LoDo is the lower downtown area of Denver, Colorado, the oldest and original settlement of the city of Denver. It is a mixed-use historic district, known for its nightlife, and serves as a great example of success in urban reinvestment and revitalization.
There are two boundaries for Lower Downtown Denver. The first is the legal, zoning boundary that encompasses the Lower Downtown Historic District, and the historic district forms the heart of the mixed-use neighborhood. This area is roughly bordered by:
* Cherry Creek/Speer Boulevard
* 20th Street
* Larimer Street
* Wewatta Street
The second boundary is the social and economic boundary. This area is not delineated on a map, but rather represents LoDo's sphere of influence, and the relationships between the heart of LoDo and its immediately adjacent areas. This area includes the Auraria Campus, Riverfront Park, the Central Platte Valley, Prospect, Upper Larimer/River North, and the Ballpark neighborhoods. It is more difficult to draw a dividing line between Lower Downtown and the Central Business District, but several commercial real estate brokerages use Curtis Street as the boundary of the LoDo Market Segment.
Before European exploration of the area, Native Americans, particularly the Arapahoe tribe, had encampments along the South Platte River near or in what is now LoDo. In 1858, after gold was discovered in the river, General William Larimer founded Denver by putting down cottonwood logs in the center of a square mile plot that would basically be the current LoDo neighborhood. Therefore, LoDo is both the original city of Denver, as well as its oldest neighborhood. Then like now, LoDo was a bustling and sometimes wild area known for its saloons, and brothels. During the Sand Creek Massacre, it was LoDo where the heads of the slaughtered Arapahoe tribe were paraded in victory.
As Denver grew, city leaders realized a railroad was needed to keep Denver a strong city, especially when the transcontinental railroad bypassed Denver for Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1870, after much cajoling from town leaders, residents passed bonds that brought a 106-mile rail spur from Cheyenne. This and later train lines ended up in the Central Platte Valley, adjacent to LoDo. Union Station became the place most people traveled into the city and LoDo would be the first part of the city they would see.
LoDo like the rest of Denver went through its ups and downs. What was once a thriving business area was, by the mid twentieth century, a skid row. This was especially true after highways and airports took away from the importance of Union Station and the train transportation that built the city. Fortunately, the original urban renewal plans were not realized, which would have leveled much of the area to create a multi-lane highway.
The Lower Downtown Historic District was formed by an act of City Council in March 1988, with the intention of encouraging the preservation and vitality of an area that is significant because of its architectural, historical, and economic value. The historic status granted protection to the community's historic resources and to 127 contributing historic structures that remained (approximately 20% of Lower Downtown's buildings were demolished in the 1960's and 70's) by enactment of a zoning ordinance.
It was during this time, that the neighborhood started to experience a renaissance. New businesses like John Hickenlooper's Wynkoop Brewery started to pop up and slowly LoDo became a destination neighborhood. By the time Coors Field opened on the edge of the LoDo Historic District in 1995, the area had begun to revitalize itself into a new, hip neighborhood filled with clubs, restaurants, art galleries, stores, bars, and other businesses. Pepsi Center, located on the other edge of the neighborhood, opened in 2000 and further encouraged the neighborhood to become a sport fan's paradise. New residential development came to LoDo, transforming old warehouses into beautiful, and pricey, new lofts.
Land in the Lower Downtown Historic District is zoned B-7, which includes building height limitations and encourages mixed-use development as well as providing strict design guidelines for rehabilitation and new construction. Projects must go through an architectural design review process, which allows LoDo to retain its pedestrian scale and historic character as it continues to densify.
In the summer of 2006, LoDo hosted the cast members of MTV's popular reality show The Real World, as season 18: The Real World: Denver. Several movies have also been filmed, wholly or in part, in the neighborhood, including the Eddie Murphy film Nowhereland (2006). LoDo's unique combination of contemporary architecture sprinkled among historic buildings, beautiful mountain views, access to Cherry Creek and nearby parks, plus its proximity to two major sporting venues, makes it a great location for television and movie filming.
Lower Downtown has undergone many changes, and while most have been positive, there are challenges as well. LoDo's status as Denver's premier entertainment district means that the area is highly recognizable, and the 70+ bars and restaurants in the historic district provide a positive economic impact for the city. However, the area is also home to about 2500 people, and this convergence of residential and entertainment uses can lead to conflicts. In particular, incidences of late night violent behavior including an isolated but nevertheless tragic fatal shooting in the neighborhood, have caused concern for local residents and business owners. As an initial measure towards addressing the issue, the police are increasing foot patrols and asking private security officers to assist with the 2:00 am 'let out' period. A security task force, made up of members of the public, Denver Police, neighborhood and business associations, and bar and club owners has convened to examine the issue in greater depth.
LoDo benefits from the active involvement of its community, and has multiple organizations that were set up to advocate for its ongoing health and vibrancy. The LoDo District, Inc., the non-profit neighborhood and business association, represents both the residential and commercial communities, and functions as a LoDo-specific chamber of commerce, visitors bureau, registered neighborhood organization, advocacy agent, and marketing entity. The Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association, the residential association, is a non-profit organization committed to seeking quality living conditions amid the mixed uses of the Lower Downtown area.