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Future of Larimer Square is debated as Denver's first historic district turns 47

Posted at 11:34 AM, Jul 29, 2018

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DENVER -- In 1971, Larimer Square, Denver's very first neighborhood, became its very first historic district. That designation was vital in protecting and preserving this gorgeous part of Denver's history but it also opened the way for other Denver neighborhoods to get that protected status. There are more than 80 historic districts in Denver today.

But Larimer Square's future as it looks today, looked a little wobbly earlier this year.

In February, the block's owner proposed a redevelopment plan that included two tall buildings for condos, a hotel and businesses. The plan was to build them in the alleys behind the square so the new would hover above the old.  At the time, owner Jeff Hermanson told Denver7 it was simply time to reinvest in the Square.

The pushback against that proposal was quick and passionate.

"Right now, you have a sense of what Denver looked like when you came here over a hundred years ago, and this would fundamentally alter that,” Historic Denver’s Annie Levinsky said.

The plan led the National Trust for Historic Preservation to list Larimer Square as one of the 11 most endangered places in the U.S. earlier this summer.

But the plan to build those high rises has been shelved for now. The owner formed an advisory committee to hear ideas about the best way to revitalize the Square without drastically changing what people love about it.

The group Colorado Preservation is included in that committee.

“We certainly support change and development,” said Jennifer Orrigo Charles of Colorado Preservation, Inc. “And keeping the core principals of what makes Larimer great."

Finding that happy medium is a lot like putting together a puzzle.

“How do we add new buildings to Larimer Square without damaging historic buildings, without negatively impacting the look and feel and experience," developer John Buerge told Denver7, adding that the plan to introduce taller buildings to the square is still being considered along with a number of others.

"We're exploring that as well as lower density, lower height as well as we determine what is the best thing for this block," he said.

The advisory committee will work for six months to come up with a plan and that is the development plan that will be submitted to the city for approval.