Written by: William P. Macht, Urban Land Institute

The connections among a mix of uses on a single urban block are normally left to the street fronts that surround them, or to interior corridors. But in a historic district in Denver, it is an alleyway that pulls uses together.

Perhaps it was fate, given the name of the architect—Crème Architecture & Design—that drew the firm to work on redeveloping the Windsor Dairy Block project in Denver’s historic lower downtown (LoDo) district. But the people at Crème were able to convince Denver-based McWhinney Development Company to meld the activity of the Dairy Block’s multiple uses through a vacant alley behind new development. At the beginning of the project, which occupies the western half of the block, Jun Aizaki, principal of the Brooklyn, New York, architecture firm, pointed out to developer Chad McWhinney the opportunity posed by the historic brick buildings along the block’s eastern half. If McWhinney were to acquire those historic and mostly vacant brick buildings, the enlarged project could bring a new urban form to Denver that would be as exciting as San Francisco’s Maiden Lane and vibrant retail alleys elsewhere.

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