DENVER-An overlooked industrial neighborhood north of the CBD is the latest area poised to be turned into a trendy neighborhood. Developer Susan Powers has broken ground on the first phase of Fire Clay Lofts in the Upper Larimer neighborhood, just north of Coors Field. The first phase calls for the conversion and rehabilitation of an 1885 warehouse originally used to repair cable cars. The structure had a dirt floor and had been collapsing. Powers will incorporate 53 units into the rehabilitated building while constructing an adjacent structure on the site.

Before the first spade of dirt was turned, Powers, principal of Urban Ventures LLC and former director of the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, had sold 47 of the units in the $10.8-million first phase. When completed, the three-phase project will have a value of about $30 million. Fire Clay is the first major development in the neighborhood in nearly 15 years.

Powers says 20% of her units are “affordable,” which means they are available to buyers who earn 55% of the median income. “The maximum a buyer could earn is about $55,000,” she told Units are priced from $134,500 to $279,500 and include live/work units, flats and two-level townhomes.

Even the market-rate units are selling for about an average of $200 per sf, which is about $100 per sf less than comparable units, less than a 10-minute drive away in LoDo, she adds. Unlike LoDo, Upper Larimer still has a number of available warehouse buildings that can be renovated, says Powers. “But I don’t think it’s going to become another LoDo,” she says. “I think it will always remain more affordable. And it’s a lot quieter. You’re close to everything Downtown, but you don’t have the parking problems and congestion you find in LoDo.”

Also, there are a number of thriving light-industrial businesses in the Upper Larimer neighborhood. It lacks the sports bars and restaurants that populate LoDo. “There’s a neon sign company, an architect salvage company where you can find a door knob from any era of house, plumbing contractors and a number of architectural offices,” she says. “We don’t want to see these companies leave. They add to the character of the area.

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