First hotel checks in to Denver’s RiNo neighborhood. It won’t be the area’s only accommodations for long

Denver’s River North Art District has emerged as an attractive day-trip destination for tourists in recent years. Walk around, check out the street art, dine at a diverse and growing number of restaurants and drink at hip bars.

Once they day is done, though, it’s time for RiNo visitors to jump in Lyfts bound for hotels in the Central Business District or, if it’s a locals’ experience they want, hoof it to the Airbnb in the neighborhood. Right?

Not anymore.

RiNo welcomed its first hotel Monday, when The Ramble opened for business. The 33,000-square-foot, 50-room boutique brings life to a patch of land at the corner 25th and Larimer streets that the hotel’s creator, Gravitas Development Group, has been holding onto for eight years.

“Every great neighborhood needs a great boutique hotel,” Gravitas partner Ryan Diggins said last week. “For me, this is the neighborhood I spend all my time in. This is where I eat, drink and explore — and the hotel was the logical extension of that.”

Rooms start at $249 a night. (A suite can run as high as $995.) The Ramble Hotel is not affiliated with any outside chain or management company. Diggins — whose company developed, across from the hotel, the shipping-container building that houses the restaurant Work & Class and Port Side coffee shop — feels that in a creative place such as RiNo, it’s important to provide a unique experience that stands apart from bland corporate hotels. Whatever he’s selling, it’s working so far. He said The Ramble had 1,300 room nights booked before opening.

“We’re going after the experiential consumer, and that person doesn’t really have an age,” Diggins said. “To me, I am going after really a diverse set of guests because there is nothing more boring in a hotel than an homogenized group of people.”

The hotel’s attractions go beyond its modern rooms and classic Lower Downtown warehouse design motif, which comes courtesy of Denver architecture firm Johnson Nathan Strohe.

Death & Co., a tiny New York City cocktail bar frequently ranked among the world’s best, will open its second location in the country inside The Ramble on Friday. In addition to its marquee bar and restaurant in the hotel’s lobby, the Death & Co. team will operate a cafe, a 20-seat bar on the hotel’s second floor and an outdoor bar called The Garden. It will also handle food and beverage service for Vauxhall, a 2,300-square-foot music venue and event space, and for room service. Super Mega Bien, a restaurant from Work & Class chef Dana Rodriguez, is expected to open in the building later this month.

“Ryan wanted to build something of substance,” Death & Co. co-owner Alex Day said of The Ramble. “He wanted to build a structure that would be here for at least 100 years, and for us that interest in longevity really appeals.”

The Ramble may be the first, but it won’t be the only hotel in RiNo for long.

The Source Hotel, from neighborhood pioneer Zeppelin Development, is expected to open in early summer. The 100-room high-rise, at 3330 Brighton Blvd., also has been molded with a heavy emphasis on modern design and unique experiences. It will be loaded with amenities including an art gallery, rooftop pools, two restaurants and an outpost from New Belgium Brewing Co.

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Perhaps most exciting for regular RiNo visitors, the hotel will feature a 25,000-square-foot market hall mirroring the hotel’s namesake predecessor and conjoined neighbor the Source food hall. The space will feature 10 to 12 food, beverage and dry goods vendors, Zeppelin Development co-owner Kyle Zeppelin said.

Zeppelin, who has brought in the team behind Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel & Spa to run his hotel, expects to see national and international tourists walking through his doors, but he’s also counting on plenty of executives and business people. Referring to his own office projects — Zeppelin Station and others such as the forthcoming Catalyst HTI health-tech complex — he said RiNo is now the city’s chief hub not only for new and local companies but also national companies looking to set up a local location.

“There is a level of activity that can support functions like a hotel of this caliber, a modern lifestyle hotel,” he said of RiNo. “Where the neighborhood was 10 years ago didn’t support that.”

There are probably few people in Denver so happy about the two hotels than Jamie Licko, the president of the RiNo Art District. The two establishments are located far enough apart and offer different enough experiences to avoid competing too much, she said.

Licko got a preview stay in The Ramble last week.

“We’ve always seen a hotel as an important piece to what’s happening here,” she said. “The beauty of it is the first one is being done by local folks who are already great friends of this place. It’s a really authentic step to creating a place that people will remember long after they’ve gone.”

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