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Archive of posts filed under the Urban Design category.

Please Help Me Support Denver’s Architectural Heritage on Colorado Gives Day!

Dear friends,

I serve on the board of the Denver Architectural Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to inspiring people to explore our dynamic city, experience the importance of design to our quality of life, and envision an exceptional future for Denver.

The DAF is very important to me and I am asking you for your support on Colorado Gives Day, December 8, 2015. Each contribution to the Denver Architectural Foundation—no matter the amount—is critical in reaching our $10,000 fundraising goal to help us reach thousands of people from all walks of life through public education and events, cultural programming, and school partnerships.

Why support the DAF? Some of our programs include the Cleworth Architectural Legacy Project, which gives hundreds of Denver Public Schools children a chance to learn about architectural design from a volunteer team of architects and engineers, and our Hard Hat Tours, which offer up-close contact with Denver’s changing urban landscape and the architects behind many of Denver’s new buildings.

However, our biggest annual program and what I personally work hard to help organize is Doors Open Denver—the only public event that celebrates the richness and history of Denver’s built environment! During this two-day event each spring, we host tens of thousands of community members at over 50 locations throughout Denver, bringing together people from all walks of life to discover and explore the Mile High City’s urban environment. From historic landmarks to new infill developments and everything in between, we open the doors to our city to share with the public the purpose and value of the physical city that surrounds us. Doors Open Denver 2016 will be held April 23 and 24.


Over the past few years I have personally given over 100 DenverInfill walking tours for the general public because I believe passionately in sharing the story of how Denver’s urban landscape came to be and what is planned for its future. Similarly, Doors Open Denver allows tens of thousands of people and to learn about Denver’s architectural heritage and the importance of planning and design during this time of great growth and change in our city.

Also, Box City will once again be a part of Doors Open Denver!! If you are unfamiliar with Box City, check out my blog post from 2007.


If you appreciate events like Doors Open Denver and Box City and encouraging people to learn more about Denver’s past, present, and future, then please make a donation to the DAF on Colorado Gives Day. To further encourage you to make a donation, I will match all donations made through my personal fundraising page to the Denver Architectural Foundation up to $1,000!

To schedule your tax-deductible donation to the Denver Architectural Foundation on Colorado Gives Day, December 8, please visit my personal fundraising page:

Thank you for your support!

Rethinking the Broadway-Lincoln Corridor

by Jenny Niemann

At last week’s Denver Moves Broadway public workshop, the City presented a range of options for transforming the Broadway/Lincoln corridor into a safer, more livable place, while improving mobility for all modes. This corridor has been the focus of many City plans. Most recently, the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan envisioned Broadway as a “Grand Boulevard.” This workshop sought feedback on alternatives for implementing that neighborhood vision through a redesign of the travel lanes on both roads and placemaking throughout the corridor.


One of three proposed design alternatives presented by the City. Image courtesy of Denver Public Works.

The City offered three different roadway design alternatives that would provide a protected bike facility on the corridor by removing a lane of traffic on either Broadway or Lincoln. Based on current traffic counts and speeds, City planners assert that Broadway could handle losing a travel lane without much increase in congestion. Providing more space for bikes creates the sort of multi-modal environment that is good for pedestrians, too: removing a lane of traffic and narrowing travel lanes will slow down travel speeds and reduce the distance pedestrians must go to cross the street.

Detail of proposed placemaking elements. Image courtesy of Denver Public Works.

Detail of proposed placemaking elements. Image courtesy of Denver Public Works.

The most interesting part of the workshop was the presentation of placemaking concepts for every block of the corridor. Despite the great mix of shops, restaurants and bars along the corridor, the speeding cars and huge space devoted to them don’t contribute to a welcoming place to walk. Proposed placemaking strategies would provide many more amenities for pedestrians and anyone who wants to enjoy the corridor. Enhancements included curb extensions, or bulb-outs, to reduce crossing distances, parklets, landscaping, enhanced crosswalks, and traffic calming. Pedestrians were clearly the focus here: planners envision pedestrian gathering spaces, activation of surface parking lots fronting the road, and a pedestrian-oriented alley.

Example of a curb extensions that shortens crossing distance. Image courtesy of Denver Public Works.

Example of a curb extensions that shortens crossing distance. Image courtesy of Denver Public Works.

