Steam on the Platte Heating up on River's Edge

An ambitious act of adaptive reuse, the mixed-use project aims to breathe new life into the banks of the South Platte River in the western reaches of the La Alma/Lincoln Park neighborhood. 
When Steam on the Platte is finished in spring 2017, the South Platte River will have its first restaurant that sits directly on its banks.

Developer Susan Powers, president of Urban Ventures, says interest has been strong from the restaurant industry, even though tenants have not yet committed to fill 100 percent of the space.

"The river kind of makes this a destination," she says. "They're not saying, 'Get those 400 to 500 people in your building and we'll consider it.' It's a very urban site, but with the river influence, it's an unusual experience."

Urban Ventures' mission is to redevelop urban properties into communities that make a positive contribution to the neighborhood and create sustaining value. Its Aria Denver project with Perry Rose, a 17.5-acre master-planned community at West 52nd and Federal Boulevard, for example, promotes healthy living with community gardens, production gardens, pocket parks and pathways integrated into the site.

Likewise, Steam of the Platte, located at 1401 Zuni St., is within walking distance to the Auraria campus and the Broncos’ soon-to-be-renamed stadium. It's also at the intersection of the Lakewood Gulch and Platte River bike trails and a short walk  to two light-rail stations at Decatur-Federal and West Auraria. It's got easy access to Interstate 25 and is just two miles from the Interstate 70 interchange. The project's name honors the juxtaposition of industry and nature, connecting the character and energy of the area's industrial steam plants and smokestacks with the South Platte's beauty.
The site includes the largest remaining undeveloped exposed brick-and-timber warehouse in Denver.
Last of its kind

The project includes the largest remaining undeveloped exposed brick-and-timber warehouse in the city, which had been neglected for several decades. Designed by Tres Birds Workshop, renovation will transform the three-story, 65,000-square-foot warehouse into creative office space. NIMBL, an SAP technology consulting firm based in Denver, has signed on as the anchor tenant for the warehouse building. Urban Ventures, which is co-developing the project with Castle Rock-based White Construction Group, also has a letter of intent to lease space to a Denver-based architecture firm.

Other high-tech companies that want to be close to NIMBL also are likely to find the warehouse attractive, though many of them are growing so fast they need more space now and can't wait for the project to be completed, Powers said. As it's currently designed, the building is broken into eight larger spaces, but the developers are considering including 1,500- to 2,000-square foot spaces on one side of the building to accommodate smaller tenants.

"We have lots of interest from tenants," she says. "When we get closer to opening, I have no doubt we will have tenants."

Using a process called sodablasting, a much milder process than sandblasting, the building's bricks have been cleaned, as have the 100-year-old wooden beams. Powers expects the project will be issued a building permit any day so the buildout can begin.

"The beams are beautiful now," she says. "They're light wood, but they were black and brown and dirty. We also have 24 skylights on the roof that will remain. We have to clean them up a lot, but they will bring in incredible light. As we open the building up and have our design completed, it's pretty remarkable space."

The restaurant, which will be located in a 6,000-square-foot building with a bow string roof, will face the river and include a deck. Pathways leading to benches and waterfalls on the river will be built. Future phases of the project will include additional office space and residential space.

"It's a very peaceful site," Powers says. "It's a great building with a big barrel roof and open space."

Industrial-era phoenixIn the late 1800s, the site was teeming with energy from a variety of industrial users, including the Johnson and Bremer Soap Factory, a rag-baling facility and a ceremonial bathhouse. The rag baler will remain.

In the late 1800s, the site was teeming with energy from a variety of industrial users, including the Johnson and Bremer Soap Factory, a rag-baling facility and a ceremonial bathhouse. While manufacturing process continued through the mid-1900s, much of the 3.2-acre site was abandoned more than 30 years ago.

Urban Ventures and White Construction Group formed a partnership in 2014 to acquire and redevelop the property. They acquired the property from the estate of the late Englewood-based real estate agent Arvin Weiss, who in 2008 was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after being convicted of fraud and witness tampering in a scheme to cheat mortgage companies that funded federally insured home loans. Weiss was diagnosed with cancer and released from prison in 2013. Urban Ventures and White Construction bought the property from his estate when he died.

Steam will give an area that's been long forgotten new life, Powers says.

"It's still not on the radar the way RiNo was not on anybody's radar before it was called RiNo," she says. "There's large ownership along the river that doesn't embrace the river. This changes that."

Photos by Kara Pearson Gwinn.

Read more articles by Margaret Jackson.

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