A Glimpse Into Denver’s Sustainable Future

People riding on a two lane bikeway in Denver

A Glimpse Into Denver’s Sustainable Future

Sustainability is a cornerstone issue for Denver and its citizens. As we look ahead at a future where climate change will impact every one of us, we want to give a platform to the people and groups spearheading sustainability efforts in the Mile High City. In this sustainability series, we will discuss the problems, explore the solutions, track the efforts and explain how to develop better sustainable practices in daily life.

Over the past decade, Denver hasn’t progressed on its sustainability goals like it was hoping to. Some of that is due to the rapidly evolving understanding of climate change and its consequences, but most of it can be blamed on inaction and disjointed efforts. Recent developments, however, have invigorated the city’s sustainability efforts. 

A few years ago, City Council member (and president at the time) Jolon Clark decided to start piecing together how sustainability was addressed within the city’s departments. He found different people in various departments working haphazardly on some goals. It wasn’t good. When a few outside advocates set up a meeting with him to explain how climate change should be proclaimed an emergency, he explained that something clicked. “I said ok I get that it’s an emergency, so the last thing we should do is declare it one. We need to start putting out the fire and doing the work.” 

Read more from 303Magazine.com here.

Additional Projects

Additional Projects

More projects from urban villages

Additional examples of our work over the years include an assortment of property types and partnership structures. Some we developed and sold. Others we managed and prepared for disposition. Many we continue to oversee.

We believe the most successful projects are those that reset the market rather than following a trend. We work to create dynamic environments where people feel safe, connected, and proud of where they live.

Bradburn Row by Urban Villages

Bradburn Row

Westminster, Colorado

an aerial photograph of Vita Flats in Denver

Vita Flats

Denver, Colorado

A photo of Bellmar Village

Village at Belmar

Lakewood, Colorado

A photo of the New Sheridan building in Telluride Colorado

New Sheridan Telluride

Telluride, Colorado

Lime Apartments, Denver, Colorado

lime apartments

Denver, Colorado

A view of an interior room at River Club

River Club

Telluride, Colorado

A photograph of main street in Sewickley Pennsylvania

Main Street, downtown

Sewickley, Pennsylvania
Mayfair-Cortez Apartments

Mayfair-Cortez Hill Apartments

San Diego, California

Rock Island 1 in Downtown Denver

Rock Island

Denver, Colorado

Seed 2 in downtown Denver

1321 15th St.

Denver, Colorado

Seed 3 in downtown Denver Colorado

1520 Market St.

Denver, Colorado

Seed 3 in Downtown Denver

1500 Market St.

Denver, Colorado

Eliot Flats in Denver Colorado

Eliot Flats

Denver, Colorado

an image of the Marston Building in San Diego

marston building

San Diego, California

the pool at Pure Beach Living in Carlsbad California

Pure Beach Living

San Diego, California

Falcon Run by Urban Villages

Falcon Run

Englewood, Colorado

A view of the Wildhorse at Prospect development

Wildhorse at Prospect

Crested Butte, Colorado

an aerial view of 12th and bannock

12th & Bannock

Denver, Colorado

a photo of Hana Ranch in Maui

Hana Ranch

Maui, Hawaii

an aerial rendering of the Harmony Commons Mall

Harmony Commons Mall

Fort Collins, Colorado

NOCO flats

noco flats

Denver, Colorado

West Village

West Village

The largest net-zero energy community in the United States

West Village - University of California, Davis

West Village is a residential neighborhood located adjacent to the campus of the University of California, Davis. The project houses over 2,300 students, faculty, and staff, and includes recreation centers and study facilities. A network of parks, gardens, pathways, and courtyards reduces reliance on cars and contributes to overall well-being.

In a joint venture with Carmel Partners and a pioneering public-private alliance, we structured a deal that provided ownership flexibility under a long-term ground lease with the University. We also forged cooperative relationships with the University, utility company, and local municipality. This collaborative approach was integral to executing such a complex project. An intricate horizontal infrastructure design helped us meet goals of on-site power generation, zero waste, and careful water management, as well as pedestrian and bicycle access.

Square Feet

Gross: 844,000 SF

Residential: 800,000 SF /Retail: 44,000 SF


663 (2604 beds)


Engaged with property 2008 – 2020   


“All of our projects are designed and constructed to last hundreds of years. That longevity creates heightened responsibility. We are establishing urban communities where people live, work, create, relax, and travel not only today — but for generations. It’s important we do it right.”

