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Concept for future of Larimer Square scrapped, new plan seeks public input first

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 22:47:02-05

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DENVER -- In our ever-changing Colorado, the future of Denver's iconic Larimer Square is the latest old versus new debate, and now a developer is asking for the public's input before coming up with a new concept for how to improve it while keeping its history.

"Larimer Square is our cities first locally protected historic district," said Annie Levinsky with Historic Denver. "We're really interested in making sure that the things that make it Larimer Square, the buildings themselves, the scale, the context all remain intact for the future."

"Do nothing is a not a solution here," explained Jon Buerge, chief development officer. "The reality is what a lot of people don't know is how much of a challenge we're facing from a restoration standpoint. When you start to look up at some of the buildings, you start to see facades that have netting around them so that bricks and stones don't fall down on the sidewalk and hurt people."

Buerge had a vision for restoring the old while building higher with two taller buildings behind Larimer Square. But historians and long-time residents hated the idea. They raised concerns about the height impacted the charm and historic character.

Buerge said the original concept has since been scrapped in favor of more public input.

"This is too important of a project to be decided in a small group behind closed doors. This needs to be public, needs to be open, and it needs to be engaging," he said.

They opened a new community center at 1411 Larimer St. Monday. People are encouraged to come and learn about Larimer Square's history, share what they love about it, and what they would like to see in the future.

"For the community to come in and give us ideas, gives us their thoughts and start to look at some creative solutions for the future of Larimer Square," he said. "Start to track all that and put it into the final plan."

"I think the community deserves to have a voice on what happens to it, it's that important," said Colorado native James McDonough who visited the center Monday.

However, McDonough stressed the devil is in the details to which Levinsky with Historic Denver agreed.

"We would like greater certainty around how the buildings are going to remain protected," said Levinsky.

"We're trying to find solutions that allow us to protect the historic nature of this block to avoid any demolition," said Buerge.

He also stressed any new concepts would be unveiled at the community center. Any significant changes, including height requirements, will need to be approved by city council because Larimer Square is a locally protected historic district.