ULI Chicago News

ULI Young Leaders Meet in Denver for 2015 Leadership Exchange

On June 18th and 19th, ULI Young Leaders from Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Boston, New York, Austin, New Orleans, Miami, and Denver gathered  to participate in the 10th annual ULI Young Leaders Exchange in Denver. Attendees experienced a day and half tour of projects throughout various areas of Denver, including the Central Platte Valley, the 16th Street Mall, Mariposa in La Alma/Lincoln Park, Cherry Creek, and RiNo (River North).

The Exchange began Thursday afternoon with a tour of the area west of Denver’s Union Station that was previously a wasteland of abandoned rail yard until the late 90s.  At that point, planners and developers envisioned a plan to develop the area, which would expand the city’s space by 25%.  Residential and office developers began underwriting rental rates that were not yet proven, but managed to exceed budgeted rates and set new levels.  Following the tour, we met local Denver ULI members at a social event hosted in Union Station’s Terminal Bar.  The event was very well attended and provided a great opportunity to meet local industry professionals and fellow ULI members.

We began Friday with presentations from two transit experts who are heavily involved with the development of Denver’s light rail transit system.  The transit authority is in the process of building a line to connect Denver’s airport to Union Station.  The trip will transport passengers 23 miles in 35 minutes and provide a much more economical way to reach downtown without needing to rent a car.  Denver’s airport, which was built 20 years ago, has become the 5th busiest airport in the US and the largest by land occupying 53 square miles.  The presentation was followed by an overview and tour of the Crawford Hotel located in Union Station which was built in 1894 and underwent a revitalization and re-opened in July 2014.  The Station was returned to its turn of the century beauty, but with a modern twist.  In addition to serving as an operating train station for Amtrak, it also encompasses the Crawford Hotel, four restaurants, two bars, and a few shops.  With all it has to offer, the great hall serves as a fun place for residents and visitors to hang out, grab a bite or a beer, and even play games.

Next, we took Denver’s free downtown bus to the 16th Street Mall and learned how the mall has evolved over time and about current developments underway.  From there, we took the light rail to Mariposa, which is a public housing development of several newly constructed buildings.  Each building was uniquely designed with colorful accents using the residents’ input.  The developments include a healthy and sustainable focus with solar energy, urban farming, vocational programs, and walkability. Cherry Creek, Denver’s premier shopping district, was the next stop.  Cherry Creek North is seeing its biggest construction boom in decades, led by developers focused on mixed used and increased density. There we learned about hotel, retail, and apartment developments planned for the area.  Finally, the last stop showcased Denver’s creative district known as RiNo, where the group toured INDUSTRY, an old warehouse converted into an invigorating and innovative shared office space.  INDUSTRY provides a cool, open work environment to a variety of companies in various size spaces, including both open and closed offices, conference rooms that “float” above ground level, stadium seating, and break spaces that provide free coffee, breakfast, and beer. Not a bad place to work!

After an extensive day touring a great variety of projects, the group finished the day with a Colorado Rockies game.  Coors Field was built just 10 years ago and is an incredible stadium to experience and is conveniently located just two blocks away from Union Station.  For those who were able to stay through Saturday, there was also optional tours of Denver’s Cultural Center and the newly opened boutique Art Hotel.

This year’s Leadership Exchange was a great way to see all the exciting developments going on in the city and exemplified why many are flocking to Denver to live and visit.  The Denver ULI Young Leaders and staff did an incredible job of organizing and hosting a fantastic program this year.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s Exchange, which is going to be held in Austin, a crowd favorite, and I’m sure will not disappoint. Stay tuned for more details to come…

Authored by Gwen Gatz, BMO Capital Markets

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