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The happy blur of the teenage years makes pinpointing a date difficult, but the image is clear in my memory: I was standing at the corner of 14th and Larimer streets staring up at what I remember as a vintage Cadillac suspended over the entryway to a restaurant. As a 17- or 18-year-old visiting Denver from Atlanta, I didn’t know if Cadillac Ranch was a chain or that the building that (mostly) housed it was far newer than the other buildings on the street. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care, because I was completely captivated by the blocklong throwback to the Mile High City’s early days.
Roughly 25 years later, Cadillac Ranch is gone (replaced by Tamayo in 2001), as are many of the other restaurants and retailers from the mid-1990s. Times change, after all. What hasn’t changed is that I—and many other Denverites—still find Larimer Square’s historical buildings, with their late-Victorian-era charm, incredibly alluring. But the appeal isn’t just the architecture; since the aughts, Larimer Square has been known for its strong contingent of locally owned, independent businesses. Soon that may no longer be the case.
5280 associate editor Chris Walker investigated the tack that new ownership group Asana Partners appears to be taking with Denver’s most iconic block in this month’s “Losing Larimer”. What he found is, by turns, disappointing, maddening, and potentially grounds for optimism. “So many of Larimer’s longtime small-business owners feel ignored and mistreated by Asana,” Walker says. “Yet Asana is investing in badly needed renovations and looking to bring in national businesses that could provide stability to the area. It’s complicated.”
Business deals worth $92.5 million usually are. Still, Asana’s lack of communication—including declining to be interviewed by 5280—isn’t winning it many friends among those who have long loved Larimer Square.
Corrections: This article originally stated that Larimer Square’s Cadillac Ranch was a chain; it was not part of a chain of the same name. The article has also been changed to reflect that the memory of the writer of an ornamental vintage Cadillac cannot be confirmed by the original owner.