Is River North (RiNo) the Most Up-and-Coming Neighborhood in Denver?

2014 January 29
by David Schlichter

There are so many incredible neighborhoods in Denver.  Many have a deep history and boast exquisite architecture.  Some revolve around beautiful parks, and others are marked by their proximity to restaurants and bars.  Neighborhoods that some might have been intimidated to live in a decade ago are now some of the most popular and expensive neighborhoods in the city.  A question I get often is: which Denver neighborhood is next?

DENVER GROWTH

The Downtown Denver Partnership recently released its second-annual State of Denver report, and it includes some interesting data regarding what to expect for the near future in Denver.  Three key growth statistics, in particular, stood out to me:

  • Between 2010 and 2012, the City of Denver grew 5%, making it the second-fastest growing large city in the country.
  • Downtown Denver’s growth rate is five times the national growth rate.
  • The number of downtown Denver residents is expected to grow by almost 18% in the next five years.

As the population living in, working in, and passing through downtown Denver continues to explode, the urban core inevitably must expand upward and outward to accommodate the growth.  While there are some commercial buildings going up in downtown (particularly in the area of the Union Station revitalization project), there just isn’t much more room for new buildings in downtown, and there aren’t many old buildings left that still need renovating.  Even in the areas immediately surrounding downtown, there are very few pockets left with abundant opportunity for new development.  That is, except for River North (RiNo).

RIVER NORTH (RiNo) & THE GEOGRAPHY OF DOWNTOWN DENVER

According to the River North Art District, RiNo is considered to be the area northeast of Park Avenue, east of I-25, south of I-70, and northwest of Arapahoe Street.  But if you were to ask Denver residents what its borders are, you’d probably get many different answers.  Some might include Curtis Park, others might include all of Five Points, some might call it “Upper Larimer” or “NoDo,” and many have never even heard of RiNo in the first place.  To me, exact borders are not important, and RiNo really is composed of several smaller neighborhoods.  For the purposes of this article, though, we can simply consider RiNo to be the area immediately northeast of downtown Denver.

Downtown Denver generally doesn’t have anywhere else to expand in a major way except northeast.  To the west is I-25 and the Lower Highlands (LoHi), a neighborhood that has quickly become expensive and densely developed.  To the south is Speer Blvd., the Pepsi Center, the Auraria campus, and the Golden Triangle–and there there isn’t much room for significant new urban development in any of these areas, except a few parts of the Golden Triangle.  To the southeast and east are Capitol Hill, Uptown, and Whittier–three areas that are, generally speaking, relatively expensive, stable, historic neighborhoods with few vacant lots or buildings.

EARLY RiNo DEVELOPMENT

RiNo is the only area immediately adjacent to downtown that still has an abundance of vacant buildings and lots, warehouses ready to be infused with new life, and a relatively blank canvas on which entrepreneurs, planners, and developers can paint a masterpiece.  The region, as can be seen in the video above, is already experiencing the beginnings of a renaissance.  Art galleries and the mixed-use TAXI development by Zeppelin Development, Inc. paved the way, and they have been followed by microbreweries, coffee shops, restaurants, bars, microdistilleries, urban wineries, boutiques, and other small/medium businesses at a rapid pace.

Then, near the end of last year, came The Source, a 25,000+ square foot indoor artisan food emporium (also developed by the Zeppelins) within an old iron foundry on Brighton Blvd., featuring two Good restaurants (Comida and Acorn), a craft brewery (Crooked Stave), craft distiller (CapRock Farm Bar), phenomenal baker (Babette’s), butcher (Meathead), fresh market (Americanum Provisions), florist (Beet and Yarrow), art gallery and retail space (Svper Ordinary), spirits shop (Proper Pour), cheese/world food market (Mondo Market), coffee roaster/shop (Boxcar Coffee Roasters), and more.

While the surrounding blocks are dominated by auto body shops, junk yards, and vacant buildings, count on this: Brighton Blvd. and RiNo as a whole will be transformed in the next several years, thanks to The Source, the new east light rail line coming from Union Station through RiNo and out to the airport, the potential of a new flagship Great Divide Brewing Co. location on Brighton Blvd., and more.

RiNo RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND MUSIC

Within the last few years, some of the new food/drink additions to RiNo have become some of the hottest spots in Denver: The Populist and Amerigo Delicatus were both featured as two of the Best New Restaurants in Denver for 2013 by 5280.  Cold Crush was selected as the Best New Bar in Denver for 2013 by Westword.  And expect big praise for Sugarmill, Los Chingones, Crema Coffeehouse, and other emerging local favorites in the months to come.

RiNo also boasts a great music scene.  The Walnut Room, Larimer Lounge, Meadowlark, and Cold Crush are all Good places to catch a live show.  Rocketspace is a relatively new space that offers five rehearsal studios at which local bands can rehearse.  Every First Friday of the month, galleries and businesses open up for an evening celebration, and new as of last year is a monthly Final Friday “Music Walk and Urban Bazaar” which includes live music at different RiNo venues, artwork, food, and more.  See below for a video from the first Final Friday:

RiNo REAL ESTATE

Because of all of the factors above, real estate in the area has taken off.  You can see, as you travel northeast from downtown, how quickly commercial development is expanding into the area, block by block.  Although there are still many vacant buildings/lots in RiNo (especially the farther northeast you go), investors are seeing the potential of RiNo, and those properties are starting to rapidly disappear.  Prices, while still relatively low compared to “prime” downtown Denver real estate, are starting to rise quickly.  The residential market in the area has boomed as well.  Average sold prices for the last year in RiNo were up a staggering 21% as compared to the year before.  Click here to search RiNo homes for sale, and contact me if you are interested in buying or selling real estate.

CONCLUSION

Though there are many neighborhoods in Denver that are evolving as our city grows in popularity and population, I believe few have as much short-term growth potential as RiNo.  The geography and growth of downtown Denver almost necessitate development moving into RiNo, and entrepreneurs, developers, restauranteurs, artists, start-ups, investors, and Denver residents are starting to arrive in large numbers to capitalize on its potential.  The area has already reached a critical mass of interest and early development, and soon I believe it will be transformed into one of the liveliest parts of the city.  Yes, it still has a way to go.  Graffiti and broken glass can be found on many blocks, sidewalks are wholly absent in some areas, and the presence of abandoned buildings can have undesirable short-term consequences.  But I believe these issues are being resolved as the area is invigorated with new capital, attention, innovation, and activity.  And I write this from near 32nd and Curtis, where last year my wife and I bought a house, putting our money exactly where my mouth is.

The Good Life Denver is written by David Schlichter. To stay in the loop, like The Good Life Denver on Facebook and follow @thegoodlifeden on Twitter!

In addition to writing for The Good Life Denver, David works full-time as a Denver real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Downtown, LLC. David helps his clients (ranging from first-time home buyers, to sellers, to seasoned investors) achieve their real estate goals. Contact David today for all of your Denver real estate needs. Direct: 7/440-2340, Office: 3/539-5700. (None of the above should be construed as investment advice.)

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