When Mickey Zeppelin broke ground on the original Taxi building in north Denver more than 20 years ago, he burned a pile of cubicles, signaling a new era of office space.

When it opened in 2001, in the former Yellow Cab Depot at 3455 Ringsby Court, Denver’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood looked nothing like it does now. It was filled with aging and abandoned industrial buildings and no one could've imagined an arts district there filled with breweries, restaurants, residences and some of the city's most avant-garde office space.

Now Mickey’s son Kyle Zeppelin runs Zeppelin Development. The Taxi campus has 10 buildings on a 28-acre campus, housing more than 150 businesses, 300 residents and plenty of amenities. Many offices sport the requisite garage door that allows light and fresh air to take over an entire office wall — a signature Zeppelin touch. Those garage doors now are staples at many Denver restaurants, breweries and offices.

“Mickey and Kyle care a lot about design and urban planning,” said Justin Croft, Zeppelin’s director of development. “People shouldn’t be separated from each other in spaces that are false and overly constraining. They should interact creatively with each other and the environment. Taxi’s rollup garage doors and concrete floors let the original story shine through.”

Tenants appreciate the free parking, on-site day care and dog care and the simplicity of moving in. Croft said Taxi is perfectly suited to accommodate post-pandemic office needs.

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Barista Isabel Muniz wipes down the counter at Lost City Coffee on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, on the TAXI work/live campus in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

“COVID really sharpened people’s focus on what really matters,” Croft said. “People are continuing to move to Denver because of the lifestyle. We have all the best things a newer city has to offer: Cultural attractions, food and craft beer, and a natural environment connection. … All the air and sunlight our space offers is enjoyable to anyone, but after COVID even more so.”

“It seems the office market has been driven out of the central business district in a dramatic way,” Croft said. “Here we have low-rise buildings and accommodate a different value set that can’t be satisfied in the central business district. … RiNo has absorbed a lot of demand.”

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Zeppelin Development vice president of development Justin Croft looks out to the grass growing on the “green roof” off the rooftop terrace of one of the TAXI campus buildings on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

When Halfdays Apparel Corp. CEO Ariana Ferwerda went looking for office space this summer, she scoured LoopNet for a spot downtown. The startup, which sells ski apparel for women, launched a year ago and grew out of co-working space. Its products hit Bloomingdale’s shelves this month, she said.

Ariana Ferwerda

Halfdays Apparel Corp. CEO Ariana Ferwerda. The company moved into the Taxi campus in RiNo in September. Halfdays sells women's ski clothing and accessories. 

“We had a hard time at first because so much on the market wants that three- to five-year lease,” Ferwerda said. “The beauty of Taxi is it allowed for a shorter-term lease, then will allow us to transition space as we’re growing.”

It didn’t take long for Ferwerda to sign a lease, and her apparel company moved in two days after finding Taxi in September.

“They turned it around quickly for us,” she said. “The team here was so helpful to get us onboarded. Once we were committed to moving into Taxi, it was such a fast process.”

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Zeppelin Development vice president of development Justin Croft and communications consultant Meghan Dougherty talks next to the garden on the back patio of Comal Heritage Food Incubator on the TAXI work-live campus on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

Croft said they stick with a simplified, two-page occupancy agreement that doesn’t require small business owners to hire a lawyer to navigate a 40-page lease.

“Tenants are all-in with a gross flat rate that covers utilities,” he said.

“This space is incredibly modern with natural light everywhere, open space that’s so collaborative,” Ferwerda said. “One of the biggest things is we did not want to look at cubicles — we wanted to be able to have the space.”

She said her team has access to the gym and any of the amenities in the other nine buildings.

“You’re usually strapped to an office taking calls, so it’s nice to have options to go grab coffee or head to the restaurant Comal,” Ferwerda said.

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Street artist Shepard Fairey installed an Obey Giant tag on the south face of the Comal Heritage Food Incubator building on the TAXI campus, as seen on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

Comal Heritage Food Incubator provides entrepreneurial training for immigrants and grew up at Taxi over the last five years. It has opened a second location at the new RiNo ArtPark across the river.

There has been a greater demand for smaller units, Croft said, likely a reflection of the large number of startups Denver has seen in the past year.

A total of 39,252 new businesses opened in the second quarter of 2021, up 25.7% year-over-year, and 157,300 new businesses have opened in the 12 months ending in Q2, according to a recent economic report by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. That level of new business filings was record-setting.

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Scooters are parked outside the on-campus gym on Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, on the TAXI work/live campus in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

“It’s the great resignation — everyone is starting their own company,” Croft said. “And other companies are bringing back one or two teams — they don’t want to bring the whole office back and they don’t want 10,000 square feet of space anymore.”

Taxi’s biggest tenant occupies 80,000 square feet, of the more than 500,000 square feet there.

“We really like being here,” said Ferwerda. “It’s just more energizing to work in a space like this.”