Gene Lucero builds to stay true to his roots
By Kelcey McClung – Reporter, Denver Business Journal
Aug 10, 2018, 7:00am EDT
Longtime Denver resident and businessman Gene Lucero is revitalizing the West Highland neighborhood, but don’t call him a developer. He doesn’t want it on his business cards, and he “cringed a little bit” when somebody referred to him as such.
Lucero is CEO and Principal of Lucero Financial Group, which includes Lucero Real Estate, Inc., Colorado Tierra Mortgage, Inc. and Lucero Tax and Accounting. He hopes his passion project, Plaza38, at Lowell Boulevard and 38th Avenue— the same street he worked on for more than 24 years — will benefit both the long-standing community and the influx of newcomers.
“I’ve been trying to fill some needs for the [Highland] market based on my perception of having lived here,” Lucero said. “It’s where I started in 1983, and my presence has still been there in some form of ownership.”
He owned the lot Plaza38 is on and sold it to Trammel Crow Residential to turn it into a 324-unit apartment complex. It will also include 31,000 square feet of new retail and over 170 retail parking spaces. Lucero bought back the retail part of the project.
Once Plaza38 is finished, he’ll move his core business back to 38th, in the new plaza — his legacy project.
The founding chairperson of the Colorado Association of Hispanic Real Estate professionals, Lucero served as Secretary of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals Board of Directors. He’s been involved with the West 38th Avenue Merchant Association since the 1980s.
It’s where he’s lived, worked and played.
“Being a small businessman, and a Latino businessman, that’s where my roots have been,” he said. “Being the special place northwest Denver is, it’s got so much ethnic history and its geographic location is outstanding.”
The proximity to cultural centers and distinctive neighborhoods is another reason he’s always chosen to stay.
“I’m from here, so I really want to be a thoughtful developer and give back.”
Part of that is being thoughtful about what vendors Lucero selects for the retail portion of Plaza38.
“[I’m looking at] what they’re bringing to the neighborhood, how they contribute to its vibrancy and how they create a sense of community,” he said.
Though exciting things are ahead for 38th Avenue in the Highlands, Lucero said that there was a time it was a “challenged street,” in terms of gang violence, cruising and graffiti. Things changed after rezoning and reshaping, part of which Lucero attributed to Blueprint Denver — a neighborhoods plan created by the city in 2002.
“That helped reshape things – it created more density and brought more activity to the avenues,” Lucero said.
Population growth and Denver’s burgeoning development have helped improve 38th, he said, but it was a gift and a curse.
“Affordability has gotten a little more challenged and controversial through that whole [development] process,” Lucero said. “Part of gentrification can be viewed as negative, because people that previously lived there can’t anymore because of new construction.”
He said his real estate company, which aims to service the Latino community, has consistently seen wage earners “left out of the ballgame” in bidding on houses.
This extended cycle of development hasn’t helped that, he said, as wages haven’t kept up with the financial costs of growth.
“It hurts the renter to have to move where the rents are lower,” he said.
As for the future, he is looking forward to his next projects.
“I just don’t know what they’re going to be yet,” he said with a laugh.