I was encouraged to see the workshop recorded videos of residents talking about their experiences in the corridor, and what they hoped to see in the future. The videos will be compiled to communicate the community’s goals for the corridor. We can hope that residents’ videos will end up providing additional support for making Broadway and Lincoln streets that work for everyone.

If you missed the meeting, you can still learn about the project and provide feedback through a website the city created for the project. Go here to learn more about the project’s background and goals, see the information presented at the workshop, and provide feedback. Submit comments about the design alternatives by November 30, 2015.


Jenny Niemann is a WalkDenver Policy Committee member and a MURP/MPH graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver

Union Station’s Newest Public Space: Tail Tracks Plaza

The last of the new public spaces at Denver Union Station is nearing completion. Known as Tail Tracks Plaza, this new public space fills the gap between the newly completed Triangle Building (recently profiled at DenverInfill in Part 1 and Part 2) and the EPA Region 8 headquarters building. The gap is the old Wewatta Street right-of-way where Wewatta used to run between Delgany and Wynkoop streets before Union Station was built in 1881.

Here’s a Google Earth image from October 2014 with Tail Tracks Plaza’s location outlined in yellow:


Why is it called Tail Tracks Plaza? Because until the recent transit infrastructure construction, the historic railroad tracks behind the station building merged into a “tail” that crossed 16th and 15th streets and terminated at Cherry Creek. Here’s a Google Earth image from December 2002 showing the tail tracks crossing 16th Street and merging into a singe track that crossed 15th Street. In this image we also see the Gates building under construction and the old Postal Annex building before its demolition.


The tail tracks were removed in May 2010.

Tail Tracks Plaza is not yet open to the public, but will be soon. As part of my Triangle Building tour, we checked out the plaza where workers were putting in the finishing touches. Here’s a view from roughly the middle of the plaza looking towards 16th Street. The bold stripe of colored pavers commemorate the historic tail tracks:


The side of the Triangle Building facing the plaza contains a canopy-covered patio space for restaurant outdoor seating. In the past few days since I took this photo, the canopy structure has been painted a dark grey color to match the Triangle Building’s ground-floor granite and steel elements:

2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-2 2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-7

Near the 15th Street end of the plaza are some big swings for kids and adults to enjoy. The swings can fit two people and are destined to become a favorite photo-taking spot for tourists and locals. The swings are supported by railroad tracks that have been curved and welded together for structural strength; a mechanism at the top prevents the swing from swinging so far as to bump into the neighboring swing but still allows a good three to four foot swing motion in both directions.

2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-3 2015-11-06_tail-tracks-plaza-4

Tail Tracks Plaza was designed by Design Workshop. During my tour, a couple of my Design Workshop friends stopped by to check out the swing installation:


The other major feature of Tail Tracks Plaza that hasn’t been installed yet is the Bike Station at Denver Union Station. For details about the bike station and the services it will offer, check out our blog post from December 2014. It’s being developed by a non-profit group that has been raising funds over the past year or so. Installation of the light station structure, which will sit on top of the plaza’s stone pavers, should begin within the next few months and be open by the time warmer weather returns in 2016.

The bike station will sit near the 16th Street end of the plaza against the short retaining wall on the right in the image below:


There are the latest renderings, courtesy of East West Partners:



We will visit Tail Tracks Plaza again in the spring after the Bike Station is open. The plaza itself should be open for public enjoyment later this month.

Lawrence Street Protected Bike Lane Includes Floating Bus Stops

Exciting news, Denver ped/bike advocates! As part of the new Lawrence Street protected bike lane project, a new floating bus stop is being installed at the corner of Lawrence and 16th Street. Here’s a photo from Friday:


Protected bike lane with floating bus stop under construction at 16th and Lawrence in Downtown Denver, October 2015.

The new bike lane will run between the sidewalk and a new bus stop island that’s “floating” in the street separated from the curb. This creates a much safer environment as it allows bicyclists and buses to avoid weaving around each other near bus stops. Pedestrians, however, must cross the bike lane to get to the bus stop island, so both bicyclists and pedestrians must proceed with caution. To help with that, “Ped Xing”, “yield arrows”, and “zebra-stripe crosswalk” markings will be installed within the bike lane, and “Look!” markings will be installed on both sides of the pedestrian crosswalk ramps, as shown below:


Look! crosswalk markings will be installed at floating bus stops along Lawrence Street in Downtown Denver. Source: City and County of Denver

Floating bus stops of similar design will also be installed at the 18th/Lawrence and 20th/Lawrence intersections.

