Larimer Square has been in the news again, and that is good. The announcement by the Square’s owner — Jeff Hermanson and his development partners with the Denver firm Urban Villages – said they would not demolish any of the historic buildings. Instead, buildings judged non-historic could be altered or replaced by new buildings.
There are five properties that are considered open for change, four of which carry signage from their occupants: 1400 Larimer St. (Tamayo), 1406 Larimer St. (Starbucks), 1450 Larimer St. (The Capital Grille), 1465 Larimer St. (Ocean Prime), plus a parking structure at 1422 Market St. To get a better sense of how these buildings are scattered through the block, check out the map on the link to the BusinessDen story).
As Historic Denver has noted on its page devoted to the ongoing Larimer Square saga that began in 2018, “Missing from this announcement was a commitment to whether they will respect the full scope of the legal protections the community put in place for Larimer Square, long before this owner or developer came into the picture.”
Since the Square is the city’s first designated historic district, the Square’s rules and regulations need to be honored, or other districts could face similar issues.
If you buy an historic building – or a collection of historic buildings – check out the infrastructure and conditions before you plunk down your money. Those of us who have purchased an historic building (or a condo in an historic building), know to study up before signing on the line.
Marketing is in full swing. I can say that as someone who has read probably a thousand press releases over the years. If I say “Protect Larimer Square,” doesn’t that make you think that the Square will be protected? That’s the name of the web page the owner and development partner named their page. It is heartfelt. It is beautifully designed. And it is ingenious. In a way, this announcement does protect Larimer Square, since only non-historic buildings will be affected. But new proposed infill properties might disrupt the aesthetics of the block as a whole.
Ingenious is another way to describe the tiny storefront where visitors can learn about the history of the Square, offer comments, and play with mini LEGO’s® to create a new streetscape (the blocks are all white, so it’s sort of hard to figure out which is what, but to me it says something about Denver). The informational storyboards also are beautiful, and overall it is a charming space. That’s why marketing was invented. The address is 1411 Larimer St., and the space isopen from about noon-ish to 6 p.m. or so.
Finally, if you get a call asking you to be part of a telephone town hall meeting about Larimer Square, now that is really interesting. I did not dial in at the very beginning, but they dialed me. Questioners offered their first name only, but the questions weren’t either too tough or too easy — just sort of in the middle. They covered the potential for funding (tax credits, grants, the Urban Land Conservancy, even the Denver Urban Renewal Authority), to attracting a variety of income groups.
The person giving the answers (Jon Buerge, from Urban Villages) noted, “Our goal is to reach out to the whole city. Larimer Square is treasured by everybody.”