Does democracy die in darkness?

larimer square screen shot 2018-12-13 at 12.39.00 pm

I think it does. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” — the motto on the masthead of The Washington Post – is a reminder every day. It also means that metro Denver residents need to know what is happening during this period of expansive growth and change in the region.

But today, we’re again looking at Larimer Square, because the situation is changing.

On December 13, I posted what I could find out about the mega-committee picked to consider how Larimer Square could move into the future, regarding how new development could support repairs to the historic buildings.

The committee met in private, which to me didn’t make sense. Not quite a year ago, Larimer Associates and Urban Villages, Inc., had announced they wanted to “revitalize” the one-block-long historic stretch of Denver’s early commercial area from the 1860s. Larimer Square is the city’s first designated landmark district. It’s one of those places you hope remains of its period – not frozen in amber, but not dramatically changed.

After a loud blow-back, the plans for revitalization were put on a shelf, and a committee was established to advise the owners.

This past December, Jon Buerge, Chief Development Officer of Urban Villages, Inc., said in a voicemail that there would be opportunities for the public to weigh in: “Absolutely, there is going to be a public process for a while. There will be various forms of public engagement.”

I know these buildings are privately owned, but it’s the public that makes Larimer Square so attractive. The owners also have used tax credits to do work at Larimer Square. And the city promotes that one little block because of its historic importance. It is a reminder of Denver’s roots, saved many years ago as block after block was being scraped clean to make way for urban renewal.

A story posted today on BusinessDen notes that the committee was dissolved at the December meeting, and Larimer Associates and Urban Villages, Inc., are moving into a public phase.

BusinessDen reporter Thomas Gounley quotes Buerge about the future:

“Our goal was to dive into details and explore the concerns and opportunities with a group of very involved stakeholders,” Buerge said.

“While Larimer Square is a privately owned property, it’s a public asset.”

Yes, it is.

There is much more information in Gounley’s story, at this link:

2 Replies to “Does democracy die in darkness?”

  1. This is one case where we desperately need for the “public” to come forward and say no way. This is not about compromise. It is a case where we need to have everyone who cares about Larimer Square to speak out against any ideas that change this historic place, Denver’s first Historic District. The developers have received decades of Historic Tax credits, so one has to ask where that money has been spent? If not in the maintenance of this community treasure, then where? I am not in favor of design by committee, but I don’t see what a public process will produce that could be a favorable outcome for this area. The point is, if the public simply just says no, then is the project dead? If the agenda includes an honest discussion regarding potential alternatives, including creative ideas of a new BID, or a trade off to higher density on another site, then a productive conversation could be held. But if this is an attempt to justify a new 40 story tower, And a 12 story housing project, right in the middle of the Historic District, then the public process should necessarily result in “no way, no how”. My fear with public process on this block would be the public getting duped into a debate,” if not 40 stories, then how about 20?”, when in reality the right answer is to do nothing harmful to this vital community asset, and one of only a few places that preserves the historical context of original Denver.


    1. I was pleased to see that the committee has stopped meeting, and I hope that the public meetings are announced widely. There are calls to make, definitely. This is a place that is different in so many ways. I know that public process can become polarized, but I hope cooler — or is it wiser? — heads prevail. Thanks, Rich.


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