These aren’t the first floating bus stops in Downtown Denver. They are used in several locations along RTD’s free Metroride route.

It’s great to see Denver is finally stepping-up its game when it comes to more progressive and legible ped/bike/transit infrastructure within the city’s public rights-of-way!

17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection?

With the 2014 opening of the Denver Union Station project, it seems like the epicenter of Downtown shifted dramatically to the northwest. In many ways, Union Station now feels like the heart of Downtown, and this is before next year’s launch of RTD’s new rail lines and the completion of almost a dozen more infill developments in the area.

Denver Union Station during grand-opening weekend, July 2014.

As expected with the great success of the Union Station project, the streets and sidewalks around the station have become busier. One intersection in particular—17th and Wynkoop—stands out. Due to the huge appeal of Wynkoop Plaza and the iconic station’s architecture and mix of uses, the corner of 17th and Wynkoop has blossomed into a thriving public space, with pedestrians flowing across the street to and from the plaza and station building. Pedestrians are increasingly “owning” the intersection, and driving a vehicle through there now requires some patience.

The fact that pedestrians feel empowered to confidently occupy the crosswalks and control the tempo of the intersection through their movements is a strong indicator of a successful urban place! At Union Station Advocates, we couldn’t be more thrilled with this situation as it’s exactly what we had hoped would happen. I and other urbanists in Denver believe that the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop is perhaps now the most important pedestrian intersection in all of Downtown Denver. We need to nurture and grow that condition.

Before continuing, let me be clear about an important point: Cities are for people, and especially in downtowns pedestrians must be given the highest priority in the use of the public realm. Downtown Denver was declared a “pedestrian priority zone” by Denver City Council in October 2007; the Downtown Denver Area Plan identified “A Walkable City: Putting Pedestrians First” as one of five vision elements; and the Downtown Denver Pedestrian Priority Zone Plan identified Wynkoop as a Transformative Street—the highest pedestrian-quality street type. Prioritizing the pedestrian is especially important around transit stations, and there are none bigger or more important in the city than Denver Union Station.

Back to 17th and Wynkoop: Unfortunately, not all drivers approach the corner with deference to pedestrians. There are still drivers and bicyclists who operate through the intersection with disregard to pedestrians, particularly when making right turns from Wynkoop to 17th or vice versa. The 2016 launch of the A Line, B Line, and G Line will significantly increase pedestrian activity on Wynkoop Plaza and at this intersection. We need to make sure 17th and Wynkoop and all of the streets around Union Station are well-prepared to maximize ped/bike mobility and safety and appropriately manage cars, taxis, tour buses, valet services, and all other transport options.


Modest bike lane striping along Wynkoop Plaza at Denver Union Station.


Taxis and other vehicles routinely block the bike lane along Wynkoop Plaza.

Currently, 17th and Wynkoop has the standard crosswalks, signs and other public right-of-way design elements you might find at any regular downtown intersection—nothing that would indicate the importance or pedestrian focus to the corner. With as many as 100,000 people a day expected to flow through the Union Station Transit District once all of RTD’s lines are up and running, it is critical that we proactively plan for the happy onslaught of pedestrian traffic around the station.


Standard crosswalks on Wynkoop connect Union Station with LoDo.


Lack of signs that emphasize pedestrian priority at Union Station’s crosswalks.

To that end, Union Station Advocates will be holding a special public meeting to talk about options for improved signage, street striping, lighting, parking controls, and other design features that could be installed both in the short-term (before the A Line opening in April) and in the medium- and long-term. We will be exploring options for not just 17th and Wynkoop, but 16th Street and Wewatta Street as well.

Here are the meeting details:

Pedestrian Safety and Mobility @ Denver Union Station – Public Meeting!
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – 5:30 PM
Mercantile Room, Wynkoop Brewing Company
18th & Wynkoop Streets

Please stop by to learn what some of the design and regulatory options might be and to give your feedback on how you think pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles of all types should be managed around Union Station. Representatives from Denver Public Works will be there to hear your ideas and to provide additional information.

See you on November 4!!