Thank you for your article, “Losing Larimer: The Uncertain Future of Denver’s Most Iconic Block.” I passed on participating in Chris Walker’s request for an interview, and was surprised when people seemed to interpret that absence as lack of interest. In fact, it’s the opposite. Standing back from commentary would, I thought, show respect and support for the new owners. Because of the misunderstanding, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a few thoughts.
While the block has endured some difficulties, I believe that over time Asana will be a good steward of the property. They are investing substantially in the infrastructure, which is creating some disruption, but represents a solid, long-term strategy.
Their business model is different from my approach, which was very much oriented around local restaurants and retailers, and creating a sense of community and collaboration. But there’s always more than one way to do things successfully, and in my opinion, Asana needs more time to prove its model.
Our redevelopment plan, which included adding density to the block, mirrored growing cities that embrace the blending of new structures with historic buildings. We believe that historic structures need not be museums, but should be respected and adapted over time. Our vision was transformative not only for Denver, but also set an example nationally of how honor a city’s past while converting an area into a sustainable — an activated —pedestrian-only oasis.
This vision also included creating an environment where restaurants on the block could serve food grown on nearby roof tops, and workers could live on the property. Achieving carbon and energy offsets on a farm outside the urban district was yet another integral part of this big, bold plan.
But the pandemic changed things for everyone, including me — as did my desire to raise our 11-year-old daughter, Lilli, in Crested Butte, where I have lived for nearly 50 years. But I will always be deeply connected to Denver. My work is still very much here, where I’m significantly invested in Populus, a new lifestyle hotel near the State Capitol, and a $500 million revitalization of the Golden Triangle. Of the 30 restaurants I’ve been involved with, 25 of them have been in Denver, and I’m still an active partner with Crafted Concepts (Rioja (Bistro Vendome, Altreia, and Stoic & Genuine), and serve as a board member and partner with the TAG Restaurant Group.
After 33 years working on Larimer Square, I miss it every day. It was a true community where landlords, tenants, customers, and employees treated one another as family. As owners, we saw ourselves as partners with the operators. Their success was our success. This is probably one reason why our partnerships with restaurateurs such as Jennifer Jasinski, Beth Gruitch, Troy Guard, and the TAG Restaurant Group were so successful.
There was magic on the block, and I look forward to watching and supporting its return.