One of Denver's most famous blocks needs some work, but won't be demolished.
Less than a month after opening a “community center” in Larimer Square to hear people’s hopes and concerns for the future of the storied block, the property’s owner has announced none of the historic buildings there will be demolished to make way for new development.
For some historic preservation advocates, though, vowing not to alter buildings is just the first step to protecting the square’s historic character.
Larimer Square owner Jeff Hermansonand his development partners with Denver firm Urban Villages have held fast to the position that new construction along the1400 block of Larimer Street is essential to keeping the aging buildings there functional and accessible into the future. The birthplace of Denver in the 1850s, the block today is populated with posh shops, upscale restaurants and boutique office space, its 20 historic buildings interspersed with a handful of small-scale modern structures.
Conceptual plans Hermanson’s group released last winter called for alterations to some of the 19th-century buildings there. On Tuesday however, the team declared they will not be knocking down anything historic as part of their redevelopment efforts.
“We’ve always been focused on retaining the block’s historic integrity,” Hermanson, Larimer Square’s owner for 26 years, said in a statement. “The best avenue forward is to avoid demolition of historic buildings.”
The announcement comes amid an ongoing public outreach effort on the square. After running into vocal opposition to their initial proposal (which called for two tall buildings to be built in the block’s opposing alleys), Hermanson and Urban Villages last year convened an advisory group of historic preservation advocates, community leaders and neighborhood residents to talk over the block’s condition, maintenance needs and potential plans for the future.
Some of the participants in that group expressed frustration about how the meetings were conducted. Others were perturbed that the meetings were closed to the general public. But Hermanson and Urban Villages last month opened a new front in their effort to gather input on their ideas: A drop-in community center at 1411 Larimer St. An online forum has also been launched at ProtectLarimerSquare.com and a series of telephone “town hall” sessions allowing people to weigh in is being planned as well.
“From affordable housing, to converting the street to a public park, to school-based education programs, there is no shortage of ideas,” Jon Beurge, chief development officer for Urban Villages, said in a statement Tuesday “Our job now is to continue listening to what Denver wants and needs, and ultimately synthesize those ideas into a cohesive plan for the future of the block that poises it for the next 100 years while protecting its history.”