Between LoHi and LoDo, Platte Street Sees Development Surge

A stretch of Platte Street sandwiched between Denver's trendy LoHi neighborhood and Lower Downtown has drawn the interest of developers. Three office buildings are under construction, and several more sites on the boutique- and eatery-heavy street are ripe for development.
Once an industrial area, Platte Street is now bustling with restaurants, boutiques, a yoga studio and a brewery and beer garden. It is one of the few neighborhoods that boasts having a locally owned natural foods grocery store in Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage. And now, office space geared toward entrepreneurial companies is being developed.

"The street has such broad appeal, but maybe it's not quite as discovered as LoDo," says Jamie Gard, executive managing director of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank who is handling leasing for The Lab at 17th And Platte. "A lot of people walk past that street and go into LoDo.  This building gives them a home closer to where they live."

The Lab, expected to be completed in June, is a 78,576-square-foot speculative office building with great visibility from Interstate 25. Because it's located in an Enterprise Zone, tenants will have the potential to receive incentives.

It all comes back to Platte Street's distinctive character -- it's historic, for one, and it's one of the few riverside streets in Denver with a human-friendly face. "Millennial entrepreneurs really want a more authentic street," says Marshall Burton, a partner at Confluent, which is developing The Lab with partner Brue Capital. "Platte Street has local shops, restaurants and yoga studios."

But The Lab is just a sign of things to come. "We're interested in the other sites," Burton says. "We're a believer in the entire neighborhood and have the intent of doing more."

Galvanize Denver 2.0In addition to Galvanize LoDo, the Nichols building will house Pivotal Labs.

Gard says interest from tenants is high, especially from entrepreneurial companies in the technology, marketing and advertising industries that are hiring Millennials and don't follow a traditional workday schedule. Initially, Gard thought the project would draw tenants that outgrow The Nichols Building that Galvanize LoDo will occupy across the street.

"As it's working out right now, [Nichols] will deliver and be full, and my guess is that we'll deliver and be full," Gard says.

In addition to Galvanize, a collaborative coworking space, The Nichols Partnership's 78,000-square-foot building will house software development company Pivotal Labs, as well as the developer's offices. It's also close to signing a lease for the 3,500-square-foot restaurant space, says Melissa Rummel, project manager at Nichols.

Nichols, which has owned the site since 1999, wanted to build on the property several years ago but a downturn in the development cycle prevented it. They instead did an adaptive reuse of a historic building in the Golden Triangle for Galvanize, the company's first community designed for entrepreneurs and innovators. Now the project has come full circle, and instead of being Galvanize's first location, it's the fourth -- after Denver 1.0, Boulder, and San Francisco.

Regardless of the delay, Nichols' leaders say they couldn't be happier. "Platte Street has always been a very unique street," says Chris Crosby, executive vice president. "It's one of the jewels of Denver."

Another project in the works is The Boathouse, a 10,400-square-foot office building at 1850 Platte right on the river. Interest from potential tenants has been high, says Chris Shears, an architect with Shears Adkins Rockmore who designed The Boathouse.

"Who would have ever thought Platte Street would become such an important street," Shears says.

Industrial purgatory turned Millennial heavenA rendering of The Lab from I-25.

Grand American Inc., developer of The Boathouse, and Nichols have formed public-private partnerships with the city of Denver to redevelop the West Side Line,  an old railroad spur on the western bank of the Platte River that was vacated. The plan is to create a landscaped pedestrian-only walkway from the 16th street bridge over the river to the 19th street bridge.

Part of what defined the neighborhood was the construction of the Denver Tramway Powerhouse in 1901. The Denver Tramway Co. had an exclusive city franchise to build electric streetcar lines in Denver, and the building housed the boilers and engines used to generate electricity for the rail system. As the automobile gained popularity, the rail lines were removed from Denver's streets, and the Powerhouse closed in 1950. It was used as a warehouse until the Forney Museum of Transportation bought it in 1969.

Recreational Equipment Inc. took over the building in 1998 for redevelopment into its flagship Denver store. The $32 million project was considered a catalyst for development in the Central Platte Valley, so the Denver Urban Renewal Authority provided $6.3 million in tax-increment financing to the developer.

But it was the series of bridges on 16th Street that changed everything. The Millennium Bridge connected the Central Platte Valley to Denver Union Station and the rest of downtown, and the bridge over the Platte River linked Platte Street to the Central Platte Valley.

Then, in 2006, the Highland Bridge completed the chain from the emerging LoHi neighborhood to the rest of the city. That was a transformative project that leveraged a relatively modest public investment compared to the benefits it has brought to the city, Crosby says.

"It's a pedestrian superhighway that is an extension of the 16th Street Mall," Crosby says. "It's been a renaissance of Union Station, Riverfront Park and Highlands. The thread that tied those evolving neighborhoods together was the pedestrian bridges that completed the connection."

Read more articles by Margaret Jackson.

Margaret is a veteran Denver real estate reporter and can be contacted here.
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