Loft Horizon

A pioneering urban couple battles to keep LoDo livable.

Whether the watering holes choose to work with the neighborhood group or not, the growing number of loft-dwellers has given the SCNG increasing leverage with city officials. Their clout became clear last year, when locals successfully shot down the proposed Planet Lodo nightclub on Wazee Street. The club was seeking a locally administered cabaret license as well as a state liquor license, but in the teeth of vocal opposition from loft owners, McCann's office denied both applications.

"It was a turning point," Manny says. "I think it sensitized the city administration and Beth McCann that this problem is getting out of hand."

Yet the couple have had their share of defeats, too. Both felt the nine-story Palace Lofts project on Blake Street was out of character with the surrounding neighborhood; although the development was slightly scaled back, so that only a portion of the high-rise stretches above 100 feet, Joanne remained the one dissenting vote on the design review board that approved the project. The couple is now battling the threat of other hulking structures in the district, including a proposed eight-story residential high-rise on Wazee and a 280-car parking garage on Wynkoop.

With permanent covered parking in LoDo selling for as high as $25,000 per space, "parking has become a big issue," Joanne notes. "If they can get that kind of money, they can turn every one of these surface lots into parking garages."

For several years the Salzmans and other activists have been pushing for the city to adopt a new neighborhood plan for LoDo, the first one in town ever drafted by neighborhood interests themselves. The plan, currently under review by the Denver City Council, would limit the height of most new construction in the district to 55 feet. But Joanne notes that the new plan allows buildings of up to 85 feet (if they're "in context" with existing structures) and even up to 130 feet in three areas--a major concession to developers that threatens the human scale of the neighborhood.

Even if the SCNG is successful in keeping other high-rises out of LoDo, other developments in the Platte Valley are giving the Salzmans plenty to think about. In addition to the much-ballyhooed entertainment venues--the Pepsi Center, Ocean Journey, Elitch's--there's the prospect of the Trillium Corporation's planned mixed-use complex behind Union Station, which could result in nine high-rises of up to 25 stories.

"They're adding a density that may very well overwhelm lower downtown," Manny says, shaking his head. "The developers have a lot of power. They have lobbyists, they employ people, they have a lot of money. And they almost always win."

But that doesn't mean the Salzmans are giving up without a fight. They talk about recruiting more local businesses to their cause, pushing for more subsidized housing (like the Mercantile Lofts adjoining the Tattered Cover) so that LoDo doesn't become simply a refuge for a wealthy elite, and mobilizing the troops to keep the dream alive.

"We love it down here," Joanne says. "We wouldn't move away for anything. But it requires a lot of work. You've got to constantly find a way to make it work.

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