When CEO Chad McWhinney and his firm MCWHINNEY began plotting the Dairy Block development at 18th and Wazee Streets (a collaborative effort with Sage Hospitality and Grand American, Inc.), they knew a key component would be activating the alley that cuts through the block, so they visited successful alleyway developments all over the world. "We studied several alleys — the Meatpacking in New York City, Pike Place Market in Seattle, San Francisco's Maiden Lane, Barcelona — and we got ideas for what works and what doesn’t," he says. "No alley is the same — the amount of heart and soul that you put into the project shows."
The partners eventually emerged with a plan to make the alleyway, simply christened the Alley, the central part of the Dairy Block project, anchored by Denver makers peddling their wares. "The big idea is that it’s a makers project," he says. "Makers will not only be selling their craft on site, but a number a tenants will be making their crafts here as well."
The maker theme extends through the rest of the development, too, McWhinney points out. The massive hand that greets guests in the lobby of the Maven hotel, which came online earlier this year, was made by artist Ramiro Tirado using wood reclaimed from the project, and is intended to represent a maker's hand.
MCWHINNEY carved the Alley into several spaces, which range from 200 to 10,000 square feet, and they're arranging lease terms that range from long-term for anchor tenants to a few days or weeks for artisans who want seasonal booth space but don't want to commit to a full-time shop. About twenty vendors will fill the space; McWhinney notes future tenants have been lined up to sell leather goods, jewelry and watches, among others.
In the meantime, the Dairy Block has announced just four of those tenants by name: Huckleberry Roasters will build a coffee and retail market in the Dairy Block lobby; Highland Square's Perfect Petal will open its second LoDo location; Seven Grand, a Los Angeles-based whiskey bar with outposts in several cities, will open its first Colorado location with live music and pool tables; and the Denver Flea will open a permanent retail space called Roost, selling products and brands from Colorado and beyond.
With these tenants, and the fifteen or so more that will soon be announced, MCWHINNEY is trying to create an experience that inspires owners of other nearby alleys to create similar activations. "Pike Place Market started as one block, one alley, one district, and it's grown from there," says the CEO. "Look at all the alleys that have all grown from it. We’re hoping that happens in LoDo. This is the first activated alley. We're hoping with Union Station, with the Rockies developing the West Lot, that the whole area of LoDo really starts to connect itself."
As for his own development, McWhinney says it will be a stimulating space. "The furniture is really cool and comfortable, there will be plants everywhere, and music — we're trying to appeal to all five senses." And while the Alley is uncovered and open to the elements, common consumption laws will also allow visitors to drink throughout.
Construction on the Alley should be finished this fall, and McWhinney expects all tenants to come on line by spring of next year. When they do, they'll join the Maven hotel, Kachina and Poka Lola Social Club, and hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space.
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