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How a father-son team is repurposing Denver's forgotten spaces

These Entrepreneur of 2016 finalists see potential in the unlikeliest places


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Kyle Zeppelin

Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin

Zeppelin Development Inc.

Snapshot: The word “visionary” gets bandied about, but there’s no doubt it applies to the father-son entrepreneurial team of Mickey and Kyle Zeppelin, who can see potential where others see only rust and rebar. For more than 40 years, Zeppelin Development has breathed new life into Denver’s urban neighborhoods, starting with Mickey’s forays into Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo), then the Golden Triangle and now River North (RiNo).

The Zeppelins have won kudos for their creative, sustainable repurposing of such spaces as TAXI, the 20-acre former Yellow Cab terminal on the Platte River in RiNo that now houses workspaces and other amenities in 200,000 square feet, and The Source, a mouthwatering mix of artisan food and beverage. Both projects showcase the hip urban sensibility that makes Zeppelin redevelopments both distinctive and compelling.

We asked the Zeppelins about the highs and lows of working together.

What is the best part of working with family?

Kyle: The freedom to speak our minds and act on big ideas. It would have been difficult without the platform of a family relationship to move forward as boldly with a creative vision. That includes developing in RiNo all the way through the recession and pioneering new models for urban development, including The Source and The Source Hotel.

Mickey: The best part of working with Kyle is sharing our long history and emotional bonding in creating new ventures. The experience has been fun and challenging, evolving together with shared and divergent values and ideas. It’s special because of the ongoing growth and confidence in its continuity.  

What's the hardest part of working with family?

Kyle: The freedom to speak our minds and act on instinct. As the organization has grown, there is a need for decorum and focus. That is sometimes hard to maintain in the context of a family relationship where communication is open and sometimes brutally honest.

Mickey: The most difficult part of working with family is the occasional conflict that exists between Kyle and myself regarding different plans, ideas, values or vision. It is crossing the line between business and family emotions.

What have each of you learned from the other that has contributed to your success?

Kyle: We have a very complementary skill set where (my dad) has the big-picture creative vision to see possibilities for underused urban neighborhoods before anyone else. I’m able to combine that with a finer-grain creative vision for the projects. We both share a commitment to the surrounding community.

Mickey: We gained a deeper understanding from family relating and business acumen.  I have learned to appreciate Kyle's strong will, determination and contributions.  Kyle's youth and spirit combined with some wisdom and more than 40 years in real estate is one element of our success.

It’s the collaboration, mutual respect and belief in each other that has evolved into a philosophy which includes building larger community, challenging the status quo, creating the new -- risk takers, philosophy of people are the core, team and network building and overcoming barriers. It’s collaborative effort in each of us using our best efforts and special relationship to mold Zeppelin & Co.

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Lisa Ryckman

Lisa Ryckman is ColoradoBiz's managing editor. Contact her at lryckman@cobizmag.com.

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