Pandemic-Battered Businesses Converged At The Denver Mega Development, McGregor Square. Now It Waits For Crowds To Return
The transformation of a stadium parking lot across from Coors Field is almost complete.
The timing of Denver’s McGregor Square, the mega-construction project announced in 2018, was thrown off due to COVID-19 and an unstable economy. The opening was originally slated for New Year’s Day. Now, tenants are looking to ride a wave of pandemic relief just as baseball season starts.
The development includes a hotel, offices, condos, bars, restaurants and retail. It will be a roughly 650,000-square-foot proving ground for what happens when you try to bring people back together after more than a year of avoiding public spaces.
So far, the Rally Hotel is the only business open to the public. At 12 stories and 176 rooms, it has all the amenities you’d expect from a high-end boutique hotel.
But sweeping views of Coors Field is what makes the space special. It will also be home to the Rockies Hall of Fame, set to open next year.
For now, though, there aren’t a lot of guests. The only real buzz on a recent weekday was the sound of construction in the lobby — and most of the people walking the hallways were staff.
“Opening a hotel is challenging as it is, but especially in a pandemic,” said Mustafa Menekse, director of sales and marketing for the Rally Hotel.
Opening events stalled
A trickle of people started to move into the condos last month, according to Dee Chirafisi, a realtor at Kentwood, the agency selling the units. Marketing was nearly impossible at the start of the pandemic, she said. Kentwood had a big event planned for opening day last year for brokers and clients.
“We had already ordered peanuts and popcorn and beer and we were ready to have a big party… and got shut down,” she said.
The plan was to have all the units sold by last September. Now, the condos should be sold out by the end of summer, Chirafisi said. She hopes that the company will be holding that party at Coors Field next month.
She says excitement is building in the area.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up energy that people have because they’ve been locked away for so long,” Chirafisi said.
Crowds, optimism on the rise
Most businesses plan to be up and running before summer.
The Tattered Cover bookstore is moving to McGregor Square after leaving its long-time home on Wazee Street. CEO Kwame Spearman says he’s feeling optimistic as vaccinations ramp up.
“Around June 1, I think we’re going to feel totally different ... I don’t want to go as far as to say it’s going to feel pre-COVID — because I don’t know that it’s ever going to feel pre-COVID — but I think there’s an opportunity for a lot of foot traffic,” Spearman said.
He says the new location’s proximity to Coors Field and other recreational options is key.
“Every retailer has just been surviving for the past 14 months, so for us to have an opportunity to hit summer and for people to be vaccinated and wanting to be with another again is something we’re trying to take advantage of,” he said.
Hospitality business waits for signs of life
At the Rally Hotel, Menekse says they’re working on finishing touches. Not all the rooms are ready for guests yet. And they’re still waiting for some furniture to be delivered.
The entire launch — down to the ribbon cutting ceremony — was more subdued compared to a typical hotel opening, Menekse says.
“It would have been more of a wow-factor type of event,” he said.
The hospitality business is among the hardest hit by COVID-19. In Denver, hotels suffered from the lack of tourists – and the lack of business travel. Revenues were down more than 60 percent last year, according to CBRE, a real estate services company.
But people are starting to venture out. Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game to Coors Field in July will be a huge shot in the arm for the Rally Hotel — and the entire development.
A giant LED screen in plaza has started broadcasting Rockies games, and Menekse says there are plans for movie nights and other entertainment as the summer progresses.
“The goal here at McGregor Square is to create Denver’s playground,” Menekse said.
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