The fate of Larimer Square took another twist after the block’s long-time owner, Jeff Hermanson, informed tenants that he is looking for someone to buy the collection of historic buildings.
“After an incredible 27 years, I have decided to pass the torch of ownership of Larimer Square,” Hermanson wrote in a letter dated Oct. 29. “This time in my life has been defined by the creativity, partnership and reinvention that are the hallmarks of this cherished block.”
He said in a separate statement that he plans to spend more time in Crested Butte and start “a new chapter together with my family.” Hermanson didn’t provide any specifics on the timing of a sale or potential buyers, other than to say he is looking for someone who can honor the block’s past while also securing its future.
“My goal is to find a new owner who will not only respect and appreciate the legacy of this historic Denver landmark, but will also bring the dedication and capability to usher in a new era of vitality,” he said
Hermanson partnered with Denver developer Urban Villages four years ago in an effort to reinvigorate the area, which has faced increasing competition from other areas, including the Central Platte Valley and the River North neighborhood.
Larimer Square’s 20 historic buildings also need major upgrades. A proposal in 2018 to alter or remove some of the historic buildings and add two towers containing condos, apartments and a hotel in the alleyways on each side of the block set off a firestorm, landing Larimer Square on the National Trust for Historic Place’s list of most endangered historic places.
Last year, Hermanson and Urban Village pledged to not harm any of the existing buildings. And then the pandemic hit, draining revenues from a zone heavily dependent on destination diners and boutique shoppers. In April, The Market, a coffee shop, bakery and deli that had anchored the block for more than 40 years announced it would permanently close.
But Larimer Square also reported some successes of late. Six new restaurants and bars are slated to fill the block’s vacant spaces and with them comes hopes for a renewed energy.
“Ultimately, our goal as Jeff’s property management and development partner has been to secure Larimer Square’s place as a vibrant destination for generations to come, as well as a top market-rate contender for new long-term ownership. We look forward to sharing more information as it becomes available,” Jon Buerge, chief development officer and principal at Urban Villages, said in a statement.
Larimer Square and the nearby area was home to many of Denver’s first businesses and the original city hall, which was torn down in the 1940s. Dana Crawford, an ardent preservationist, began buying up buildings on the block in the 1960s and successfully petitioned Denver City Council to name Larimer Square the city’s first historic district in 1971.
In 1986, Crawford sold the block to the Hahn Company, an owner of shopping malls. Hahn in 1993 sold the development to Hermanson, whose Larimer Associates owned restaurants on the block. Larimer Associates shifted its strategy from owning concept restaurants like Cadillac Ranch to bringing in chef-owned restaurants like Tamayo and Rioja that helped define the area as a Denver dining destination.
Denver Post reporters Joe Rubino and Josie Sexton contributed to this report.