Denver's top ten underutilized neighborhood business districts: The next hot 'hoods!

Categories: Business, News

Denver Public Library
In 1986, before Highland Square was Highland Square

I got into a conversation at a party this weekend about which neighborhood business district in Denver might emerge as the next cool place. Or, as real estate agents like to say, an "up-and-coming location." People who self-identify as urbanites spend a lot of time talking about this sort of thing. Which spots are getting a new coffee shop? What chain of old buildings would be perfect for a restaurant/bar? When the hell are we going to get a Trader Joe's?

Denver may be a city of neighborhoods, but it's even more a collection of commercial districts filled with eateries, coffee shops and entertainment venues like Highland Square, South Pearl, LoDo, Cherry Creek North, Old South Gaylord, Tennyson and the Bluebird District. But the list could soon get bigger.

Most of these places above, originally built around Denver's old street-car network, didn't even have fancy names until about ten years ago. Yet they've become embedded into the way people perceive the city and physically move about it. To crib a line from French theorists and Richard Florida, they're part of what I like to call Denver's "psychogeography." With that in mind, here are my top ten underutilized Denver business districts with the greatest potential for future coolness:

Area: Lower Colfax
Neighborhood: Sun Valley


Lower Colfax is the area beneath the Colfax viaduct just west of the Platte River. Most of the structures in this once-vibrant Jewish neighborhood were long ago bulldozed for football stadium parking, leaving a few vacant buildings and bars that only see action on game days. But it's also the planned location for the first stop in the next FasTracks expansion, and the ugly Public Works building is being vacated by the end of the year. Plus, these multi-colored buildings are pretty.

Area: Morrison Road
Neighborhood: Westwood

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If Federal is the expressway of Denver's Latino community, then Morrison Road is its main street -- or could be anyway. New affordable housing loft projects and recent streetscaping by the city have laid good bones for Latino-focused businesses to come in and replace some of the random warehouses and junk yards. Hey, how about a Pizza Patron?

Area: 45th and Logan
Neighborhood: Globeville

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I've always thought this strip of buildings on West 45th Avenue is interesting, like an outer-boroughs tract from 1920s New York. This might be because the highways, river and railroad tracks cut Globeville off from the rest of the city, almost keeping the working-class neighborhood hermetically sealed against trends that have stripped character away from other places. Anyway, I'm bullish on Globeville, even if no one else is.

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So the rest of the city is just discovering Globeville, a community that has what everyone says they want: a small-town atmosphere, ethnic diversity and neighbors who care for each other.

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