Riverview at 1700 Platte is uniquely located
WORDS: Sean O’Keefe
Virtuous design is responsive, the best of it on many levels. For Riverview at 1700 Platte, a 213,713-square-foot Class A office building being developed by Trammell Crow Co., strategic building massing and a thoughtful internal organization richly enhance contextual connections. Located west across the river from Union Station, as the name suggests, Riverview celebrates the South Platte, as the tributary churns a svelte hook around downtown Denver on its way to Nebraska. The building also will strive to celebrate the river’s namesake street, Platte, a slim stretch of city blocks pinned between the river and Interstate 25.
“I had my eye on a Platte Street opportunity for about 15 years before this project started to come together,” says Bill Mosher, senior managing director of Trammell Crow Co., with a grin. “Platte Street seemed like a small, unpolished gem tucked away while big development was happening all around it.” The street’s remaining original, two- and three-story red brick buildings today still proudly proclaim Denver’s frontier town past in service to the mid-1800s mining industry economy of gambling, saloons, livestock and goods. The oldest remaining buildings retain their retail focus, spruced up by clever sellers of small-batch ice cream, beers, teas and clothing. Platte Street’s early remnants have been infiltrated by low-rise, mixed-use apartment buildings inserted over the last 20 years. The combined effect gives the street’s few short blocks a bustling but unfinished town square quality.
“The site was owned by Empire Staple Co.,” shares Mosher. “A lot of developers wanted the property and the owner said he’d sell to whoever found find him a replacement site he couldn’t resist.” Eventually, Mosher did and the deal was done. With the title in hand, the true challenge was in determining exactly what to do with coveted real estate sitting just a bit more than a block from dual-pedestrian bridges. To the west, over I-25, is the Lower Highlands neighborhood. To the east, the footpath crosses the South Platte, through Commons Park to the Millennium Bridge, Union Station, Lower Downtown and the heart of the city beyond.
“We considered a lot of different development scenarios,” says Mosher, who mentions the option of adding to the mix of multifamily residential in the area meant contending with an estimated 3,000 units within a half-mile of the site. “Ultimately, we felt that the neighborhood, the river, the park and this site’s forever-unobstructed views of Union Station were amenities that would appeal greatly to select, premium office tenants.”
Trammell Crow engaged a tried and true design-build partnership of Tryba Architects and Saunders Construction to deliver the project. The same team had previously completed similar, tight-site office opportunities at 1900 16th Street just across Millennium Bridge.
“Architecturally, the interesting thing here is the relationship between Platte Street – a modernized historic context, the living green context of the river and park, and the idea of interlacing an office campus between the two,” says John McIntyre, a principal and senior designer at Tryba Architects. It is at the intersection of these seemingly oppositional ambitions that Riverview at 1700 Platte plans to find its sense of place.
“We’ve given the building two dramatically different facades in response to the differing contexts,” continues McIntyre. The Platte Street side reads as two reclaimed neighborhood buildings – the five-story North wing and the four-story South wing – connected by a modern glass link. From the east, however, Riverview at 1700 Platte will be unmistakable. An expansive glass curtain wall covering the entire eastern façade will reveal the truth – a single structure office complex offering incredible city views and an intimate embrace of the South Platte’s western bank and pedestrian path. “The commonality between the two impressions is a strong, robust building with an open, landscaped courtyard at its center.”
A key driver of the building’s massing during design was a view plane of downtown Denver from LoHi’s Hirshorn Park. A view plane is a city-established line of site that must remain unobstructed by development. In the case of Riverview, the view plane partially extends across the site, limiting the south wing’s buildable height to four stories. This break in scale allows both the east and west elevations to achieve a sense of escalation as the building rises north. Along Platte Street, large window openings with stone sills punched into the dual red brick wings propose simplicity, rigor and quality. The glass link structure takes responsibility for the fifth-floor elevation gain, allowing the north and south wings to look as though they were conjoined after the fact rather than originally built as one. Because of the lower height of the south wing, Riverview’s rooftop patio also will enjoy views of Mile High stadium and south Denver. Within the glass link, a living green wall engulfing an entire street-facing wall seeks to transmit the river’s presence from one side of the building to the other.
Where the glass link centers the building to the west, along the glass face an elevated courtyard basking in city views and morning light instead dichotomizes the two halves. The courtyard deftly interrupts the voluminous expanse of glass and is joined by a rooftop patio and five east-facing balconies to provide an abundance of external access. As part of the site’s redevelopment, the team worked with the city to add an elevated section of the South Platte River Trail behind the building, while also including lock-up spaces for up to 200 bicycles.
From the center section of the building, the Riverview’s line-drive view of Union Station will remain perpetually unobscured, framed by high-rise offices built over the last few years. Internally, the courtyard allowed designers to develop large, efficient and varied office floor plates that will be attractive to a wide range of tenants. In addition to proving an amenity for the offices, the courtyard also introduces daylight into the south wall of the north building. A rain garden built into the courtyard will provide a visible demonstration of active sustainability in a LEED-certified building. The property’s green roofs will work with the garden to detain, filter and condition rainwater to the environmental standard required for direct release into the river below, effectively eliminating the building’s burden on Platte Street’s limited storm drainage.
While the building’s midblock site and river frontage were greatly leveraged during the design, they significantly increased the planning and precision required to build the project.
“From a construction standpoint, the hardest part was overall access to the site,” says Saunders Construction Project Executive Mike Pask. “The building is hemmed in on three sides by street, river and an adjacent structure, so we’ve been limited to a single egress on the northern edge of the property.” To account for this complexity, the precast structure was assembled and then the building’s exterior skin was installed beginning in the courtyard and going around the building toward the western edge. Pask credits the tremendous team collaboration in preplanning every aspect of construction to enhance a smooth project delivery.
Working collaboratively, in partnership with Saunders and Tryba, Trammell Crow believes the project will achieve a premium-quality office product in an exclusive location that feels like little else in the city.
“This is a premium building, with exceptional city access in every direction. Riverview embraces the river and mixed-used surroundings and offers a lot more than just office space,” says Mosher. The notion certainly seems to be validated by out-of-state tenant, BP Lower 48, who will be taking approximately 70 percent of the building’s total available square footage and will occupy floors 3,4 and 5 exclusively.
City building happens one project at a time. Perhaps Riverview at 1700 Platte’s contextual embrace of the South Platte will contribute to a greater appreciation for the South Platte River, one of Denver’s few remaining underexploited assets.
Published in the December 2017 issue of Building Dialogue.