The food halls of Denver – too much of a good thing?

We’ve worked on a few projects in Denver recently, which has given us more time to explore the Mile-High City. One thing we noticed recently was the large number and variety of food/market halls that have sprung up, particularly in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district.

RiNo is a former industrial area that has been drawing artists and other creative types since the late 1980s and, more recently, has developed as a trendy neighborhood that mixes retail, restaurants, galleries, offices, homes and more, many of them in adaptively reused industrial buildings.

Unsurprisingly, many of the new developments and redevelopments feature ground-floor retail. Much of this has come in the form of food and/or market halls. This includes:

  • Zeppelin Station, a creative workspace that features a market hall with six globally-inspired food concepts, a coffee shop, a gelato shop, a salon, a store selling products by local creatives, and a pop-up space featuring fashion, design and art from a rotating series of places (currently Reykjavik);
  • The market hall at the Source, which has 25 vendors, including food and drink, a barber, a gallery, kitchen goods, apparel and flower shops, etc., plus a rooftop restaurant; and
  • The Denver Central Market, which features a coffee shop, bar, meat and cheese shop, produce shop and cafe, ice cream parlor, bakery, rotisserie restaurant, fish market, chocolate and confections shop, butcher and Italian restaurant.
The Source

The Source

But wait, there’s more in other parts of Denver and adjacent cities:

  • Denver Milk Market, in the historic Dairy Block (just south of RiNo), featuring 16 restaurants and bars run by Colorado chef Frank Bonanno;
  • Avanti Food &Beverage, a collective of seven restaurant concepts, housed in modified shipping containers (LoHi);
  • Broadway Market, nine restaurants, a coffee house, a bar and two local boutiques (Golden Triangle);
  • Stanley Marketplace, 50+ businesses, including restaurants, bars, shops and services, plus an event space in a former airplane hangar (Aurora); and
  • Edgewater Public Market, planned to open in August 2019, with 10 restaurants, an ice cream shop, a coffee shop, a brewery and a rooftop bar overlooking Sloan’s Lake, boutiques and services (Edgewater).
Milk Market

Denver Milk Market


We love the food/market hall concept, and find many of these spaces appealing. And they’ve certainly helped energize RiNo. We also have a couple of critical observations. One is that the best halls, in our opinion, are in older buildings with distinctive character, rather than entirely new construction. The second is that there is a saturation point. When it comes to individual uses, such as nanobreweries, adding more creates a destination that defines a district and draws more people, who may decide which to visit once they get to the district or hop from one to another over the course of an evening. That’s less likely with food/market halls, which are each designed to be a singular destination with multiple offerings.

In other words, the next developer with a big retail space in RiNo might want to seek a new direction. We can help with that!