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What Is Old in Denver Can Be New Again

Eighties nostalgia seems to be a never-ending craze. From "Stranger Things" representing the decade with references to Ghostbusters and New Coke, what was old is new again.

"Plaza bonus" developments came of age in the early eighties. Born in Chicago and New York, Denver eventually embraced the mixed-use "tower-in-a-park." Building out usable, street-level public space that served as a place to socialize pre-smartphones provided incentives that go beyond limits to government-mandated zoning that dictate building height and square footage.

An idea is one thing. Execution is quite another. With the best of intentions, developers chose to give the outdoor plazas a more formal look, which seemed unwelcoming and discouraged actual use. Instead of feeling comfortable enough to congregate, occupants gave these polished spaces fleeting glances as they entered and exited.

As a new decade is about to dawn, Denver's plazas are showing their age. The shine has come off as the empty spaces lack everything from functionality to the simple need for shade. Rejuvenation of these outdoor meeting places comes as Denver is falling short of the national parkland acreage. Nationally, the average is 10 acres per 1,000 residents. The Mile-High City is miles away at 5.7.

Building new does not seem to be a valid option due to the lack of new space and the significant expense of acquiring land. However, a collaborative coalition between public officials and private property owners could be a much-needed first step.

Today's plazas could be a meeting place for both friends and coworkers in need of some good old-fashioned fresh air. Natural amenities can be provided by the sun and cooperative weather. Shelter can protect from inclement conditions. Areas can be adorned with everything from furniture and lawn games to kiosks and food trucks.

In tried and true "Back to the Future" style, plazas may be on the comeback trail.

Real estate development does come with risk, and good legal advice is key. Contact an experienced real estate lawyer today to discuss your project.

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