Industry Denver: Reinventing the Workplace in RiNo

In Denver's booming RiNo neighborhood, there are few projects as ambitious as Industry. The former warehouse and grocery terminal is now a "shared workspace" with the second of three phases set to open in August.
For decades, the Denargo Market in RiNo was a retail hub that other cities looked to as a model for an urban grocery. In 1939, 30,000 people attended the opening and by 1945 the terminal supported over 60 food wholesalers, brokers, and packers.

A long slow decline later -- catalyzed by suburbanization and the automobile era -- the terminal was a shadow of its former self, a warehouse for a Boulder furniture company.

Then Industry Denver entered the picture. Ellen Winkler and her partners bought the place in 2013 with an ambitious redevelopment plan.

Phase I opened in May, encompassing a 50,000-square-foot space that was 100 percent leased from day one. Tenants include Cloud Elements, UberDenver, FiveFifty, Valerian, BWBacon and Roximity.

Phase II is slated for opening in August, adding another 30,000 square feet that are likewise all leased out. Slated to open in early 2015, Phase III involves a five-story precast concrete tower with three floors of parking above two floors of offices. Its 80,000 square feet are already half leased.

Winkler says she started looking for a space for Industry in 2011, a year after opening Battery621 in the Art District on Santa Fe. She says Industry has a similar model, with a creative-tech bent rather than Battery621's resident snowsports-centric community.

A different approach

"It's not coworking," Winkler explains. "It's a shared workspace. It's a community environment that people really like, but it's Ellen Winkler (center) has an ambitious plan for the nine-acre development.different than coworking, because when you want to close your door, you can."

This is especially apt in Colorado. "Everybody in Denver is a transplant," Winkler says. "So when you come to the cafe, you meet people. There's always a keg on tap -- we partner with Great Divide." The payoff of working at Industry? "You have 200 instant friends."

And that kind of vibe makes for a much more dynamic place to work than a one-company office with a sea of cubicles. "It's a creative environment," says FiveFifty Account Manager Dave Bombard. "You've got people from other agencies zipping around on their scooters."

Phase I has a few single desks, but only about half are available for individuals. "They're really for overflow of the companies," says Winkler. Currently, the largest office is 5,000 square feet, but Winkler says the largest Phase III space will be 20,000 square feet, and the lease is nearly finalized.

While the cafe is currently open, there could be as many as six restaurants open by mid-2015, with three set to open by fall 2014 -- Tengu, a ramen house; The Griffin, a beer garden; and Will Call, a bar and grill from the Little Pub Company.

Back to life

It's a far cry from the place's days as a dusty furniture warehouse, and harks back to Denargo Market's beginnings as a hub for commerce. And Winkler says things are just getting started.

"RiNo is at the forefront of Denver," she says. "The city has to grow north. We're all really working together in 'the bowtie' to make a better gateway to the city."

The Industry plan calls for an office-first revitalization in RiNo.In Winkler's mind, that starts with jobs, and continues with revitalization of the Platte River and residential development. "We're going to really work on activating our river," she says. "It needs to be active. If it's not active, great things can't happen with parks and public space."

Thus the housing: After the office buildout is complete, the next project on the nine-acre site is 254 rental units followed by 60 brownstone townhomes on the river. Groundbreaking is slated for mid-2015.

Before that, however, Winkler says the team -- which includes her husband, Jason, and Sean Campbell -- will start on another office project in RiNo.

"We chose to lead with the office," Winkler explains. "You can't come into a quiet neighborhood and lead with housing. You need offices to activate a neighborhood 24 hours a day."

For Winkler, however, that means more than real-estate development.

"The biggest thing we try to do is stand behind great tenants. This space is about the tenants and brands in the building and raising them up. It's not about us at Industry -- it's about the tenants."
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Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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