LoDo, a 23-plus square block, historic area of Denver’s original settlement, lies just northwest of Downtown Denver near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. LoDo is not a formally designated neighborhood in the city of Denver, but it is the place designated in the minds of Denver residents as the city’s most happening loft, art gallery and nightlife district, a prime example of upscale urban renewal in fast-track-growth American cities.
Before Europeans explored the area, Native Americans, particularly the Arapahoe tribe, encamped along the South Platte River near and in what is now LoDo. In 1858, after gold was discovered in the river, General William Larimer founded Denver by laying cottonwood logs in the center of a square mile plot that would basically become the current LoDo neighborhood. Therefore, LoDo is both the original city of Denver as well as its oldest neighborhood, an action-packed area which was known for its saloons and brothels. LoDo was also a hot spot in the Indian Wars. During the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, the heads of the slaughtered Arapahoe tribesmen were prominently displayed in the LoDo victory parade.
Then, in 1870, when the transcontinental railroad bypassed Denver for Cheyenne, Wyoming, city leaders realized a railroad was needed. Residents passed bonds that brought a 106-mile rail line from Cheyenne which, with later train lines, ended up in the Platte Valley just behind LoDo. Thus, Union Station in LoDo became the first place in Denver which visitors saw.
However, LoDo, like the rest of Denver, had its ups and downs. Once a thriving business area, LoDo had become a skid row by the mid-twentieth century after highways and airports cut the importance of Union Station and the train transportation that built the city. Fortunately, the wrecking crews spared much of the historic neighborhood when the area was not designated part of the Central Business District.
But since it was named an historic district in 1988, protecting the neighborhood from the destruction that wrecked the rest of Downtown, LoDo has been growing faster and better than ever. New businesses like Wynkoop Brewery started to pop up, and LoDo morphed into a destination neighborhood. By 1995, when Coors Field rose up in north LoDo, new residential development arrived, transforming old warehouses into sleek lofts.
The Pepsi Center to the south of the neighborhood cemented LoDo as the sport fans’ paradise. Today, land in LoDo is zoned B-7, requiring new development to undergo architectural review, strict design guidelines and building height limitations. As a result, LoDo continues to revitalize itself as Denver’s young, hip magnet for clubs, restaurants, art galleries, stores, bars, and other businesses.