Designs on Denver
Things are looking up in this city -- and Ken Schroeppel is a big reason why. By day, he's a mild-mannered urban planner with Matrix Design Group -- a national firm involved in such projects as the Denver Federal Center redevelopment -- but by night, he's the mastermind behind the superhero site Denverinfill.com. Short of the Denver planning office, the year-old blog is the most comprehensive source of information about in-the-works projects for the downtown area -- and it's a helluva lot easier to understand. Schroeppel skips the jargon and legalese, instead taking a by-the-numbers approach to identifying new buildings and projects, adding enlightening backstories. Schroeppel -- who says he wanted to be a city planner ever since he was a kid -- even sits through Lower Downtown Design Review Board meetings to glean insight into the future look of the Mile High City. If he's willing to do that heavy lifting, getting the scoop on the man behind the blog was the least Off Limits could do.
Q: How much time do you spend each week on Denverinfill.com?
A: On average, I would say five to ten hours.
Q: You get paid for that, right?
A: Actually, I started it before I came to Matrix about nine months ago. Denverinfill. com is not a function of my job. It's a personal site, although it clearly has some overlap with my professional work as well.
Q: Why would you spend all that time plotting out Denver's future?
A: The main reason I started it was because I felt that there was a need for more promotion of the various infill projects that were occurring in downtown Denver. My passion for planning is downtown and urban revitalization.
Q: Come on. You must have cloned yourself to gather all the information you include.
A: I've done 100 percent of the work myself. I designed the site in terms of how it looks visually and its content and how it functions. I took all the pictures myself. That's part of the fun as well. One of my favorite things to do is to walk around downtown with my camera and take pictures.
Q: So do you live downtown?
A: Well, close. I live in Highland.
Q: Are you married? Kids?
A: Uh, no.
Q: Where do you hang out in your free time? Are you more of a LoDo club person or a Forest Room 5/Lola guy?
A: My friends and I are sort of a little over the bar scene at this point. We get together with friends and have dinner parties.
Q: Is Denver going to hit the bigtime and get a Trump Tower?
A: I think it has a fifty-fifty chance of happening. Donald Trump is not going to come to Denver just to make us feel good about ourselves; he'll come because the numbers work.
Q: What is your favorite downtown building?
A: I love some of the old historic buildings. My favorite would be the Brown Palace Hotel. My favorite modern building would be 1999 Broadway. I like the interesting shape and the greenish-color glass and the neon at night. It's not a boring box, like so many of downtown's other 1980s boxes.
Q: What does Denver need in terms of infill?
A: While the skyscrapers, like the fifty-story Four Seasons tower, are appealing because they have a big impact on the skyline, personally I believe that is it the five- to ten-story projects that heal our downtown area from the ravages of the parking lot. Ultimately, it's the removal of as many square blocks' worth of parking lots as we can accomplish that will allow us to connect our downtown with our neighborhoods and become pedestrian-friendly, more vital and a better place.
Q: Where is the worst spot in downtown?
A: It's the vacant block at the corner of 16th and Welton streets. It's a disgrace that it has been allowed to be vacant this long. It's a key intersection, and there was a proposal for an urban Target, but it failed.
Scene and herd: The Denver Post may have put fashion on summer hiatus (fashion editor Suzanne Brown is busy launching the Monday "fitness" section), but there are still plenty of clothes-minded folks in town. Denver's seams are suddenly bursting with local designers offering innovative looks. They join such stalwarts as Crystal Sharp, the longtime go-to gal for some of the city's most stylish women -- in their mission to pretty up a city that takes casual Friday a little too literally.
To celebrate Denver's stylistic growth out of jeans and baseball caps, Westword asked Sharp and a dozen other designers to join in a project that shows off their creations on real men and women -- not models -- in real landmark settings for our annual Summer Guide, which is tucked inside this edition. Off Limits got a sneak peek at one shot, a lawn party outside the Holiday Chalet, starring Denver City Council members Jeanne Robb and Rick Garcia. Robb's wearing a blue silk summer shift from Crystal Sharp and a hand-woven silk shawl from Laurelle's Ewenique Designs, while Garcia's exchanged his usual dark suits for a pink blazer, jeans and a plaid shirt from Andrisen Morton. Let's call this meeting to order! Grab a copy of Summer Guide to see what other bold-faced names made the cut -- and what local designers have designs on Denver.