FOR YEARS NOW, INDUSTRIAL loft housing has been on the cutting edge of design for hip urban dwellers. For many, an airy loft is a sweet antidote to the stacked rectangles of condos or the predictability of bland suburban interiors. But when faced with a unique parcel of land within walking distance of downtown Denver, architect/developer Bill Moore, of Sprocket Design-Build, had a hunch that lofts might be losing their luster. He had something more homelike in mind, a series of units with front doors on the street and sprightly interior spaces that could be closed off. You might say edgy, in keeping with the neighborhood's industrial past, but civilized—a forward-thinking townhouse.
At Boulder Street Townhomes, the goal was to hit a mid-range price point—without spending too much money, come up with a design that would create a buzz. After all, this was the first project of its kind in the neighborhood. One of Denver's oldest sections, its scattered bungalows had been home first to Scottish immigrants, then to Italians, and more recently to Latinos. Moore thinks it's one of the most interesting parts of town. “The topography is varied, and there are city and mountain views,” he explains. “The zoning is also varied, so there's a lot of opportunity for projects that combine home and work life.”
Six three-story townhomes stand on the 6,250-square-foot site, each with a one-car garage, two bedrooms, and three and a half baths. In the rear are 10-foot-by-20-foot yards accessed by the ground-floor bedroom or study. The lack of an alley, however, meant that the garages had to occupy space beside the front doors, and getting the city to approve curb cuts was tougher than Moore had imagined. His solution was to load the garages in pairs that share a driveway, thus reducing the number of cuts. Low brick walls and recessed entryways help to fix an identity for each residence.
Moore's strategy on speculative infill projects is to devise a workable floor plan, create some interesting volumes, and then choose one or two highly detailed elements. Every unit has a soaring two-story space and 14-foot ceilings, but it's the fireplace wall that dazzles. The architect used different wood veneers (cherry, maple, or walnut), dry-wall painted an accent color, and frosted glass to articulate the two-story fireplace wall, which abuts an interior stairwell. Outside, a snazzy façade combines common materials—crisp brick and cementitious stucco—with deep red wood-veneer phenolic resin panels, a product of Spain.
Moore seems to have hit just the right design note. Although hard costs came in at $130 per square foot, slightly higher than projected, the townhouses also sold for more money than expected. The project sold out two months before construction was completed a year ago. “If we'd had three more buildings,” Moore says, “we could have sold them at the same time.”
Project: Boulder Street Townhomes, Denver; Size: 1,400 to 1,780 square feet; Total units: 6; Price: $335,000 to $370,000; Developer: Boulder Street LLC, Denver; Builder/Architect/Interior designer: Sprocket Design-Build, Denver; Landscape architect: Walczak Design, Denver
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Denver, CO.