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Denver's upper downtown, UpDn, looks to renew initiative that stalled out during COVID lockdowns

Leaders hope to activate area beyond the 9 to 5
Posted at 7:11 PM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 21:12:07-04

DENVER — All work and no play has made Denver's upper downtown neighborhood a dull place to be.

There are plenty of people working to change that, but first, the place needs a new name — something Denver-ish, something people will remember.

We have LoDo, RiNo, LoHi, SoBo and now, Denver's latest creation, UpDn.

City leaders are hoping more after-hours events and businesses can help to activate this area beyond the 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

At the newest Little Owl Coffee shop, location might be just as important as the coffee itself.

“Coffee is a really great way to bring all sorts of people together,” barista Bek Cantrell said. “The second project was a big deal for us; we took a lot of time to kind of figure out where we were going, and we landed here.”

Little Owl will soon add cocktails to its menu.

“The idea of having cocktails has been really amazing,” Cantrell said. “We’ll also have wine and beer.”

Little Owl, a staple in LoDo for eight years, has a new location right across from the Brown Palace Hotel in a district perhaps lesser known than LoDo, RiNo or some of the other Denver neighborhoods.

“It’s called upper downtown, but, you know, we love a nickname, so UpDn,” said Tami Door, CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, where they now have a renewed effort to help activate UpDn after hours.

“We do look at this like lower Manhattan,” Door said. “It is our business hub.”

While UpDn is the epicenter for hotels and businesses, it’s a fairly sleepy area outside normal business hours.

The UpDn initiative first came up pre-pandemic, but was tabled during COVID-19.

“More opportunities with visitors to engage with their surroundings,” Door said. “Upper Downtown is focused on being that financial hub, large employer hub. And yet, at the same time, ultimately, what you want is a 24-hour center city. You want residents. You want visitors. You want activation at all times of day.”

All-Star fans have certainly helped to activate the area this week with the Convention Center’s PlayBall Park.

“It’s been a great experience out here,” one All-Star Week visitor said. “The city’s been great. Food’s been great. We’ve had a great time out here.”

“We can’t wait to add alcohol to the menu,” Cantrell said. “We’re taking on the town.”