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When Denver’s Mainspring Developers bought a parcel of land saddled with an old brick warehouse at 3040 Blake Street in RiNo, the easy approach would have been to level the faded relic and start fresh. Instead, a savvy renovate-and-reuse initiative resulted in Backyard on Blake, a hip retail and eatery complex that preserves the warehouse’s original character and showcases an innovative new addition. “We used the old building as inspiration for the new building, using repurposed bricks and metal paneling to point to elements of the neighborhood that were already there,” says lead designer Brandon Kellogg of Sprocket Design-Build. “RiNo was factories and warehouses to begin with. Now it’s a melting pot of entrepreneurs—a new generation of makers and artists carrying the torch.”
Thirteen businesses—including a homewares store, clothing and shoe retailers, a fitness studio, the Preservery restaurant, and Blue Sparrow Coffee—are thriving in the two buildings, which enclose an inviting landscaped courtyard. “As the city gets bigger and we see higher density, it’s really important for people to feel like they have a community,” says Mainspring president Fiona Arnold. “For businesses to have a place where they can support one another.”
The project, which won a 2016 “Remix Award” from Historic Denver for best adaptive reuse of an existing building, highlights original warehouse elements: exposed timber and ceiling trusses and concrete floors with cracks and flaws intentionally preserved. “We did what we could to showcase that grit,” Kellogg says, “but smoothed it out to be walkable and shiny.”
New building (upper left-hand corner of image)
A modern L-shaped building, which houses a co-working space upstairs, integrates seamlessly with its historical counterpart.
Upper deck (behind and to the right of “Backyard” sign)
The rooftop—a public space that can host events like farm-to-table dinners—is home to two gardens that supply the Preservery restaurant with fresh ingredients.
Anchored by a honey locust tree, the courtyard offers shoppers and diners “a little more outdoors than they would get on the balcony of their townhouse,” Arnold says.
Original warehouse (bottom-right building)
The historical brick warehouse, built in 1930, got a facelift with added windows and doors—“true to the original style,” Kellogg says—to accommodate multiple vendors.
Patio (bottom-left side of the original warehouse)
In one corner of the courtyard, garage doors at the Preservery open up to a patio perfect for happy hour.