The Hub: Extending The Office Outdoors

The Hub is a 275,000-square-foot transit-oriented development in Denver’s River North, or RiNo district, adjacent to the 38th & Blake RTD station. Complementing the eight-story building’s architecture by Gensler, Civitas designed an expansive fourth-floor roof deck, which serves as a focal point for the development. The client, Beacon Capital Partners, had originally sought a fun and engaging amenity that would appeal to the building’s creative office tenants and reflect Denver’s outdoor lifestyle and social scene. The large, landscaped roof deck would ultimately become a healthy differentiator for the property.

Completed in 2018, The Hub was planned long before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, yet it would turn out to be prescient with its emphasis on flexible, outdoor spaces that have since become urgent necessities for commercial real estate. “The number of employees working in downtown Denver on a daily basis is only 40% of the level from before the coronavirus pandemic,” the Denver Business Journal recently reported. And according to Axios, citing Cushman & Wakefield data, Denver’s offices are currently 25% vacant, and nearly 30% vacant in the RiNo district.

But outdoor spaces bring people back to the office. 

The New York Times has described “a growing effort to give employees access to fresh air, sunshine and plants”—the nature that we all sought when isolated in our homes at the pandemic’s peak—and has also outlined the rising costs for building owners who are now trying to bring workplaces up to post-pandemic par.

With its award winning 15,000-square-foot roof deck, The Hub is ahead of the game.

Landscaping wraps the perimeter of the roof deck, which offers expansive view of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains, and divides portions of the deck into zones that support different ways of working and socializing outdoors. Considering the word hub’s meaning as a center of activity, “The Hub’s overall concept offers people working for different companies an opportunity to engage with others throughout the development,” according to Civitas principal Scott Jordan. “The roof deck design enables social intersections that create a sense of community, while its zones create an open palette to use in different ways.”

The Garden Room is one such zone, designed to encourage gathering. Other spaces feature a variety of planting areas, standard and custom furnishings, firepits and grills, harvest tables, lounge chairs and hammocks, a bocce ball court, and ping pong tables.

The Great Hall zone is the roof deck’s centerpiece, framed by vertical posts and strings of overhead Tivoli lights. The highly flexible space features movable tables and chairs as well as large custom benches with firepits, developed and installed by Landscape Forms’ Studio 431. Described by Civitas designer Jason Newsome, the benches’ large scale—each measures 6’ wide by 30’ long—“introduces a substantial element that scales the roof deck with the massing of the metal and concrete buildings that surround the deck. Their eye-catching yellow color draws people out into the space, too, providing color and warmth that balance the building’s gray tones and hard edges.”

This large outdoor space provides the flexibility for office workers to sit outside for individual work, to gather comfortably for small meetings, or to socialize as larger groups. The firepits enhance the space and offer a dynamic amenity for year-round use. And the overall aesthetic evokes the industrial grit, history and artistry of the RiNo district. Looking down from the floors above the fourth-floor roof deck, people will notice that the deck’s pavers form the pixelated shape of rhinos—a nod to the neighborhood and its reputation for creativity.

In addition to the easy access to fresh air and natural light the roof deck provides, it also features design strategies to reduce rainwater runoff, plants that attract pollinators, and space for an urban beehive program. All of this contributed greatly to the client’s sustainability goals. In 2020, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the Hub with LEED Gold for Core & Shell under the v4 program for Building Design and Construction—the first project in Colorado to earn this certification. In the same year, The Hub also received a Merit Award for Design over $500k from the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

While we all wrestle with the realities of a lingering pandemic and the challenges and opportunities of the return to face-to-face work, we can take comfort in knowing that more and more developers and building managers are recognizing the benefits of outdoor spaces, native landscaping, and other biophilic design strategies.

When you’re ready to improve your own building’s amenities and boost employee experience as well as real estate value, please reach out.

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