Thursday, September 28, 2023
Home Colorado CO News First U.S. Carbon Positive Hotel Underway in Denver

First U.S. Carbon Positive Hotel Underway in Denver

By M+E Staff

Denver-based Urban Villages has launched construction of the 265-room Populus at 14th Street and Colfax Avenue in the Civic Center Park area. Slated for completion in late 2023, the country’s first carbon positive hotel is ironically being built on the site of Colorado’s first gas station. Urban Villages is creating Populus to be carbon positive through sustainable design and construction features and off-site ecological efforts, including an initial commitment to planting trees that represent more than 5,000 acres of forest. 


“To truly impact our earth, carbon neutral developments are no longer enough. Populus will be entirely carbon positive starting with its construction and continuing through to its ongoing operations while acting as a vibrant social center for locals and visitors,” says Grant McCargo, Urban Villages’ co-founder, partner, chief executive officer and chief environmental officer.

Populus will minimize its carbon footprint in the development stage by using low-carbon concrete mixes, high-recycled content, and fewer finish materials; maximizing structural efficiency; minimizing waste; and more. The same is true for every stage of hotel construction, beginning with the origin of materials, as well as the carbon footprint of creating and transporting them. A major goal is to earn LEED Gold certification.

The property also is the first new-build hotel in Denver without any on-site parking. By removing parking entirely, encouraging the use of public transportation, and partnering with existing parking structures nearby, Populus reduces its carbon footprint and can demonstrate that on-site parking is not always necessary as cities evolve toward more pedestrian-friendly environments.  

Populus’ ongoing operations also will be carbon positive so operational carbon and every guest stay will be offset in addition to the building’s embodied carbon. 


Architecture and urban design firm Studio Gang’s vision for Populus was developed by studying the characteristic patterns found on Colorado’s native aspen tree. The building’s distinctive windows echo aspen “eyes” while also performing efficiently in Denver’s varied climate. The “lids” over each window extend slightly outward to shade the interior of the building, improve energy performance, and channel rainwater. 

On the interior, the windows are various sizes to reflect the public or private nature of various spaces, with windows up to 30 feet high featured at the building’s base to bring big views into the lobby and amenity spaces. Inside guest rooms, windows will be occupiable by transforming into seats or desks to connect occupants with the outdoors.


Upon entering the 13-story hotel, guests will be greeted by an eclectic mix of eateries with the ability to evolve from a morning café to an evening wine bar. A grand staircase will extends the activated street-level experience to the second floor, which will be a flexible area that can accommodate business meetings, events and co-working areas. The top floor will feature a series of hospitality-style suites bookable for private social or corporate events.

A signature rooftop bar and restaurant are intended to be a high-level gathering place for visitors and locals and features. An expansive rooftop garden terrace planted with regional vegetation is planned to provide an appealing atmosphere and natural cooling for the building.

Urban Villages’ portfolio also includes Denver’s Larimer Square and Sugar Block; West Village at UC Davis, the largest planned net-zero energy community in the United States; and RailSpur, a multi-project revitalization in Seattle featuring adaptive reuse of historic warehouses retrofitted for LEED Platinum certification.