The Urban Bazaar in America

Source Interior 3  OZ14

Thoughts provoked by The Source in Denver, CO and Similar Developments throughout the United States.

The Source is an artisan market that occupies a former 1880s brick foundry building in Denver’s River North District.  It is a singular place to take in Denver, its people, and its local culture.  The Source has prompted us to take a closer look at it and similar urban bazaars and one stop shops that are popping up all over the U.S.

The search for the one stop shop which helped inspire the shopping malls of the 70s and 80s has evolved into a newer, healthier model.   Although there are many factors in this development, there perhaps are none greater than America’s obsession with food and a desire to move back into the city from the once romantic suburbs.   Once vacant buildings are now flourishing, filled with people, living, working, playing, drinking and of course eating all under one roof.

With a new interest in well-crafted hard and soft goods, and the locally grown and organic, independent coffee shops, restaurants and bars, and boutique shops are popping up everywhere.  Wonderful mixings of smells and colors:  flowers, coffee, hops, and fine food are all housed in repurposed brick, wood, and steel structures.

Filling a once derelict building with new and diverse vendors, the Source is a wonderful stop along the urban renewal rail line.  A place once destined for demolition is now filled with vitality; the re-purposing of the foundry building has become a wonderful value proposition example for developers. With the revitalization of the once abandoned, a spillover effect has begun; this urban bazaar is helping breathe life into the Brighton Boulevard and RiNo districts.  Rewriting the definition of the Town Center, a coffee shop, brewery, food market, art gallery multiple restaurants, and office space all coexist under one roof.  It’s become the truest sense of mixed-use development and it feels authentically Denver.

The Source is finished with largely raw materials, but it feels comfortable by way of the leftover graffiti, untouched structure, and introduction of simple new materials which largely consist largely of galvanized metal studs.  Upon introduction, it literally and figuratively feels gritty by way of the recycled concrete and asphalt parking lot, but it has been finished with a healthy amount of refinement.  Each vendor has enough room to express themselves while the overall composition does not feel overly eclectic or contrived.  It’s a place that feels better with time and one that takes multiple visits to truly take in the sort of place it is and will become.

The Source is not that different from the two warehouses in the RiNo Arts District that the OZ Office itself occupies.  Similar to the various re-purposed warehouses bringing people and retail together, the OZ office offers large open studio spaces, the integration of raw materials, exposed brick with the original warehouse windows to bring people together with others in a collaborative work environment.  Although the OZ office does not contain retail commerce, each workstation allows enough space for individuals to express themselves, much like that of the vendor spaces in the Source.  OZ is revitalizing office and work space the same way The Source is revitalizing the retail and restaurant space by re-vamping under-utilized old warehouse buildings in a transitional neighborhood.

Precedents for this building type have popped up around the country; each quite different, each personality largely defined by the shells of their re-purposed buildings.  From the now ten-year-old Chelsea Market in the Meat Packing District of New York City to the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, the urban bazaar is here to stay and we are happy about it.   Here are some links to some examples of these:

Grand Central Market, LA, CA

Chelsea Market, NY

Melrose Market, Seattle, WA

Ferry Building Marketplace, San Francisco, CA


Limelight Shops, NY, NY

Atlanta Underground Market, GA

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