Jon Buerge
Chief Development Officer, Urban Villages

Energy Efficiency

Nearly $7.5 million in federal and state grants to study net zero energy systems supported this project. Energy efficient measures — including web and smartphone applications for monitoring consumption — have reduced demand by approximately 50 percent compared with current building code requirements.

More Bikes, Fewer Cars

A network of parks, gardens, pathways, and courtyards limits energy consumption and enhances overall health.

Sugar Block

Sugar Block

Honoring history with timeless design

Sugar Block - Denver, Colorado

The Sugar Block is home to the former headquarters of the Great Western Sugar Company, one of the 10 most historically relevant buildings in Denver. This robust and richly detailed brick and timber structure bustled with activity until company’s exit in the late 1960s, when it began to decline. We acquired the distressed asset in 2004, along with two adjacent surface parking lots. Working closely with our investor-partner, we created a vision to renovate the historic building and develop two new ground-up projects to hold as a long-term investment.

After refurbishing and stabilizing the 1906-era Sugar Building, we constructed the SugarCube, a 10-story mixed-use building with office space, retail, and 37 luxury residences. We directed and oversaw development and management from the initial purchase through the financing and completion of the third project, SugarSquare.

All three entities benefit from some of the highest rents and lowest turnover in downtown Denver. The thoughtful development of this iconic block exemplifies our approach to urban stewardship, resilient financial performance, and neighborhood regeneration. It also highlights our ability to blend historic architecture with new construction. Despite strong offers over the years, our investor-partner has maintained ownership of the entire block as a legacy asset, and we remain the property manager.

Gross Square Feet: 189,000

Office:  119,000 / Residential: 51,000 /Retail: 19,000

Building Type

Class AA mixed-use


Three projects: Adaptive re-use, new construction, integration (2003-currently held)

Historic Sugar Building

This Denver Landmark on the National Register of Historic Places still houses a classic — and rare — Otis birdcage elevator behind its buff brick and terra cotta front. It’s one example of our many adaptive re-use projects. Designed in 1906 by Grove and Walsh architects, it was renovated in 2000 and expanded with the Semple Brown-designed SugarSquare addition in 2019.

Square Feet

Over 78,000


6 + basement


Grove and Walsh 1906


Designed by world-renowned architect Bruce Kuwabara, the SugarCube building showcases our ability to transform an underutilized parking lot into a modern yet historically respectful paradigm. A state-of-the-art development with restaurants, three levels of office, and six floors of residential, SugarCube was the first building in LoDo to utilize solar energy. It also received the Design of the Year award from the City of Denver, and commands some of the highest lease rates of any mixed-use building in Downtown Denver.


111,000 SF


10 + 3 underground parking


Bruce Kuwabara,
KPMB Architects, Toronto


Pre-leased before its completion in 2019, SugarSquare was the final phase of SugarBlock. This five-story glass and steel infill building, integrated with two adjacent historic buildings, added office space, a green roof deck, and an eclectic flair. It’s also the smallest building ever to receive the Mayor’s Design of the Year award.


4 + basement and roof deck


Semple Brown

the windowed storefront at Little Owl Coffee

We searched for tenants compatible with the specific location. These included ChoLon and Little Owl Coffee, which add to the vivid mix in the area.

a coffee pour-over detail

Little Owl Coffee adds vitality to the adjacent SugarCube lobby, where patrons relax and socialize with office tenants and residents. The boutique roaster has garnered a cult following.

Our work on Sugar Block helped revitalize the entire LoDo district.

Luxury interiors and sprawling views at the LEED certified SugarCube set design standards and draw premium rents.

An outdoor deck complements a unit at SugarCube.

an aerial photo showing the distance between the SugarCube building and Union Station

Sugar Block is located just a few blocks from Union Station.

Larimer Square

Larimer Square

Denver's oldest and most treasured block

Larimer Square - Denver, Colorado

This collection of historic buildings was Denver’s Gold Rush era Main Street, and served as the center of the city’s economic and cultural revolution. Since the 1970s, local preservation efforts have helped transform Larimer Square into one of Denver’s most iconic attractions. Jeff Hermanson’s 1993 purchase of the Square marked the reshaping of the district as a haven for small businesses—from chef-owned and operated restaurants to independent boutiques. By 2015, however, the block suffered from deferred maintenance, diminishing sales and leasing activity, and was in need of a meaningful repositioning plan. 

Our immediate efforts involved creating an exit strategy and preparing the property for sale. We leveraged our extensive knowledge of the asset, closed the street, refreshed the branding, honed management practices, recruited new tenants, and activated the area. Larimer Square not only survived, but flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic with rent adjustments and al fresco events that attracted local residents. Despite the economic hardship, this entrepreneurial repositioning plan ultimately resulted in the sale of the property in December 2020, at a price nearly double the perceived value three years earlier. 

