DENVER-Van Gilder Insurance Corp. has preleased 57,000 sf of 1515 Wynkoop, a planned 295,000-sf, eight-story office building in the Lower Downtown area. The developer, Hines, says it will break ground for the project next month.

The development site is at the southwest corner of 15th and Wynkoop. Van Gilder’s lease, for the second and third levels of the building, is the first signed tenant for the building. The company will be relocating from 700 Broadway. “Strong growth over the past several years mandated a new, larger location for our firm,” company chief executive Michael Van Gilder says.

Designed by Hartman-Cox Architects, 1515 Wynkoop will be clad in brick and glass in deference to the historical tradition of neighboring structures. Other features include 425 below-grade parking space and 27,000 sf of street-level retail. The project was announced in September. Construction is scheduled to commence March 14. Project completion is scheduled for October 2008.

Lower Downtown is experiencing a renaissance of late. In addition to the redevelopment of Union Station and the surrounding area, two other office building projects are in the works. Vacancy in Lower Downtown is in the mid single digits and full-service asking rates new office space are $30 to $35 per sf per year.

Also in September, Opus said it would break ground early this year for a three-building, 400,000-sf mixed-use office, retail and residential complex at 1400 Wewatta St., across from Pepsi Center, which will be ready for occupancy in late 2008.

In November, Multi-Employer Property Trust announced it is planning to develop a $100-million, 18-story office building here, near the Millennium Bridge in Lower Downtown, next to its 285,000-sf Legacy Plaza development. Planned for 1900 16th St., the building will have 335,000 sf of office space, 1,200 parking spaces and 10,000 sf of street-level retail.

MEPT is a multibillion-dollar collective investment fund whose primary beneficiaries are union pension funds. MEPT acquired its development site for $11.8 million in the first quarter of the year, in part to satisfy a parking requirement for Gates Corp., which occupies the entirety of Legacy Plaza. MEPT built the 10-story Legacy Plaza in 2003 and at that time committed to Gates Corp. that 545 off-site parking spaces would be provided.

Hines entered the Denver office market in 1983 with the development of the 52-story Wells Fargo Center (aka the Cash Register building), and in 1999, the firm developed the 13-story 4600 South Syracuse building in the Denver Tech Center.

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