Developers are betting that RiNo will be a travel destination

The latest sign that developers’ RiNo dreams are coming true: More hotel rooms may break ground along the South Platte River next year. The new project, named DriveTrain, would put a boutique hotel, a couple hundred new residences and commercial space on Brighton Boulevard.
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An architect’s rendering of DriveTrain, proposed for 3301 Brighton Blvd.

A rendering of DriveTrain, proposed for 3301 Brighton Blvd. Courtesy OZ Architecture.

How much would you pay for a hotel room on Brighton Boulevard?

That's a rhetorical question. There are no hotels on RiNo's main drag. The nearest La Quinta is practically under Interstate 25, and the Four Seasons isn't jumping at the chance to build along a traffic-crammed boulevard that's still more industrial than chic.

At least a few developers, however, are betting that it's time to flip on the vacancy light for hotels in River North.

The details:

The latest plan announced for RiNo is a project named DriveTrain, would put a boutique hotel, residences and commercial space on three acres between Brighton and the South Platte River, at 3301 Brighton Boulevard.

  • DriveTrain is to be developed by Tom and Brooke Gordon and designed by OZ Architecture. It's new construction on the former site of Drive Train International, as DenverInfill notes.
  • Plans call for 120 "boutique" hotel rooms, which would have to be built by another developer, according to the Gordons.
  • DriveTrain also would include retail space, restaurants, business space and condominiums "ranging from penthouses to micro units, as well as affordable rental housing options." The developers aren't ready to put a number on the total or the price point of the affordable units.
  • It's scheduled to break ground early next year and open late in 2018, and won't require any Denver City Council approvals, according to the developers.
  • While the area has been rebranded as RiNo, this development falls in the borders of the Five Points neighborhood. The map below highlights the two properties owned by developer Iselo Investment Partners; the project in question will go on the southwest parcel.
What do hotel plans tell us about RiNo?

Let's start with the hotel rooms. To date, a lot of RiNo's new development has come in the form of breweries, restaurants, art galleries and new apartments, with nowhere but Airbnb for visitors.

Zeppelin Development will be one of the first to test the hotel waters when it adds 100 luxury rooms next to The Source, its artisan food market. Kyle Zeppelin told the Denver Post that "urban destination travelers" — read: younger, hipper — are the target of the $41 million hotel project, scheduled to open in 2017.

"Everyone’s looking at the Wythe in Brooklyn, and how well that’s done. Downtown L.A. is starting with The Standard and the Ace Hotel down there," Zeppelin said in a phone interview.

"It's worked in enough other areas around the rest of the country that an area like RiNo is a big draw — and there’s no coverage, in terms of hotels."

The next RiNo hotelier after Zeppelin may be Elevation Development Group, which confirmed to me that it is considering a hotel component for its tentatively named "Hub" development near Downing and Blake streets. More details on that could be forthcoming in the next few weeks, and there's talk in the development community of a few other as-yet unannounced hotel projects.

Meanwhile, DriveTrain seems to have similar ambitions to Zeppelin, advertising itself as "a new hub for those seeking a collaborative, artistic and innovative community."

DriveTrain and The Source Hotel also can boast about their proximity to the proposed River North Park, and the fact that they're a few blocks' walk to the A Line's 38th and Blake Station. Plus, they should steady bookings from Catalyst, the huge campus for health companies set to open just up the boulevard.

It seems like the investment of this kind of money means developers hope that RiNo now has enough things to do and eat that "urban destination travelers" could make a bucket list out of it.

What the Gordons said

Tom and Brooke Gordon, the couple behind DriveTrain, are quick to emphasize that the hotel is just a segment of their larger plan. The whole thing has been in the works for a few years, they said, long before the city formalized plans to make Brighton Boulevard a more pleasant and walkable place.

"We’re hoping to fill yet another piece of the puzzle, to make it a whole community, with long-term staying power and interesting identity," said Brooke Gordon.

This will be the couple's first major project, along with a set of row homes on an adjoining property. Based in Denver, they've made their living lately as private investors, and he has worked as a telecoms entrepreneur.

I asked the two of them if they saw their project as a milestone in what people are developing in RiNo. They didn't bite.

"There’s really a number of other projects up and down RiNo," Tom Gordon said, "and they’re all different. I don’t think there’s an evolution, per se, as much as there are lots of developers, lots of ideas."

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