A 20th century office building is returned to glory.
Original entrance to Denver's historic Sugar Building, after restoration

© Urban Villages

“Historic adaptive reuse and historic preservation can co-exist with addressing climate change in a beautiful and respectful way.”
— Jon Buerge, president, Urban Villages

Denver’s historic Sugar Building, formerly the Great Western Sugar Company, designed in the style of architect Louis Sullivan, had lost most of its office and restaurant tenants and gone into receivership. It was in bad shape.

Developer Urban Villages set about returning the building to its glory. In a gut remodel, it replaced the roof, windows and mechanicals, opened the ceilings to reveal long-concealed timber beams, removed plaster and drywall to showcase brick interiors of exterior walls, and restored the showpiece Otis cage elevator and adjacent wraparound staircase.

“The building had been broken up into a lot of smaller spaces, and we took those divisions out to create large open office spaces. We exposed the original brick, which made it a much more appealing interior,” says Jon Buerge, president of Urban Villages. On the exterior, tree wells have been added, shading new wraparound patios outside its two restaurants.

The Sugar Building commands some of the highest lease rates in downtown Denver, despite being 118 years old. That doesn’t mean, however, that Urban Villages is finished with the project.

“Right now, we’re working on upgrading all our systems and working to hike our energy performance,” Buerge says. “We are converting from considerable natural gas to 100% electric within the block.”


The Details

  • Opened in Downtown Denver in 1906
  • Acquired in 2003 after falling into disrepair, losing many tenants
  • 75,775-sq.-ft. renovation project completed in 2006
  • SugarCube and SugarSquare added to create Sugar Block
  • 166,000-sq.-ft. SugarCube building features luxury apartments, offices, restaurants and 132 underground parking slots
  • 16,000-sq.-ft. SugarSquare infill addition to the original building completed in 2017
  • New sustainability effort under way to update lighting and beautify outdoor areas

Block Party

Urban Villages continues to work with the city of Denver on streetscapes to draw customers into Sugar Building’s restaurants: Little Owl Coffee, ChoLon Modern Asian and The Kitchen American Bistro.

Denver's Sugar Building after restoration, exterior

© Urban Villages

Denver's Historic Sugar Building: terrace view

© Urban Villages

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