Downtown Denver is getting a whole new, upscale look led by the opening of a new 239-room Four Seasons Hotel Denver, the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau reports. Located across the street from the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the new hotel showcases nearly 1,200 works by local artists, with the public spaces of the hotel acting as an art gallery. The new property is part of Downtown Denver’s upgrade that includes new hotels, restaurants and attractions. Tourism is the second-largest industry in Denver, generating $2.8 billion in annual spending in 2009, while supporting nearly 50,000 jobs, the Denver CVB reports.
Dubbed the “Theatre District,” the 14th Street corridor is also home to the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency at Colorado Convention Center, the award-winning 110-room Hotel Teatro and a 221-room Hilton Garden Inn. A new 403-room Embassy Suites Hotel with 21,000 square feet of meeting space will join them in December 2010, with a prime location across the street from the convention center. There are now 8,400 hotel rooms in downtown Denver.
At the center of the new Theatre District is the four-square-block Denver Performing Arts Complex, the second largest arts center in the nation with 10 venues seating 10,000 people for theater, opera, symphony and dance. The complex added a new opera hall just three years ago and is in the midst of building a new symphony hall.
Adding to Denver’s glitzy new image is the fact that in September the city’s 202-room Ritz Carlton received the AAA Five-Diamond Award, becoming the first hotel in Denver’s history to get the prestigious designation. Only three other hotels have earned the five-diamond title in Colorado: The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the Little Nell in Aspen, and the Ritz in Bachelor Gulch at Beaver Creek. The Ritz-Carlton Denver opened in 2008 and features the equally award-winning restaurant, Elway’s.
Just two blocks away, Denver’s mile-long pedestrian promenade, the 16th Street Mall, is also undergoing a major restoration. Designed 20 years ago by famed architect I.M. Pei, the Mall features colorful granite pavers in a pattern that, from above, resembles a diamondback rattlesnake. The mall is lined with 28 outdoor cafes, 200 trees, and, with the restoration, will be completely refurbished to bring it back to its original condition. Free energy-efficient buses leave either end of the Mall as often as every 90 seconds, stopping on every corner and making all of downtown Denver easily accessible. After 6 p.m., more than two dozen horse-drawn carriages clatter up and down the pedestrian zone.
New downtown restaurants on or near the mall include the ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro with its big windows, views and a dedication to Asian tradition, local vendors, sustainable farming, and organic cooking. A block away, the 6,000-sqaure-foot. Big Game brings sports restaurants to a new level of elegance, while Euclid Hall focuses on high-quality and innovative pub food from around the world. Denver, which brews more beer than any other city, is also about to add a series of tap houses that will bring more than 200 craft beer taps to downtown, including a new Yard House in the Sheraton Hotel Denver with 140 beers and a new Breckenridge Brewery Tap House, with panoramic views of downtown from their outdoor beer garden deck.
More construction is underway at Union Station, where Denver is adding a new 12-mile Light Rail connection to Golden in the west that will open in 2013 and a 22.8-mile rail line that will connect downtown to Denver International Airport by 2015. They are part of the largest light rail initiative in American history, linking downtown Denver to surrounding areas with 122 miles of new track, the CVB says.
The area around the rail hub in Union Station will feature a new park, shopping, retail and restaurants. It is connected by pedestrian walkways to Riverfront, Confluence and Commons parks, which line the South Platte River, and to the up-and-coming LoHi neighborhood, which offers some of Denver’s newest and most acclaimed dining options, including Root Down, Duo and Lola’s.
Downtown Denver’s residential areas have seen unprecedented growth with more than 60,000 people now living within 1.5 miles of the city center. New surrounding neighborhoods like River North (RiNo), Ballpark and South Broadway are adding an urban, edgy feel with new eateries and art galleries, while LoDo continues to be the nightlife center with more than 90 brewpubs, music clubs and rooftop cafes, all housed in turn-of-the-century buildings.