Incorporated in 1886, the Denver Tramway Company (DTC) obtained an exclusive city franchise to build electric streetcar lines in Denver. As part of that operation, The Denver Tramway Powerhouse was built in 1901 to house the boilers and engines used to generate electricity for the DTC rail system that spread throughout the Denver Metropolitan area. The powerhouse location was chosen for its proximity to the South Platte River (which provided cooling for the turbines), easy access to coal from the adjacent rail lines, and its central location to the DTC’s main terminal and downtown Denver.
As the automobile gained popularity, electric rail lines were removed from the streets of Denver, and the Denver Tramway Powerhouse closed in 1950. Thereafter, it was utilized as a warehouse by the International Harvester Company until the Forney Museum bought it in 1969. The Forney Museum of Transportation housed all things transportation related, including an Alco 4884 “Big Boy” Locomotive, the largest steam locomotive ever built. Over time, the collection outgrew the space and the cost of maintaining the historic building required the museum to relocate to its current location at 4303 Brighton Boulevard. In 1998 the building was sold to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) for redevelopment into its Flagship Denver store.
Envisioned as a catalyst for development in the Central Platte Valley, REI chose the site for its visibility from the highway and downtown, regional access, the historic character of the building, and proximity to the river and bike paths. However, the high cost of historic preservation, life-safety upgrades, and environmental abatement necessary to effect the planned adaptive reuse rendered the plan financially infeasible. To allow the project to move forward, DURA provided approximately $6.3 million in sales tax TIF reimbursement to the developer.
Renovations began in 1998, were completed in April 2000 and on September 8, 2001 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Noteworthy features of the approximately 90,000 square foot REI Denver Flagship store include mountain bike trails, a 45-foot indoor climbing wall, outdoor climbing features, and trails that wind through native plants and water features.
Additionally, the building is adjacent to Confluence Park, where the Cherry Creek meets the South Platte River. Containing Denver’s premier kayak water park and Confluence Park also attracts visitors for concerts and gatherings along the river’s edge. A prime example of the public and private sectors coming together to adapt and reuse a significant part of Denver’s history, development of the REI Flagship store also helped fulfill the City’s vision for the Central Platte Valley as the entertainment spine of an expanding downtown.
Redevelopment of the historic Denver Tramway Powerhouse into an approximately 90,000 square foot Recreational Equipment Inc. flagship store.
Recreational Equipment, Inc.
Total Project Cost:
$6.274 million TIF Reimbursement
Tax Increment Source:
Reimbursement of Developer or April 8, 2015
Recreational Equipment, Inc.