Flora is part of the coming change in the skyline of the River North Arts District

A recession may be on the horizon, but it would be hard to tell from the skyline of the River North Art District, where several buildings are being built simultaneously and several more are under construction.

From the top of the roof of Flora, a mixed-use project under construction at 3500 Chestnut Place, 10 construction cranes were visible in late October afternoon. Most operated in the surrounding RiNo neighborhood, which is experiencing an unparalleled boom in new, ongoing and proposed projects.

Flora was originally intended as a condo development in a city where the chance to own something in a multi-family tower remains rare. But the pandemic has delayed construction, and the project’s backers have turned to apartments they plan to own as a long-term investment.

“During the pandemic, we had to take a break, to reassess things,” said Edee Anesi, developer at Cavaliere Enterprises. “Condos are very difficult to build, very difficult.”

The development team includes Anesi, his father Greg, Brock Fleming of Belay Development and Brad Arguello, who was behind Avanti Food & Beverage and Broadway Marketplace, two food halls.

Flora occupies nearly a half-acre of land that once housed Mile High Mutts, a dog daycare center, on land that sold for $3.8 million in 2018. The development consists of a 12 stories with 92 apartments, 7,500 square feet of office space and 7,900 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

Market apartment rents will be around $4 a square foot, with eight units booked as affordable, Anesi said. Units will range from 500 square foot studios to 2,300 square foot penthouses. The building will feature a higher concentration of two- and three-bedroom units than typically seen in downtown Denver.

A sixth-floor swimming pool with an overhang will overlook the city center. There will be retail on the ground floor and a separate elevator will transport customers to retail, restaurants and offices on the upper floors and approximately 102 parking spaces.

Flora’s new redevelopment site, located at 3500 Chestnut Place in Denver, is pictured Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

Although the pandemic disrupted the start of the project, Anesi said the possibility of a recession, triggered by higher interest rates and tighter monetary policy, would not prevent its completion. One of the reasons for building apartments rather than condos was that the development team believed in the long-term potential of the neighborhood.

“If it was 500 units, I would be worried,” Anesi said. But given Flora’s location near a light rail station, sweeping waterfront and mountain views, and proximity to two recently completed parks, she expects it to be a top location. choice for anyone wanting a RiNo address.

A new branch of the Denver Public Library is located across the street, as is the new RiNo ArtPark. Another convenience is the Arkins Parkway, which runs along the South Platte Trail. Eventually, a pedestrian bridge should cross the Platte, connecting the area to the Taxi campus on the other side.

Other projects under construction in the region, according to Denver Infill, include The Current, a 12-story office building with 238,000 square feet of office space adjacent to Flora; Wynkoop Street, formerly known as Vert Lofts, a 16-storey building with 175 apartments; 3901 Wynkoop, a 7-story building with 408 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail space; Chestnut Lofts, a slim 8-story building with 49 affordable housing units next to Flora; and a 153-room hotel called Cambria Hotel RiNo.

Another 15 projects are underway or in the planning stages, according to Denver Infill. And as if that weren’t enough, the old Pepsi factory will provide 25 acres for later redevelopment, Flemming said.

The view of downtown Denver from the top floor of Flora's new Denver redevelopment site is pictured Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
The view of downtown Denver from the top floor of Flora’s new Denver redevelopment site is pictured Oct. 25, 2022. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

The development of RiNo

Although River North takes its name from the nearby Platte River, the waterway has been more of a passing sideways, rather than a central draw. But many of the new projects go up along the river, and Flora will market itself as a “waterfront” property.

Although Brighton Boulevard or the bright side of RiNo has seen much of the redevelopment, the park or riverfront comes into its own.

Because the new developments are set in an arts district, the focus is on the design of the towering buildings and how they fit into the surrounding streetscape, said John Deffenbaugh, director of the River Arts North District strategy. .

“They’re all very different, but there’s a common language,” Deffenbaugh said. “The buildings are in conversation with each other. We make sure the spaces allow this conversation to happen.

Deffenbaugh said the key to maintaining RiNo’s momentum is ensuring the projects are high quality and contribute to a sustainable community.

“We work hard to ensure they are of high architectural quality,” he said.

Tom Kiler, chief executive of EDENS, a retail real estate company that owns Denver’s Central Market and several buildings along Larimer Street in RiNo, said that as development thickens, the focus is on the creation of green spaces, the maintenance of diversity and the preservation of room for artists.

“With these new buildings, it creates an opportunity for local artists to get involved, to create moments where artists can appear in this space,” he said.

Enabling the community to be self-reliant and maintain a diversity of residents — across ages, income brackets, race and ethnicity — will be critical to RiNo’s future, he said.

“The most diverse neighborhoods are the most interesting and the best places to hang out,” he said.