Gross Square Feet: 245,000

 Retail: 142,000     Office: 103,000          


Historic (1875-1900): 23  Modern (1970 and later): 4


2015 – 2020


Our boutique approach to crafting a dynamic and vibrant experience included renovating physical aspects of the property, refreshing the marketing and brand positioning, creating recurring events and programs, and proactively seeking out innovative retail and F&B tenants. One example is Garage Sale, a funky store featuring vinyl records and hand-made clothing and accessories produced by local artisans. Another is a small flower shop led by a young entrepreneur we mentored. Events such as the Chalk art Festival, Slow Food Nations celebrations, and various pop-ups captivated the community.

Rooftop Farm

Our rooftop farm, constructed with specialists in our affiliate company, Bio-Logical Capital, became an oasis that reconnected the public with nature. Over 60 different varietals of fruits and vegetables reshaped a parking lot into a destination for weddings and dozens of community events.

In the summer of 2020, we donated over 1,000 pounds of produce to local food banks. These urban landscaping efforts also reduced water use by more than 70% (30,000 gallons) and carbon emissions by 88%, with a complete eradication of pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

One of the most popular occasions was the Chalk Art Festival, which attracted more than 200 artists and 250,000 spectators.

A parking lot no more, Larimer’s first rooftop farm welcomed nature — and events — to this urban village.

Located near the Convention Center, Denver Art Museum, Performing Arts Center, Coors Field, and four universities, Larimer Square is also a short walk to Union Station.



A Vision for Civic Center Park

Populus - Denver, Colorado

According to the designers and architects at Studio Gang, the texture and rhythm of the hotel’s sculptural façade is strongly tied to its function. At the base, the windows grow up to 30 feet in height to frame entrances and views into the lobby, restaurant, and amenity spaces. Each vertical scallop is the width of a hotel room, and its windows change in size in response to public and private spaces. The distinctive shapes are informed by studying the characteristic patterns found on Aspen trees (Populus tremuloides). As the trees grow, they shed their lower branches, leaving behind dark, eye-shaped marks on the papery bark of their trunks.

Upon entering their rooms, hotel guests are greeted with immersive views of the nearby State Capitol and Civic Center Park and the mountains beyond through the generous apertures. Made from natural stone skin reinforced with glass fiber, the convex walls will shape the triangular building that slips between Colfax and Fourteenth Streets like a vessel easing through the sea.

All Populus renderings provided courtesy of Studio Gang.

Gross Square Feet


F & B: 15,000 SF/Meeting & Event: 4400 SF


297 efficient rooms on 14 floors

Details: 160 to 190 SF per room, with 40 extended-stay units of 300 SF


Slated to break ground in Q3 2021

Populus Press

“As the signature private development on Civic Center Park, Urban Villages felt a responsibility to create a community asset that would contribute to the architectural legacy of the Mountain West and provide 24/7 activation in this underserved area,” said Jon Buerge, chief development officer at Urban Villages. “We have brought together a team that exemplifies this vision – from architecture and design, to sustainability, hospitality, food and beverage and more. Populus will create opportunities for locals and visitors to connect, relax and find inspiration.”

– The Architect’s Newspaper

Rendering provided courtesy of Studio Gang

Rendering provided courtesy of Studio Gang

More from Studio Gang

Studio Gang’s founding principal and partner is MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, FAIA. She is also a Professor in Practice at Harvard University, her alma mater, the author of three books on architecture, an elected member of the Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2019. Ecological systems inspire her designs.

The windows in Populus are detailed to perform efficiently in the Denver climate. On the exterior, the “lids” stretch outward according to solar orientation to shade the interior, improving the building’s energy performance. They also neatly channel rainwater to keep the façade looking fresh over time.

Signature Roof to Curated Retail

Perhaps the most enticing feature is the signature rooftop bar and garden terrace, sure to become the city’s hot spot with its soaring views of the Rocky Mountains, skyline, Civic Center Park, and event stage.

The hotel also includes a ground floor café, restaurant, and retail encased in glass to welcome the public.

Rendering provided courtesy of Studio Gang

Best known for creating structures that connect people with the natural environment, Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang were named one of Architectural Digest’s AD 100 for 2021.

Bound by 14th Street, Court Place, and Colfax Avenue, this gateway location sits at the intersection of the business, city and state government, and cultural centers of Denver.

In some rooms, the windows become a nook for relaxing or working in closer proximity to the outdoors.