GTA History: Allen Kiel – The Beginning of the Golden Triangle Association

This is one in a series of newsletter articles from the Golden Triangle neighborhood in Denver, Colorado about the founders and leaders of GTA. Former Board member and past Executive Director, Margerie Hicks interviewed President of Commercial Real Estate Services at Citywide Banks, Allen Kiel, for this article.

The Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association was founded in 1983, when over 50 property owners met in the Beer Garden, now the Cherokee Bar & Grill, to discuss a proposal by Denver Urban Renewal to develop high rise housing in the area. The Beer Garden was an old time bar that served the four basic food groups: beer, burgers, hot dogs and fries, and peanuts in the shell for free to customers. The patrons would break open the peanuts and then throw the empty shells on the floor. During the 1980’s, we held all of our meetings at the Beer Garden or the VFW at 9th & Bannock (now Rooster & Moon)

In order to speak with the City as a group about the DURA proposal we registered with the City of Denver as the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association. We referred to ourselves as the Golden Triangle Association or GTA. Every property owner that wanted to join GTA paid a $5.00 membership fee. By the mid 80’s we had over 100 members. I was elected its first president and was re-elected president each year until the new Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association was reformed around 1993.

As noted, GTA was initially established to fight a proposal by the Denver Urban Renewal Authority. DURA wanted to get authority from the City to be able to condemn, at some future time, multiple blocks, bounded by 12th Ave, Speer, 14th Ave. and Cherokee, to build high rise housing. The property owners fought this because DURA had neither a time schedule nor money to do the project. If DURA had gotten control, the property owners would not have been able to commit to any new long term leases or construct new projects on their land under threat of condemnation.

GTA was able to defeat this proposal (with leadership from then Councilwoman, Cathy Donahue) in a Denver City Council vote. While there was a great deal of tension before and during the vote, there was one funny moment. We had hired a professional opera soprano (Loraine Watta was singing the national anthem at all of the Colorado Rockies hockey games at that time) to sing “America the Beautiful” as our last speaker. Well, the last speaker did not get to approach the microphone until after midnight. At that time Councilman Bill Roberts was presiding over the meeting. Over 100 people were still in the audience. When GTA’s last speaker began to sing in her magnificent (and very loud) voice, the audience fell silent and Councilman Roberts fell out of his chair. Laughter filled the room; the tension was broken and the vote was 13 to zero to defeat the DURA proposal.

In the next year GTA was able to negotiate with Public Service (now Xcel) to bury a system of power lines that it wanted to hang on 40 feet high metal towers along 12th Ave through all of the Golden Triangle. The settlement also allowed Public Service to construct, with design controls, an enclosed power station between 12th and 13th on Elati.

During the rest of the 1980’s, GTA worked with the City on the future Colorado Convention Center (developer Al Cohen proposed to build it in the middle of the Golden Triangle), the library expansion, an alcohol treatment center, the first rezoning of B-8, landscaping for parking lots, and other downtown planning issues. Many of GTA’s members gave significant time and expertise to protect the interest of Golden Triangle property owners, residents and tenants.

At the time of GTA’s formation, I was a downtown commercial real estate broker. I had heard parts of the area called Byers (one of the legal description names in the area), South Colfax and the Golden Triangle. I liked the Golden Triangle name, as did our original members. When we promoted the name to the media, we joked that it was called “golden” because the Denver Mint stored gold in its basement.

GTA’s boundaries were chosen using the natural borders to the north (Colfax) and the west to south (Speer), but the eastern border (mid way between Lincoln and Sherman) was chosen for political clout. Broadway included Garts Sports Castle, Howard Lorton and Rickenbaugh Cadillac. Lincoln included Security Life, Channel 7, Channel 4, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Denver Art Museum was also an original member and was very helpful with many of our negotiations with the City.

I was pleased to serve on the first Board of the reconfigured Golden Triangle Neighborhood Association under Bruce Berger’s leadership. Many of the original GTA members are still active members of GTA today.

Allen Kiel is President of Commercial Real Estate Services at Citywide Banks.