ED SEALOVER, DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL | Watching the River North neighborhood grow around his office into one of the hippest neighborhoods in Denver the past eight year, developer Ryan Diggins often wondered why no one had put up a hotel in the area. Then he stopped asking why and decided to build one himself.
On Monday, Diggins threw open the doors on the 50-room Ramble Hotel, a boutique offering that he believes reflects the “exploratory nature to the neighborhood.” With a stylish interior complementing its warehouse-style exterior, he intends the building to be a throwback to the 19th-century hotels of European cities that were meeting grounds for locals and visitors alike, complete with the first location of iconic New York bar Death & Co. dominating the lobby.
While Diggins is excited about the final product, noting that it looks just like he first envisioned five years ago, the road to opening the Ramble was not an easy one. With no national branding, a plan to manage the property himself and no precedent for how a hotel would perform in the neighborhood, bank after bank rejected his financing requests, until FirstBank finally stepped him and lent him money for the project at the southeast corner of 25th and Larimer streets, whose costs he declined to reveal.
Now that the project is a reality, however, he believes there is a natural crowd for the $250/night rooms, even if it’s one that doesn’t fall into the typical marketing categories that chain hotels seek. It’s a place he said for the “experiential and opinionated” — people who are into architecture and art and literature and don’t want to bed down in the brand-name facilities downtown while they look for the character in Denver.
“I’ve seen the neighborhood grow and evolve. But at the root of it, for the last eight years, it’s always had this exploratory nature to the neighborhood,” said the man whose Gravitas Development Group has its offices nearby. “You go down a street, take a right and find some music venue that you didn’t know was there. Or you find a small-batch coffee roaster.
“It checked all the boxes for places I wanted to travel. And I was almost complaining about it: ‘Why doesn’t RiNo have a hotel?’” he added. “So, we took it upon ourselves to build one.”
Designed by Denver-based architecture and interior design firm JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE, the four-story building features factory pane glazing and red-orange brick, aiming to evoke an avant-garde style. Reclaimed chicken-wire glass rests next to beautiful marble, and a steel storefront runs along the ground-floor level.
“The edifice is designed to engage the passerby, the hotel guest and the restaurant patron alike,” said Tobias Strohe, partner at the JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE. “The intricate masonry and metal detailing evoke curiosity and encourage further exploration.”
Those explorers, beginning on Friday, will find inside Death & Co., a renowned speakeasy that had rebuffed numerous efforts over the past decade by developers to open a second location. Diggins said he’d kept striking out on finding a “grandiose lobby bar” like the types that graced the hotels of Paris and London around the turn of the 20th century when he stared down at the Death & Co. cocktail book on his coffee table at home. He contacted the bar’s owners at the same time they were looking at expansion opportunities, pitched his plan and hooked them.
“This, I know, spoke to them as a challenge and an opportunity,” Diggins said. “It was nothing more than a cold call.”
While the Ramble will be the first hotel in RiNo, it will be getting company very soon, as The Source Hotel is on track to open later this spring.
But rather than be worried about the competition, Diggins said he’s excited that the two will attract slightly different crowds — while at the same time cementing the neighborhood that had no lodging facilities as recently as Sunday as an area that can be as attractive to out-of-town tourists as it is to the foodies and artists that have made it such a draw to Denverites.