Larimer Square Gets a New Owner
In December 2020, Larimer & Associates sold Larimer Square to Asana Partners of North Carolina, following a three-year period of uncertainty for the block. Asana, which owns historic structures in other cities, including Dallas, Los Angeles, and Alexandria, Virginia, has indicated its commitment to restoring the block.
Why It Matters
Larimer Square is our city’s first locally protected historic district, designated in 1971 after a determined Dana Crawford saved the block. Its preservation story is nationally recognized as a watershed moment in modern preservation. It is the place where our city first affirmed a commitment to our heritage after the devastation of urban renewal, and its historic designation was the first in Denver that recognized not only individual historic buildings but a collection of related buildings and their context. Larimer Square was the economic spark that fueled downtown’s renaissance, is significant to generations of Denver residents, and is the model for historic districts and landmarks across Denver. It has been a vibrant hub of activity for Denverites and visitors alike since its preservation.
Historic Denver’s Role
During a period of uncertainty for Larimer Square, Historic Denver was a vocal advocate for the integrity of the district, partnering with other organizations and individuals, including Dana Crawford, to ensure that the values that have protected Larimer Square, its buildings and its context for more than 50 years remain the guiding force for the district.
Historic Denver and our preservation partners emphasized that Larimer Square can continue to evolve with new uses and spaces that meet the community’s current needs and desires, while respecting the essential qualities and integrity of the block as outlined in the legal protections established nearly 50 years ago. The protections are not designed to prevent change and evolution, or to encase the historic districts “in amber,” but to guide them thoughtfully and carefully so that the historic buildings and context remain intact long into the future.
We also worked to highlight the preservation incentives available for the rehabilitation of the structures, and the opportunities to have both evolution and preservation in the district without upending the protections. We are hopeful, based on our conversation with Asana, that this is also their goal.
In early 2018, then-owner Jeff Hermanson of Larimer & Associates and his partners at Urban Villages floated a plan to seek amendments to the historic district protections in order to exceed the existing height limits to build two tall buildings, one as many as 40 stories, and partially demolish several historic buildings to make room. The announcement led to Larimer Square being listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places list — a first for any Denver site.
Amending the legal protections for Larimer Square or the adjacent Lower Downtown Historic District, which would have been necessary to build tall buildings in either district as proposed, would not only forever alter the authenticity, scale and context of this irreplaceable historic asset, but also would have far-reaching and dangerous policy consequences for historic buildings and districts citywide.
Ultimately, the proposal did not progress. In December 2020, news broke that Larimer & Associates had sold the block to Asana Partners. Historic Denver’s representatives met with Asana prior to the close of the sale and expressed the local and national significance of the historic district as our city’s crown jewel and as a watershed moment in preservation history. Our representatives also discussed the numerous preservation incentives available to support the rehabilitation of the structures. Asana expressed their interest in those programs, and the high value they place on historic buildings. Brian Purcell, managing director at Asana, was quoted in the Denver Post, saying, “We plan to invest the necessary capital to both restore and preserve the historic nature of these buildings within their existing footprint and improve the spaces to meet the expectations of today’s retail and creative office tenants.”
In addition to the full Larimer Square Historic District, which includes 22 buildings, the purchase also included buildings on Market Street just west of the block, including the Larimer Square parking structure. These buildings are located in the Lower Downtown Historic District and protected by that specific ordinance, first adopted in 1988.
To learn more about the block, its protections, and the issues at hand, click here to see our FAQ.
Larimer Square Timeline
- 1858 – Denver City Town Company established. The first cabin was 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 to16th and 17th streets.
- 1930s – 1950s – With businesses and people leaving Larimer Street and a declining economy, Larimer became skid row.
- 1950s – 1960s – Larimer Square was 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 them 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.
A Historic Denver membership not only provides financial support so that our staff can work every day on behalf of historic places like this one — it also demonstrates that our community cares. You can take action by becoming a member today.
Updated May 2022