The Rossonian: If you don’t succeed, try again

1 Infill hotel turning the corner Screen Shot 2019-06-05 at 8.09.39 AM

Denver’s Five Points Cultural District is one of a kind. It stretches along Welton Street from 24th Street to 30th Street, with a little bump out at Washington Street at 26th Street.

The cultural district was first approved in 2002 as the Welton Street Commercial Corridor Cultural District, but the name was changed a few years ago. There are nine contributing buildings in that district, including the stand-out structure: the Rossonian, which has been in a sort of limbo for several years.

So much for the history lesson, because change along Welton Street has been swift and sure for the past few years, including residential buildings such as the Lydian and the Wheatley.

A development group now wants to build an 8-story hotel next to the historic Rossonian, and then next to the hotel a 9-story mixed-use building, which already has broken ground. The plan is to rehabilitate the Rossonian, bringing it back to life. Taken all together, it’s a major development.

The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission yesterday discussed two project items related to the Rossonian’s new neighbor. The first item – demolition of the Rossonian annex – pretty much sailed through, though scraping that building must wait until the second item is approved.

That second item – the hotel – did not sail through. Some elements proposed led the commission members to deny the mass, form and context of that new building until some things are worked out. The development group – Palisade Partners and the Five Points Development Corp. – retained Craine Architecture, a respected firm, for the hotel and the mixed-use building. (Palisade and Craine also teamed up to build the Lydian and the Wheatley.)

There were two major concerns:

The upper levels of the hotel are predominantly glass where it turns a corner facing out in the direction the Rossonian is pointing. The fourth floor will house a restaurant, but the three levels above that will be used as hotel rooms. There was discussion about how window coverings for those three levels would read from the street seemingly floating over the Rossonian’s point where Welton and Washington meet. There was a suggestion that the design perhaps needs to use less glass.  No one mentioned the privacy situation, but… The rendering at the top of this  post got a lot of discussion.

Then there was discussion about the articulation of the hotel’s façade facing Welton Street.  The window placements are somewhat irregular, a staccato rhythm that is showing up in new buildings in the metro area (think the Hotel Born and the residential building The Confluence). This concept adds a sense of movement and rhythm, but that part of the design on the proposed hotel concerned the commission. The Washington Street façade features more regular window placements. The rendering at the bottom of this post shows the facade facing Welton Street.

The next step for the project is to come back with a design plan.  The neighborhood has been incredibly supportive of the project, as witnessed by numerous letters included in the application. I look forward to seeing the next version, because there is promise here.

One thing stood out, though. The Rossonian is three stories tall. The new infill hotel building will be eight stories tall. And next to that hotel will be an office / residential building called The Hooper, at nine stories tall.

When the meeting took a break, I asked one of the landmark staff members about the height differential, and the sense that these much taller buildings will sort of loom over the Rossonian. After all, this is the reason this project is being proposed; the Rossonian  carries a lot of history and cultural connections to Five Points.

I was told that there was no height cap for construction in this cultural district. I was surprised, because going through the design guidelines for the district portrays a situation where an infill building cannot be taller than the contributing building. Perhaps we’ll learn more about this when the infill project next to the Rossonian returns for more discussion.

Below is a link from the August 2016 document with design guidelines for the Five Points Historic Cultural District:

https://www.denvergov.org/content/dam/denvergov/Portals/646/documents/landmark/design_guidelines/Five_Points_Historic_Cultural_District_DSG.pdf

2 Windows on infill Rossonian Screen Shot 2019-06-05 at 8.11.03 AM

 

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