From Skid Row to LoDo: Historic Preservation’s Role in Denver’s Revitalization

From Skid Row to LoDo: Historic Preservation’s Role in Denver’s Revitalization


McMahon, E. (2012, October 11). From Skid Row to LoDo: Historic Preservation’s Role in Denver’s Revitalization. UrbanLand Magazine for the Urban Land Institute. Urban Land Institute. Retrieved February 28, 2015.

Discipline: Economic

Other disciplines:  History,

Summary of the Text:

This text is about the Lower Downtown (LoDo) area of Denver, Colorado.  He explains the troubles Denver had gone through with the struggle to designate the LoDo area as a historic district. The oil boom hurled Denver into a hugs construction boom which only lasted as long as the oil did. The LoDo area was neglected, ignored and demolished until the Mayor and the preservationist stepped in.

The mayor was all onboard due to historic preservation creates new jobs, provides affordable housing, brings diversified economic development, and efficiently maximizes private and public investment. Today, most elected officials and real estate professionals understand the benefits of historic district designation. However, this was not always the case. Majority of property owners in Lower Downtown were against the historic designation. They believed that it took away their property rights and would further erode property values in the already-depressed neighborhood.

The property owners were completely wrong. In 1995 the LoDo area is home to 55 restaurants and clubs, 30 art galleries and 650 residents (Along with a baseball field).

Three compelling pieces of evidence & 2-3 sentence responses (ea.):

  1. E: “Nationwide more than 40 studies have been conducted on the impact of historic districts on property values. The results vary, as do the length of time covered and diversity of neighborhoods examined, but on the whole, appreciation rates in designated neighborhoods either exceeded or kept pace with those in comparison neighborhoods not designated as historic districts. Historic district designation supports the stability of a neighborhood and helps preserve its uniqueness—an attribute that increases its desirability and differentiates it from other neighborhoods.” (1)

R: Designating a neighborhood historic districts aids in preserving its history and helps it stay in the running of other neighborhoods.

  1. E: “After the designation, dozens of historic buildings were renovated to accommodate offices, art galleries, restaurants, bars, housing, and retail uses. Conversion of warehouses into lofts began, and younger residents began moving in. Lower Downtown housing stock grew from 89 units to more than 600 within eight years. The last foreclosed property was sold to a private developer in 1993, and by 1995 the area was home to 55 restaurants and clubs, 30 art galleries, and 650 residences.” (1)

R: Younger residents bring in money and the possibility of long-term residents. The popularity of renovated warehouses grows and is a sought out commodity in younger homeowners.

  1. E: “A 2011 report focused on Colorado, The Economic Power of Heritage and Placeby Clarion Associates, found that 32 new jobs are generated for every $1 million spent on the preservation of historic buildings.” (1)

R: Though the jobs are short term (during construction) its also free advertising. The construction crew either moves in, tells other or returns to spend money in the area. With newer buildings the time frame between “touch ups” is longer than renovated buildings, so the job is more constant that newer construction.

  1. E: “Historic buildings are a scarce resource; we are not building any more of them. Small businesses and investors were lured to the area by its charm and unique character—and by the knowledge that those attributes would not change. Historic district zoning gave investors assurance that if they spent money rehabilitating a turn-of-the-20th-century building, their investment would not be undermined by the property owner next door tearing down a building to construct a parking lot, put up a billboard, or pursue other insensitive development.” (1)

R: There is an insurance of having a safe small business without the threat of chain businesses. The security of the designation increases confidence in small business owners and makes it easier for residents who focus on small business consumerism.

Main claim of the argument from the text (Quote & translate):

The success of LoDo is a story of historic preservation’s ability to generate real estate value and economic growth. Denver is a richer and more dynamic city because visionaries fought to preserve this iconic neighborhood. Moreover, had Denver gone the other way and allowed Lower Downtown to disappear, it would be poorer both in dollars and in spirit.

T: Though the community had fought to keep the revitalization of LoDo from happening, they were still able to benefit from preservation. If they had not gone through with the preservation, who knows what the outcome would’ve been to the Lower Downtown Denver area.

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