Larimer Square

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National Trust Includes Larimer Square on the 11 Most Endangered Places List

The National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled its 2018 list of America’s11 Most Endangered Historic Places, an annual list that spotlights important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. Almost 300 places have been on the list over its 31-year history, and in that time, fewer than five percent of listed sites have been lost.

This year’s list included the first-ever Denver site- Larimer Square.  As Denver’s first commercial block and the city’s first historic district (1971), Larimer Square is a nationally known preservation success story—an anchor of the thriving Lower Downtown commercial, residential, and entertainment district and a compelling example of how historic preservation and building reuse can restore the soul of a city, create places that attract people, and make good economic sense.

In February, Larimer Square owner Jeff Hermanson of Larimer Associates, and partners Urban Villages, proposed erecting two towers (one of them up to 400-feet tall) on top of Larimer Square for condos, workforce housing and a hotel.  To accomplish this proposal, the Landmark Commission, Denver City Council and the Mayor would have to approve amending the blocks’ legal protections, including the 64-foot height limit. The plan would also require partial demolition of several Larimer Square buildings and forever alter the character of Denver’s first and beloved historic district.

In response to the listing Historic Denver’s Board Chair Robert Bassett noted, “The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s designation of Larimer Square on the 11 Most Endangered Places list—in connection with the recent proposal to redevelop the block, plus concerns about the building’s deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs—highlights the importance of protecting and investing in our historic places for the long-term.”  Executive Director Annie Levinsky added, “as fast-growing urban centers like Denver change and evolve, the National Trust’s announcement underscores that protecting our historic places like Larimer Square is more important than ever.”

Last week Larimer Associates and Urban Villages hosted the first meeting of an Advisory Committee intended to explore alternatives. Sign-on today to urge the Larimer Square Advisory Committee, Denver Landmark Commission, and Denver’s elected leaders to support a preservation solution.

Protecting Larimer Square—Again?  Opinion by Dana Crawford & Annie Levinsky

On June 17 the Denver Post published an opinion piece by Dana Crawford and Annie Levinsky.  “Together we can develop ideas and locate the resources necessary to protect these irreplaceable buildings, but only as long as the sharp focus is on solutions and alternatives that honor the vision and landmark protections that saved Larimer Square nearly fifty years ago.”  Click here to read the full opinion piece published in the Denver Post.

Larimer Square Owners Pause Large-Scale Redevelopment

When Larimer Square was designated as Denver’s first historic district in 1971, it became the inspiration for Denver’s preservation movement and a national success story. In February, Larimer Associates, the owners of Larimer Square,  and partners at Urban Villages, announced their plans to redevelop Larimer Square, adding two towers on top of portions of buildings on both sides of Larimer Street. In late April the owners decided to pause this proposal and form an Advisory Committee to evaluate options. Historic Denver has accepted an invitation to participate.

What Was Proposed
Larimer Associates and Urban Villages presented a redevelopment plan that called for two major additions to Larimer Square: a tower as high as 40 stories on the downtown side of the block, and another large building up to 10 stories on the LoDo side. These new structures would be built behind and over the existing buildings and along the alleys, though their large size would envelop existing courtyards and would require partial demolition of several historic buildings. The new buildings were to include a hotel, residential units (for-sale condominiums and workforce apartments), commercial/retail space, and parking.

Key Issues of Concern
Historic Denver has deep concerns about the proposed redevelopment project, including:

  • The partial demolition of several of the historic district’s buildings.
  • The severe harm to the historic context and human-scale of the buildings on Larimer Square.
  • Amending the nearly 50-year old legal protections and design guidelines that created the historic district and have since guided the block’s evolution.
  • The potential threats to the legal protections for the rest of Denver’s hundreds of historic buildings and districts.

Historic Denver’s Role
Historic Denver, along with community stakeholders, has committed to engage with Larimer Square owners to address the challenges they have identified for the district’s future, including the costs of maintenance and infrastructure, and Larimer Square’s market positioning in a rapidly growing and changing Denver.

Stay Informed
Historic Denver will regularly post updates here on this page. Also, stay up to date on Larimer Square by following Historic Denver on Facebook and Twitter.

More Resources
National Register of Historic Places Nomination of Larimer Square, expanded in 1994. Click HERE to read.

Local Historic District Ordinance (ORDINANCE Larimer Sq (1971)

Local Historic District Ordinance & Design Guidelines (1974 ORDINANCE LarimerSq)

Focus on Larimer Square – Again” Historic Denver Spring 2018 newsletter. Click here to read.

“Protecting Larimer Square, Again” Opinion Piece Published by Denver Post, June 17.  Click here to read.

Larimer Square Timeline

1858 – Denver City Town Company established. The first cabin constructed in Denver, housing General William Larimer, where the current day Granite Building is located

1861 – Colorado Territory was created

1900 – Businesses began leaving Larimer Street to relocate on 16th and 17th Streets

1930s – 50s – With business and people leaving Larimer Street and a declining economy, Larimer becomes skid row

1950s – 60s – Larimer Square is threatened by Denver Urban Renewal Authority

1963 – Dana Crawford gathered a group of investors, Larimer Associates, to begin buying one building at a time and restore for a new use

1971 – Larimer Square becomes Denver’s first Historic District

1973- Larimer Square added to the National Register of Historic Places

1986- Dana Crawford sells Larimer Square

1993- Jeff Hermanson purchases Larimer Square, operates it as Larimer Associates

1990s – New buildings added to Larimer Square where parking lots formerly existed

1994 – National Register of Historic Places designation expanded

Larimer Square First Historic District in Denver (1971)
Granite Building
Miller Building 1401-1407 Larimer St
Crawford Building