfront land has lived many lives. Prospectors struck gold here, transients (from more than one era) have called it home, and the railroads wove a complicated web through the valley. The polluted Platte River and the railroads also left their mark on the land. To look at Smith’s Riverfront today, it’s hard to believe it was classified as a Superfund site. But it was cleaned up in the early ’90s and finally sold to East West Partners on Christmas Eve 1998.