Written by Joe Rubino, The Denver Post
On paper, the plans Jeff Hermanson and partners floated in February to redevelop a historic block of Denver’s Lower Downtown offered lots of upside for a maturing city. The longtime restaurateur and commercial real estate pro talked about adding affordable housing, something the city’s elected leaders have been pushing for downtown for years. Plans called for rooftop gardens likely to please the 54 percent of city voters who passed a green roof initiative last fall.
There was a catch. A big one. Hermanson, the CEO of Larimer Associates, was talking about redeveloping Larimer Square, a collection of buildings he owns in the 1400 block of Larimer Street in LoDo that also represent the city’s first and most storied historic district. Opposition from preservationists, city leaders and others catalyzed with speed.
A few months after unveiling them, Hermanson and his team have spiked — or at least paused — those plans, which called for two new buildings likely to dwarf their historic and legally protected 1800s predecessors. Instead of diving into the standard development process, the development team on June 18 will convene the first meeting of 50 to 60 area residents, civic leaders and experts — a group dubbed the “Larimer Square advisory committee.” The committee’s task sounds simple, even if it isn’t.