An ambitious plan to redevelop at least a segment of Denver’s popular and historic Larimer Square has been put on hold in the wake of opposition from preservationists and community activists.
Earlier this year, the Denver-based Larimer Associates proposed a plan that would see the construction of new affordable housing units, as well as possible condominium space and a hotel, on a block that is known for its 19th century red brick Victorian structures.
The plan specifically called for putting up two new buildings in two separate alleyways bordering the Larimer Square neighborhood.
Those buildings, according to an earlier version of the redevelopment plan, would be at least six stories in height, or two stories taller than the average Larimer Square structure.
The response to the plan, done in conjunction with the Denver-based Urban Villages, has proven mostly negative from area residents and preservationists who say the redevelopment effort would substantially alter Larimer Square’s character.
This spring, noting that Larimer Square was defined as a historic district by the Denver City Council in 1971, the National Trust of Washington listed it as one of the 11 most endangered places in the country.
Taking specific aim at the Larimer Associates/Urban Village plan, the National Trust said the square is currently “threatened by an inappropriate development proposal that calls for partial demolition of several buildings, the potential construction of two towers, and weakening the groundbreaking ordinance that has long protected the famous square.”
The first business neighborhood in Denver, with roots reaching to the late 1800s, Larimer Square was soon also known for its many gambling houses and saloons, before falling into decline by the 1950s and 60s.
The formation of a group called the Larimer Square Associates led to the area’s revival and its subsequent development as a neighborhood of restaurants, cafes, and coffeehouses, as well as outdoor community and walking space.
Although a newly-formed Larimer Square Advisory Committee was formed this spring to evaluate the redevelopment proposal, what happens next won’t be known until Larimer Associates and the Urban Village firm present an updated plan.
By Garry Boulard
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