Denver’s largest infill project, Denargo Market, plans to develop land that has stood empty for years north of downtown, create a stronger connection between the South Platte River and the Brighton Boulevard corridor, and provide the River North Art District neighborhood with its tallest buildings.
But rather than throwing up apartments as quickly as possible to generate rents, developers Golub & Co. and Formativ are leading with public improvements, including four acres of open space and other community amenities near the river that are expected to open in the summer of 2025.
“Developing 17 acres of prime riverfront space here in Denver is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the culmination of years of development work in this area for our team,” said Sean Campbell, CEO of Formativ. “This is the largest infill taking shape in Denver right now, and it will be a game changer for inclusivity in our city.”
Denargo Market represents a $1.5 billion investment, with about a 10th of that dedicated to the public parts of the project, Campbell said. It will be mixed-use in the full sense of the word, with residential, office, retail and a hotel planned on 17 acres of land that a decade ago served as the gathering place for produce vendors feeding Denverites.
Although Brighton Boulevard and the RiNo neighborhood have plentiful retail and restaurant options with more coming, earlier developments at Denagro Market, near Arkins Court and Denargo Street, didn’t include ground-floor retail.
The nearest place to grab anything is a 7-11 on Broadway and 31st Street, something Campbell said the project plans to rectify with 80,000 square feet of retail that will stay active day and night.
“We all want a city that is vibrant,” Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said during a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 28. “That means that it is active, engaged, where people are present and enjoying all the city has to offer. Denargo Market will add that vibrancy to this neighborhood and to downtown.”
Denargo Market residents will be able to reach downtown or other parts of River North on foot or by bike and they will have plentiful public spaces to gather and play right outside their doors, he said.
The development further opens up the South Platte River, long hidden in many places, to the larger community. Among the public amenities are a new sports court, a revamped dog park, a pedestrian plaza, a half-acre great lawn and splash pad, a community garden and what is expected to be one of the city’s largest public art installations. Denver Parks & Recreation is working on improving the parcels directly along the river.
Campbell pledged that Denargo Market would not only become a place where people would want to work and live but also a place where residents of other neighborhoods would want to spend their nights and weekends.
Although the project is focusing on its public amenities first, that strategy isn’t completely altruistic.
For starters, the land is on a former landfill and needs extensive environmental remediation, said Laura Newman, vice president of investment and development at Golub, which is based out of Chicago.
Utilities, stormwater systems and new streets are needed, and those take time. Completing those “horizontal” improvements will buy more time for demand in the market for “vertical” improvements to improve.
Heavy debt burdens, high interest rates and excess supply have put commercial real estate markets under intense stress right now. Waiting out the down cycle and popping back on the other side with something new and fresh should work in favor of Denargo Market.
Take demand for office space, which is down substantially since employers sent workers home during the pandemic. Chipotle once considered the site for a new campus and office space remains a key offering at Denargo Market.
Of the total of 3 million square feet Denver approved, campus-like office opportunities ranging from 200,000 square feet to 1.5 million square feet are being marketed.
Denargo Market will also include more than 1,000 residential units. The development was grandfathered ahead of the passage of the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which required developers of larger projects to set aside 8% to 12% of their units as affordable.
Denver had around 24,000 new apartment applications in the first and second quarters of 2022, but in the second quarter of this year, applications for only 70 units were submitted, noted Marty Roth, a senior vice president with CBRE specializing in land services, in a recent gather of commercial real estate brokers last month.
Denver will see a glut of apartments followed by a dearth, Roth predicted. If it gets the timing right, Denargo Market could land on the right side of that curve.
Golub and Formativ donated land for a building with 56 units of affordable housing designated for teenagers who age out of the state’s foster care system and find themselves homeless. Pennrose will develop the community and Boulder-based TGTHR will provide services to help homeless youth aged 18 to 24.
“Starting with the public realm improvements and the incredible affordable housing project with TGTHR was intentional; this ensures Denargo Market will be a sustainable place that welcomes everyone in our city to live, work, and play,” Newman said.
Once the public improvements near completion, in early 2025, Golub and Formativ plan to break ground on a 16-story, 380-unit apartment building near the intersection of Denargo and Delgancy streets with 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.