Colorado History

Name Game: Here's the Lowdown on the LoHi Nickname

Little Man Ice Cream, a landmark in LoHi.
Little Man Ice Cream, a landmark in LoHi. Danielle Lirette
After the LoDo nickname caught on for lower downtown, many other neighborhoods tried on new monikers for size, including NoDo, in the then-down-and-out area just northeast of LoDo. But none really caught on until the old Olinger mortuary was redeveloped in Highland in the early 2000s, and Dave Query's Big Red F group moved the popular Lola restaurant from Platte Park to this still sleepy area on the bluff overlooking downtown.

"I was always checking in," says Paul Tamburello, who redeveloped the Olinger property. "One day Dave said,
'Dude, we've got to do something down here; every time we tell people our restaurant is in Highland, they go to Highland Square." And that development on West 32nd Avenue was miles away from the corner of 16th and Boulder streets, which is right on the lower edge of what had once been the actual town of Highland.

"It kept going on and on and on, and we started brainstorming names," Tamburello remembers. "We kicked around a bunch of names, and started calling it the LoHi Marketplace."

The name just applied to the Olinger complex. But no more than a month later, Tamburello heard that a realtor had used the term "LoHi" in an ad. Then it showed up in more ads, and on businesses in the area. "We never branded it, it took off so fast," Tamburello says. "Next thing you know, we're in LoHi."

And the next thing Denver knew, LoHi was booming; the number of restaurants and bars in the area doubled in just a few years, then tripled; Tamburello added his own Little Man Ice Cream to the LoHi Marketplace, and redeveloped another Olinger building that today includes Linger as well as retail shops. And business in what's now almost universally, if unofficially, known as LoHi continues to boom.

Not everyone appreciated the changes. A historian told Tamburello that the nickname had destroyed the neighborhood. Whatever that neighborhood might be.

"What are the boundaries?" ponders Tamburello. "I don't really know."

Just look for the giant milk can. Welcome to LoHi.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun