Whole Foods a big anchor for Union Denver

Union Denver
Union Denver, with a Whole Foods Market anchor, has one more tower to complete.

Union Denver, a luxury apartment community anchored by a long sought-after downtown Whole Foods Market, is scheduled to be completed in February, when the third residential tower opens.

The first residential tower opened in May and the second tower in September, but it was the flagship, 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market that opened in mid-November that made headlines.

“Whole Foods Market is another great addition to our vibrant downtown,” Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, crowed when the upscale, organic grocery opened its doors.

More recently, Denise Gammon, community developer at the Holland Partner Group, the developer of the 579-unit Union Denver, had this to say: “Union Station is a quarter-billion investment, with its urban Whole Foods Market grocery store, that shows Denver is evolving into a true 24-hour city.”

Union Denver

Denise Gammon

The Whole Foods Market, with a private elevator from a tower to the grocery store, provides a “radically convenient” amenity for the 1,000-plus residents who eventually will call Union Denver home, said Brian Blackburn, development manager at Holland Partner Group.

And a downtown resident who only described himself as Freddie, after spending a couple of hours in the store the day before Thanksgiving, posted this missive on the DenverInfill site: “It was the most crowded grocery store I’d ever been in … I have to say, that store is pretty dang neat.”

Union Denver

Nothing says Whole Foods like goat’s milk and lavender. Whole Foods Market anchors the $250 million Union Denver. Photo credit: Georg Beyer.

It was more challenging to construct a Whole Foods Market in an urban infill site than in a typical suburban setting in which the grocery store is in a free-standing building surrounded by a sea of parking.

However, Holland Partner Group included 165 parking spaces in the Whole Foods Market parking garage at a cost of about $6.6 million.

The Whole Food Market – as well as its location, other amenities and proximity to large employers like DaVita and the office-sharing WeWork –  is one of the reasons that Union Denver commands rental rates of about $3 per sf. In other words, a 1,000-sf unit would rent for about $3,000 per month.

Union Denver, at 1770 Chestnut Place and designed by Davis Partnership Architects, sits on a 2.2-acre site. It is 0.1 of a mile from Union Station, a half-mile from Coors Field and minutes to more than 20 restaurants and bars.

Union Denver

You can see pedestrians walking past the Whole Foods at Union Denver. The Whole Foods is considered an asset for all of downtown Denver. Photo credit: Georg Beyer.

At the request of Rebchook Real Estate Corner, Blackburn assembled some fun facts about Union Denver, if not the most expensive, one of the most expensive apartment communities ever developed in downtown Denver.

  • Union Denver has almost a million square feet of total building area. For comparison, that is about the size of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.
  • Union Denver has about 70,000 sf of retail. In addition to the Whole Foods Market, Gyku-Kaku, a Japanese barbecue restaurant, recently signed a lease.
  • If the three 10-story residential towers were stacked, it would be a 30-story residential tower. That is the same number of stories in the One Tabor Center office tower.
  • At Union Denver’s construction peak, there were 650 construction workers on site.
  • Union Denver’s construction involved more than 42,000 cubic yards of concrete and 45,00 cubic yards of dirt. Combined, the concrete and dirt could fill 26 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • There are 12 other elevators in Union Denver, in addition to the one providing direct access to the Whole Foods Market.
  • The Whole Foods Market prep kitchen at Union Denver is about 8,000 sf in size, which allows for WFM’s large grab and go/prepared foods section.
  • The Whole Foods Market design incorporated a mezzanine space with indoor/outdoor space and patio space on 17th Street Plaza that serves to activate the streetscape.
  • Union Denver incorporated a cell phone repeater system, at a cost of almost $750,000, to improve cell signals in the residential towers and retail space.
  • Union Denver will be receiving the LEED Gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainable features include a “green” roof on Tower 3, electric car charging spaces, low-flow plumbing fixtures, LED lighting and Energy Star appliances.
  • Each unit at Union Denver was designed with the capability of a Smart Unit with motorized blinds and NEST Thermostats.
  • Union Denver has about an acre of outdoor amenity space made up of pools, spas, grilling stations and games. For comparison, a neighborhood “pocket” park in a master-planned housing community typically covers about a quarter of an acre. The open space at Union Denver includes a built-in snowmelt system, allowing it to be used year-round.
  • Union Denver has a 6,000-sf fitness facility with a sound isolation slab and rubber mats.
Union Denver

Brian Blackburn

Union Denver is not only an attractive place for people to live and an asset for downtown but also is a model for what is happening in the most popular cities across the U.S., Gammon said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 80.7 percent of the U.S. population lived in an urban area in 2010.

Union Denver

Shown is the demonstration kitchen at Union Denver, where Whole Foods’ chefs will interact with residents of the apartment community. Photo credit: Georg Beyer

By 2020, it is projected that 85 percent of the population will live in cities, according to Gammon.

“Union Denver is playing into the demographics and migratory patterns we are seeing across the U.S. There is an urban Renaissance taking place across the country and Union Denver is part of that Renaissance,” Gammon said.

If you scratch the surface of just about any deal, there is a story behind it. The Rebchook Real Estate Corner looks at the what and who that make the Colorado commercial real estate industry spin every Tuesday and Thursday online at CREJ.com. The people behind the deals are passionate about what they do, whether they focus on offices, apartments, industrial, retail, land or lending. They also are passionate about their clients. Given the cyclical nature of commercial real estate, those who prosper in it have plenty of stories to tell. I hope to share them with you. 

This column includes news stories, in-depth looks at deals, profiles, Q&As and pieces on the latest trends. Contact John with story tips at JRCHOOK@gmail.com or 303-945-6865.

John Rebchook has been taking the pulse of the Denver-area and Colorado commercial real estate world for almost 35 years. He joined the editorial staff of CREJ in 2011. Prior to that, he was the Real Estate Editor of the Rocky Mountain News from 1983 until it closed in 2009.