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Birth of a Notion

And then a site just north of LoDo--at Blake and 20th streets--was picked as the future home of Coors Field. To the east, neighborhood activists in an area dubbed "NoDough" fought, and fought hard, to make sure that upper Larimer, a modest commercial district that still boasted turn-of-the-century facades, was not bulldozed for parking lots. The six blocks separating this section of Larimer from Larimer Square might as well have been six million miles--but the neighborhood hung on. LoDo's buildings were protected by a historic designation granted in the late Eighties, but that couldn't save the businesses that occupied them. The furniture showrooms disappeared, as did many galleries; most artists had been priced out of LoDo long before. In their place appeared more bars and restaurants.

Still, when you walked over to catch a few innings at Coors Field and watched as the bricks behind the ballpark turned to rose and the sky became that inky Western blue, LoDo's transformation felt like at least a tie game.

By the time the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, there was only one place to party: Larimer Square. The onetime once-a-year attraction had become the town's favorite place to hang. Attorneys playing hooky would ride up on their Harleys, then head into the Market for lattes served by multiple-stud-wearing art students. On weekends, the block was so popular that restaurants started offering valet parking. And on nice winter days, it seemed as though all of Denver lined up just for a seat outside.

Since then, prosperity has continued to overflow into the blocks around Larimer. The Chamber of Commerce is housed in a several-story building next to Westword's original office. Across the street, a chic sushi joint packs them in like sardines; miraculously, there's still a coffeehouse next door, but now it's St. Mark's and the bagels are better.

Development stretches all the way to Platte Street and beyond. An Armadillo now occupies Maxfield & Friends, the local theater may have to make way for a bigger-bucks tenant, and much of the Platte Valley is being cleared for construction--for offices, for residences, for the Pepsi Center. But My Brother's is still there.

So is the Wazee, although the 15th Street Viaduct is gone, and so is Angelo. Last week John Hickenlooper, one of the Wynkoop's founders, bought the place from his widow. The Wynkoop, too, has sustained its losses: The original brewer, Russ Scherer (who created my major claim to immortality when he named a beer after me), passed away two years ago. LoDo whispers with the names of people lost to us over two decades.

Bricks last longer than paper.
But as fans crowd the streets to celebrate the Broncos' Super Bowl victory (fifth time's a charm), this is a place of celebration. So many people were drawn to LoDo Sunday night that 15th Street was closed--an unthinkable act twenty years ago. The 20th Street Viaduct was closed, too--but then, it didn't exist in 1978. Streets that once saw only a few bums at night were filled--filled with people thrilled that Denver had finally won, people thrilled that Denver was home to the world champions (even if the city that's tried for so long to shed its image as a cowtown only confirmed it with "riots" that consisted largely of throwing trash cans, stealing some athletic shoes and flipping over a car or two). People thrilled to be in Denver.

Before Tuesday's victory parade could wind its way to the City and County Building for the usual speechifying and backslapping, it had to pull itself together. The participants, and the crowds, gathered at 17th and Wynkoop in a crush of orange, a clutch of optimism. In LoDo, the heart of the city.

It's been quite a party.

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