Gensler Denver. Photo by Nick Merrick.
A group of people in a room.

Driving Transformational Change in Denver Through Human-Centered Design

In 2023, Gensler Denver celebrates a milestone anniversary of 50 years in the Mile High City. The Denver office launched with the opening of a corporate interiors project and has since grown to impact clients across industries from masterplan communities, airports, and workplaces for the most innovative companies. While Denver has experienced an influx of residents looking to reside in a more affordable, less dense city with a diverse, vibrant culture, the city, like many others, still faces issues such as downtown vacancies and a lack of attainable housing

We spoke with Co-Managing Office Directors Michelle Liebling and Jon Gambrill as they reflect on the opportunities for the Denver community, the importance of culture, and how to inspire our people for the next 50 forward.

What are you excited about for the next 50 years?

Michelle Liebling: At Gensler, we are in a unique position to address and solve some of the problems we face as a society through the power of design. What gives me confidence and excites me most in tackling these complex challenges is the talent we have and the next generation of leaders whose skills and ideas we can leverage to design for change. By empowering them to follow their passions and foster their curiosity we stay ahead of the curve and drive innovation in support of our clients. Through leveraging the expertise of our talent and fostering impactful relationships with clients and communities, we strive to create great urban experiences and actively contribute to making our city and community more resilient.

Jon Gambrill: I’m excited about the real-world impact we’re able to make in our own communities through our projects. Fifty years from now, I think we will look back at the pandemic as a significant part of the history of Denver and as a point in which the real estate community focused on our city with a new perspective. We know the issues of tomorrow will relate to safety, attainable housing, mobility, and mixed-used cities that offer a great experience. By looking at a building or space as one part of a whole picture, we can really start to develop a city that knits our neighborhoods together and creates impact across Denver.

Our biggest opportunity in our city is to take the building stock we have and make it more efficient, as well as prepare it for new uses. We’ve done this successfully in projects like The Link, an adaptive reuse project that had a 68% reduction in embodied carbon emissions. We approach these projects with strategies focused on building performance. Currently, we are working with the City of Denver to examine the viability of office to residential conversions within the Downtown Business District. The goal is to partially address Denver’s housing shortage and increase the number of residents in our downtown. We are also wrapping up full design and submitting for permit our first office to residential conversion of a 14-story empty office building that was built in the early 1960’s. Not only will the end result be more energy efficient, but it will also have a significantly lower carbon impact than constructing a new building.

Another project that speaks to our dedication to the broader Denver area is the Cherry Creek West development. We are part of an amazing team and share in our client’s vision of creating an inclusive, pedestrian focused extension of the Cherry Creek North neighborhood with a seven-building multi-use development sitting on 12 acres. The project has aggressive carbon and energy efficiency goals and will bring accessible outdoor space to the neighborhood that, when transformed, becomes a gateway to the entirety of Cherry Creek and the trail system. This project will also place emphasis on the experience of the users whether they are working, living, recreating, or just passing through the development.

How do you carry on Art Gensler’s entrepreneurial spirit today and for the next 50 forward?

ML: As co-managing directors, Jon and I strive to embody and demonstrate the values that were gifted to us by our founder Art Gensler, such as our “one firm-firm” approach, the importance of true teamwork and our people first culture. It’s this ethos, and the idea that a local office can have a global impact, which has shaped the Denver practice to what it is today and allows us to attract the industry’s top talent, and deliver important, award-winning work across a diverse spectrum of project types.

I’m so proud of the culture of the office and the next generation of leaders dedicated to making a difference in their local community. Our teams are not only committed to driving the transformation of Denver through our projects, but also to work with local groups and organizations like Urban Peak, which ignites the potential in youth to exit homelessness and create self-determined, fulfilled lives and Access Gallery, which provides cultural, economic, and educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities, to directly address pressing issues and shape the fabric of everyday life in Denver.

JG: Our future is grounded in maximizing the positive impact we can have in our city. Embracing change, nurturing our strong culture, and supporting our next generation of leaders will be the key to our success as we look to the future. While we are in Denver because our clients brought us here 50 years ago, championing the value of our people will get us to the next 50.

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Michelle Liebling
As Co-Managing Director of Gensler’s Denver office, Michelle provides strategic direction for the office while reinforcing the firm’s reputation for design excellence. Her expertise spans a variety of industries and project types, including workplace strategy, corporate headquarters, tech, media, law firms, and financial services. Contact her at .
Jon Gambrill
As a Co-Managing Director, Jon brings a level of leadership and guidance instrumental to the continued growth and success of Gensler’s Denver office. An award-winning architect and community leader, he is a sought-after spokesperson on the subjects of commercial building design and repositioning development. Contact him at .