Sherman Street at the edge of downtown Denver would be allowed higher building height limits and more density under a proposed rezoning.
The Sherman Street North Redevelopment Vision has been presented by Tryba Architects to a number of City Council members and neighborhood groups.
Tryba Architects is representing the Dikeou family, which owns six parcels on three parking lot sites in the 10-block area.
The Dikeou family bought one of the sites from former “Troubleshooter” Tom Martino, in the wake of his highly publicized Chapter 7 bankruptcy a few years ago.
“We truly believe this is good for Denver, good for the neighborhood and good for the transition between Uptown and downtown,” said publicity-shy Panayes “Pany” Dikeou, who runs the family’s real estate interests.
“Uptown is doing well and downtown is strong, but the link in between the two is not so strong,” he told me.
He said he knows there will always be some “naysayers,” who don’t like change, especially when it includes taller buildings and more density.
“I think what we are proposing is a win-win,” Dikeou said.
The ultimate heights of future buildings would depend on the market and the use.
However, he doesn’t think a 1,000-foot tall building would be constructed on any of its sites, like the one proposed by a New York City developer at 1650 17th St.
“I wasn’t aware that someone wanted to build a 1,000-foot-tall tower, but that has never been done before in Denver and I don’t think we would see a 1,000-foot tower on any of our sites,” Dikeou said.
While technically there would be no height limits on some of the sites, “I think a 1,000-foot tower would be highly unlikely,” Tryba said. “Buildings just don’t grow to the sky. There are physical and economic constraints.”
However, an unlimited height allows for creative opportunities and flexibility, he said.
“You don’t build height just for height’s sake,” Tryba said. “In some places along Sherman we may have a 400-foot height limit and we would build a 170-foot building because it better complements the neighborhood.”
He said the rezoning would not only benefit Dikeou but also other landowners in the neighborhood.
“It would also protect some substantial investments made by some landowners,” Tryba said. “The problem with the form-based zoning that is currently in place is that it does not allow any flexibility.”
The rezoning request for the six sites calls to extend the boundary of the Downtown Core (D-C) zoning from its current location along the alley between Lincoln and Sherman streets to one block east to the alley between Sherman and Grant streets.
Sites will include three approved Planned Unit Developments along Sherman Street between 17th and 18th avenues.
The plans would waive the 400-foot height limits on some parcels, would allow a 24:1 floor-area ratio on one site and would reduce the Sky Exposure requirement to 10 percent from 15 percent.
In exchange, the Dikeou family promises to improve the streetscape by adding tree lawns, filling in the historic tree canopy, adding pedestrian lighting and bicycle parking, and replace and patch sidewalks along Sherman Street. These improvements would take place within the first year of the approval of the rezoning request.
The Dikeou Collection of contemporary art also would be moved to the first building constructed on Sherman Street. The collection was established in 1998 by siblings Devon Dikeou and Pany Dikeou.
The rezoning is needed to return Sherman Street to its former glory, according to Tryba Architects, which is headed by well-known architect David Tyrba.
“Sherman Street was originally a gracious, distinctive place, with double rows of trees lining the street and a great diversity in public, private, institutional and cultural uses,” according to the 34-page Sherman Street North Redevelopment Vision proposal.
“Over time, while the same diversity of use has remained, many of the character-defining elements of the public realm have disappeared,” the plan continues.
The Sherman Street stretch, for example, has lost almost 80 percent of the original tree canopy, as well as “vast swaths of the tree lawn, and a general sense of street and sidewalk continuity,” according to the rezoning proposal.
It’s an area that has undergone a great deal of change.
“Many of the houses and cultural buildings that made up the former “Millionaires’ Row” were demolished and replaced with office buildings, surface parking lots and parking garages. This leaves today’s Sherman Street North in a state of disarray, lacking many pedestrian-friendly features and with its grace and distinctiveness diminished,” according to the proposal.
In 2012, the Dikeou family bought four parcels at 18th and Grant streets with a total of 51,000 square feet for about $5.7 million, or about $111 million, according to public records. The seller was Sherman Properties, headed by Matthew Klaess, who had been a partner on the property with Martino, the radio and TV personality.
That site was a key parcel in $19.4 million in loans that saddled Martino during the Great Recession and played a key role in his 2011 bankruptcy, according to a Denver Post report. The Dikeou family now calls that Site 3.
“I think the Dikeou family owned the other site since the 1970s and maybe the 1960s,” said John Winslow, president of Winslow Property Consultants LLC.
Site 3 is across the street from the El Jebel building. In 2003, Tryba orchestrated a rezoning of the El Jebel site allowing a 650-foot tower that previously would not have been allowed because of the view plane.
Dikeou said he hired Tryba “because I think David is a great architect, he’s a friend and he is very familiar with the area because of what he did on the El Jebel site.”
At one time, Donald Trump looked at developing a tower on the El Jebel site, but the deal never got off the ground.
Site 1, owned by the Dikeou family, is bordered by East 16th Avenue, Lincoln and Sherman streets.
The height limit on Site 3 would be 650 feet on its southwest corner, under the proposal.
Proposed changes to the rezoning of Site 1 include:
- Waive the 400-foot height limit;
- Waive the density maximums on part of the site to 17:1 commercial FAR from 12:1 FAR and 24:1 residential FAR from 17:1 and;
- Reduce the Sky Exposure requirement, which protects the view plane, to 10 percent from 15 percent.
Site 2 is bordered by Lincoln and Sherman streets and East 18th Avenue.
The rezoning proposal for Site 2 includes:
- Waive the 400-foot height maximum;
- Increase the density to 17:1 commercial FAR from 12:1;
- Increase the residential FAR to 24:1 from 17:1 and;
- Reduce the Sky Exposure requirement to 10 percent from 15 percent.
Tryba said a lot of people don’t put the City Park View plane ordinance into historical perspective.
“When it was created in 1952, the tallest building in downtown was the Daniels & Fisher tower, which is 375 feet,” Tryba said. “They never envisioned buildings like Republic Plaza and the Wells Fargo Center that are in the 700-foot range.”
Also, if the view plane were amended so that taller buildings would “frame” the view toward Mount Evans, “it would make the mountains look much more imposing from downtown. It is an optical fact that when you frame a view, it makes it much more imposing.”
“Current zoning does not allow for density to be maximized at these (three) strategic sites,” according to the Tryba rezoning proposal.
Tryba notes that one of the Dikeou sites includes the “last undeveloped parcels” adjacent to the RTD Civic Center Transit Station.
This year, the Downtown Denver Partnership proposed the 5280 Loop to connect historic and modern neighborhoods in the area.
Sherman Street would be one of the major north-south routes of the loop, “connecting Capitol Hill, Enterprise Hill and downtown,” Tryba notes.
“This demonstrates that Sherman Street still has great historic and strategic importance to Denver,” according to the Tryba rezoning request.
So far, the Sherman Street plan has been presented to City Council members Albus Brooks, Wayne New, Christopher Herndon, Rafael Espinoza, Debbie Ortega and Kendra Black, according to the proposal.
Brad Buchanan, the head of Community Planning also has reviewed it.
Ed Natan, who coined the monicker “Uptown” in the 1980s, recently saw a presentation by Tryba and Dikeou and came away impressed.
“The common objective is to enliven the street level on these forever empty blocks,” Natan said.