Welcome to the first installation of City Prism.  Law is what we do and a part of who we are, but our lives are fully immersed in the people, places and perspectives that create Denver’s identity.  Deeply entwined with our legal practice is our love of place.  This is our opportunity to share our personal insights.

The Golden Triangle neighborhood has officially welcomed a long-anticipated resident–the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.  With a sleek $22 million building that seamlessly integrates a century-old studio (the relocation process being its own story), the newly reopened museum now has the capacity to exhibit about 6,000 art objects (still only 1/5 of the entire collection).  The gallery rooms are similar to visiting the home of an eccentric and extremely rich aunt, with paintings hanging over the furniture from the same time period.  It would be downright impossible to focus on every single object.  Better to focus on the objects that capture your imagination–whether it is the intricate china sets, funky lamps, or highly impractical chairs–and ruminate on what you would pick out for your own living room. Continue Reading City Prism: Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art Reopens in Golden Triangle

Colorado’s growing high-tech scene is currently driving the office leasing activities in metro Denver.  According to CBRE’s Colorado Tech Book 2016, high-tech companies leased 1.1 million square feet of office space, or 16.5% of the total leased space, in metro Denver last year, making it the largest industry represented in the market. Overall, technology firms are leasing approximately 9.8 million square feet in metro Denver and 15.5 million square feet in Colorado.

Continue Reading High-Tech Companies Continue to Lease Office Space in Denver

The Denver real estate market has experienced steady growth in the last couple of years, but will it continue into the new year?

It appears so, according to an emerging trends report released by Urban Land Institute and PwC.  The report ranked Denver in the top five real estate markets in the United States based on three broad categories of investment, development and homebuilding.  Only three cities ranked higher than Denver—Houston, Austin and San Francisco.  On account of the significant growth of the millennial population, industry exposure to the technology and energy industries and a strong overall economy, the report predicts that Denver will continue to be a sustainable real estate market.

Notwithstanding the optimistic predictions for 2015, Colorado seems to have some New Year’s resolutions in mind.  Here are some things to watch:

  •  Despite the demand for owner‑occupied, multi‑family housing, condominium development in Colorado has been at a near standstill.  This is largely due to fear of litigation under Colorado’s existing construction defect law.  In 2015, a legislative bill will likely be introduced again to address the existing problems.  Reform may encourage new condominium development in Colorado.
  • In September 2014, the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (“ILSA”) was amended to exempt condominium developments from certain ILSA requirements (for more detailed information, click here.)  This amendment, which takes effect in March 2015, may also help jumpstart condominium development in Colorado.
  •  New legislation may be introduced regarding oil and gas drilling restrictions in Colorado this year.  Governor John Hickenlooper has created a 19-member oil and gas task force to provide recommendations regarding local government control of oil and gas drilling.  The recommendations are expected to be published by March 2015.  Legislative responses to the task force’s findings may ultimately have an impact on the energy industry’s long‑term investment in Colorado.

DenverInfill Map

Downtown Denver residents are getting new neighbors—lots of them.  The DenverInfill Blog has released an updated map of the multi-family residential projects that are recently completed, under construction or proposed within a 1.5-mile radius of 17th and Arapahoe.  By DenverInfill’s count, almost 3,000 units have been completed since January 2012, more than 4,400 units are currently under construction and almost 3,000 additional units are proposed.  If all of these projects are completed as planned, this translates to over 10,000 new residential units and $1.5 billion of residential investment in Downtown Denver.  Cup of sugar anyone?

For more information, click here.

Denver District Court Judge Robert McGahey has ruled that the U-MS-5 zoning of the four parcels of land in the West Highlands neighborhood was part of a valid legislative action and did not constitute impermissible spot zoning.

The four parcels, located adjacent to the commercial corridor on 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, were rezoned U-MS-5 during the 2010 citywide legislative rezoning process.  In the case, ten neighbors in the West Highlands neighborhood contended that the Denver City Council’s zoning of the parcels was an ultra vires act, or beyond the powers granted to Denver City Council, and that Denver City Council engaged in impermissible spot zoning.  An impermissible spot zoning occurs when it appears that a rezoning was designed to relieve a particular property from applicable zoning restrictions.

The court held that Denver City Council has the power and authority to make zoning decisions so long as they are made in accordance with a comprehensive plan.  Therefore, zoning determinations are presumed to be valid.  Because there was not clear and convincing evidence that City Council acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner, the court held that Denver City Council’s U‑MS‑5 zoning of the parcels was not an ultra vires act.

The court further held that spot zoning did not occur on these parcels because they were subject to the same treatment as other Denver properties during the citywide rezoning process.  The court found that the treatment of these parcels was not unique and there was no indication that the City intended to target the parcels to relieve them of zoning restrictions.

This case is particularly notable because it is a spot zoning challenge to a legislative rezoning scheme.  All previous Colorado spot zoning cases have involved situations in which a property owner seeks and is granted a rezoning for their specific property.  As shown in this case, it appears that a court is less likely to find that a particular property was singled out for special treatment when the rezoning was part of a larger rezoning process.  This case also demonstrates the broad discretion and authority granted to Denver City Council in making zoning decisions for the City and County of Denver.

Otten Johnson attorneys Tom Macdonald and Heather Park represented the property owners in this case.