How are property developers increasing the value of urban real estate? They're scraping single-family homes, restaurants and other small businesses and replacing them with multi-unit dwellings, offices and concrete warrens of retail space. It makes good sense financially, even if it pisses off the preservationists and adds architecture of questionable taste to the skyline. But some thoughtful entrepreneurs see the beauty in the old, and are using creative design to preserve vintage buildings while maximizing their square footage.
The Source, which opened in 2013 on Brighton Boulevard, turned a crumbling factory into a gorgeous destination for food lovers with enough space left over for a few start-up businesses. Avanti Food & Beverage soon followed, packing seven fast-casual counters and two bars into a 1935 brick edifice that had previously housed a drugstore, a mechanic's shop and a printing press. And a former airplane ejector-seat factory on the border of Aurora and Denver's Stapleton neighborhood will soon open as the Stanley Marketplace, with more than a dozen food and beverage vendors.
Real-estate developer Ken Wolfe has lived in the neighborhood we now call RiNo (hey, don't blame us — the RiNo Art District was founded in 2005) since the 1990s, and sees alluring retail potential — and dollar signs — in aging architecture that could just as easily fall victim to the wrecking ball. The H.H. Tammen Curio Company building, at 2669 Larimer Street, is one such structure. Built in the 1920s and most recently used as a high-end motor-sports showroom, the airy warehouse will soon become home to the Central Market, a collection of artisan food and beverage vendors selected with the help of Wolf's business partner, chef-restaurateur Jeff Osaka.
Osaka also has a stake in the neighborhood, with his restaurants Osaka Ramen and Sushi-Rama just steps from the Tammen building. For this project, he's rounded up a group of food producers and purveyors — some veterans and some newcomers — to pack the market with enough culinary clout to keep connoisseurs drooling for years to come. Big-name participants include Old Major head honcho Justin Brunson, longtime Denver favorite chef Sean Kelly (who just opened Desmond Bar & Grill in Park Hill at the end of 2015), Il Posto founder Andrea Frizzi and master baker Maurizio Negrini of Izzio Artisan Bakery (originally Udi's).
The Central Market is aiming for a spring 2016 opening, a vague time frame indicative of the backlog of contractors, inspectors and city officials that has become the standard for restaurant openings over the past two years. Here's the complete list of vendors who will ply their wares once the ribbon is finally cut:
Culture Meat & Cheese Shop
This is Justin Brunson's new baby; he'll be peddling an array of charcuterie made by the Old Major crew, along with products from local and international meat and cheese makers. Expect sandwiches, bulk items by the pound and a sushi-style counter where customers can construct their own boards from a bountiful display. Oh, and you can strut your carnivorous stuff as you peruse the market with a hand-held meat cone made from thin-shaved salumi layered in a paper holder.
This is the sequel to Crema Coffee House just a couple of blocks up Larimer Street. Unlike the all-day hangout that the original Crema has become, this version will give more shelf space to retail goods: non-alcoholic beverages, milk, eggs, yogurt, coffee-brewing gear and, for some reason, bike tubes. Of course, you can still get a great cup of joe made from a selection of America's finest small-batch beans.
Jesus Silva, Osaka's wing man and head chef at Sushi-Rama, is in charge of this fishmonger's stall, which will specialize in whole fish with an eye toward restaurants as customers. But there will be something for the average seafood fan, too, including house-prepared ceviches, oysters and tostadas that can be eaten on the spot.
Chef-restaurateur Sean Kelly brings his decades of experience (who can forget Aubergine, Claire de Lune and Somethin' Else?) to the market with rotisserie-cooked beast and bird, plus take-home pantry items and other prepared foods.
If you love the Italian fare at Il Posto, you'll be drawn to chef-owner Andrea Frizzi's more casual take, which will feature pasta and wood-fired pizza.
High Point Creamery
Chad Stutz and Erika Thomas are turning their Hilltop ice cream business into a double scoop with this second location. Along with ice cream, sorbet and vegan frozen dessert, this spot will also include a soda fountain with egg creams, sodas made from custom syrups, and a few modern concoctions.
Maurizio Negrini brought three generations of Bolognese baking knowledge to the Denver area when he headed up the original Udi's. The bakery itself now bears Negrini's nickname; the new Central Market location will be Izzio’s first-year round retail bakery outlet. Products will include old-world breads, pastries and desserts baked under the command of head pastry chef Jason LaBeau.
CoCo will be a chocolate shop offering confections from American and European chocolatiers, along with a selection of chocolates and sweets made in-house.
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SHOW ME HOW
Cure All Bitters owners Katsumi Ruiz and Stephen Julia are opening a beer, wine and cocktail bar that will be located in the central common area of the market. The liquor license extends throughout the marketplace, so customers will be able to grab an adult beverage and head to the other shops. Think of the pleasure of a meat cone from Culture in one hand and a cocktail in the other!
This produce specialist will offer fresh juices, veggie bowls and morning snacks. Green Seed won't have a salad bar, but will feature prepped produce, pre-made meals and veggie-forward dishes.
The Local Butcher
This full-service butcher shop will offer beef, pork, poultry, lamb, bison and housemade sausages, along with Italian meatball and pulled beef sandwiches, daily soup specials and, on occasion, sliced prime rib.