Yesterday was a wonderful day for RTD and the Denver metro area. I just wanted to share a few photos with you of the Denver Airport Station as a preview for what’s to come this next week. The station is truly beautiful!
What an amazing sight from the platforms.
I hope everyone is enjoying the celebrations going on today along the A-Line. As a reminder, the whole rail system is free today!
It’s Wednesday which means only two daysstand between us and the A-Line grand opening. We, here at DenverUrbanism, are so excited! Now that we’ve gone in depth about the technology and trains, let’s focus on the bookend stations; Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport. We have already covered the 38th and Blake and the Central Park Station in our previous posts and mentioned that all of the other stations in between will be nearly identical to these two, with the exception of Denver Union Station and Denver International Airport.
Today, we are going to highlight Denver Union Station. We have coveredthecommuterrailcanopysomanytimes, but bear with me for just one more post since it is highly relevant to this line. The A-Line will be pulling into the first track, which will be closest to the historic station. This is great for quick connections to the bus terminal and Downtown Denver.
From shell to finished product, the commuter rail canopy is truly breathtaking; taking notes from Denver International Airport along with carrying its own identity.
As we know, this station will serve all of the commuter lines in the FasTracks system as well as Amtrak and private trains, such as the ski train when it comes back. The structural system is comprised of 11 steel arch trusses, which span 180 feet, and is clad in tensioned PTFE fabric. The fabric itself can handle up to 90 mile-per-hour winds and snow loads up to 30 pounds per square foot. The station cost a total of $15 million to design and build.
Day or night, this station glows white and has such a prominent presence in the Denver Union Station neighborhood. Designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill, I would argue that this transit station is near the top of the list for best transit architecture in the country.
Even from the air, the station is completely stunning.
Tomorrow we will be covering the Denver International Airport station and give you the final details of what’s going on this weekend. Stay tuned!
Plans for a park in the River North (RiNo) area go back to the city’s 2003 River North Plan and the 2009 River North Gateway Master Plan. The best location for the new park was determined to be along the South Platte River at 35th Street and Arkins Court. Not only is this location geographically central to the RiNo district, but it also puts the park directly adjacent to the proposed 35th Street Woonerf that will link the planned RiNo Pedestrian Bridge with the almost-finished 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge, as well as the proposed River North Promenade and the planned Delgany Festival Street (more on the 35th Street Woonerf, the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, the River North Promenade, and the Delgany Festival Street projects in future installments in this series).
Below is a Google Earth aerial with the future River North Park site outlined:
The southwestern two-thirds of the site was owned by Interstate Shippers, a trucking company, until 2011 when the city acquired the land for the future park. The northeastern one-third has been owned by the city since the 1990s and used as a Denver Police Department Vehicle Service Building.
Below are a bunch of existing conditions photos I took a couple of weekends ago.
Left: View looking northwest from the intersection of 35th and Delgany along 35th Street towards Arkins Court and the South Platte River, with the existing Police Service Building on the left. Right: View from the corner of 35th Street and Arkins Court looking south at the Police Service Building.
Left: The river side of the Police Service Building from Arkins Court. Right: View looking northeast along Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building on the right.
Left: View from approximately the same location as the photo on the right above but looking more north at the river and the TAXI development on the west bank. Right: The former Interstate Shippers Building as viewed from Arkins Court, with the Police Service Building beyond.
Left: Looking southwest at the gap (vacated Delgany Street) between the new Great Divide Brewery Phase 1 building and the Police Service Building where the proposed Delgany Festival Street will go, with the Interstate Shippers Building beyond on the right. Right: Close-up of the Interstate Shippers Building from approximately the corner of 35th and Delgany.
One final existing conditions image—a Google Earth bird’s-eye perspective that I’ve oriented to match the concept plan below:
There are a number of really exciting features in this plan! I think the most exciting is that neither of the buildings in the park will be demolished; rather, they will be partially deconstructed to create both indoor and outdoor community spaces.
The Police Service Building consists of three major components. The center section of the building will be removed except for its structural framework, which will be preserved to create a cool outdoor space, Maker’s Plaza (#12 on the plan), where kids and adults can play and get creative. On either side of the plaza, the two remaining building sections will be remodeled into community spaces for neighborhood events, retail, workshops, and other indoor activities. Large artistic signage would wrap portions of the 35th Street and Delgany Festival Street sides of the building:
Similarly, the former Interstate Shippers Building will be partially deconstructed to create an outdoor pavilion area surrounded by the building’s skeletal supports while the remaining part the building would be used as community space:
Other neat elements of the park include a storm water garden, several large lawns, a community vegetable garden, groves of trees, children’s play areas, and direct river access (thanks to the replacement of Arkins Court with a promenade):
When looking at the Google Earth images and site photos above, it’s hard to imaging a beautiful park in this location. However, with everything that’s proposed or under construction around it—new streets and promenades and bridges and private-sector development on virtually every parcel—the transformation of this area will occur at a pace and with a level of coordination that is quite remarkable. If all goes as planned, construction on River North Park will begin in the spring of 2017 and be completed about a year later.
Next up in our RiNo Infrastructure series: Delgany Festival Street
Did you know a new public space is coming to Downtown Denver? Yes indeed, on the Auraria Campus in front of the historic Tivoli Brewery/Student Union building, the Tivoli Quad is under construction!
The Tivoli Quad is a nearly 4-acre landscaped lawn and plaza area that will not only be the main outdoor gathering space for Auraria students, but a welcoming public place for downtown residents, workers, and visitors. The Quad will occupy approximately half of the large green space in front of the historic Tivoli where the Auraria athletic fields used to be. When MSU Denver opened their new athletic fields south of Colfax in 2015, that allowed for the construction of the Tivoli Quad and other improvements to move forward. The remaining green space to the east (closest to the CU Denver Commons Building) will be retained as a soccer field for CU Denver and, in the future, the site for additional academic buildings.
This first Google Earth aerial image from October 2014 shows the athletic fields before work on the Tivoli Quad had started. (For these first three images, east/Speer is at the top and north/Auraria Parkway is on the left.)
In this second Google Earth image from October 2015, work had started on the Tivoli Quad project:
And here’s a site plan that shows the new Tivoli Quad and surroundings (courtesy of AHEC and Wenk Associates, the project’s landscape architect/urban design firm):
The Tivoli Quad features a large lawn for passive recreation, plenty of hardscaped areas for circulation and seating, a water feature, numerous trees and plantings, and other pedestrian amenities. The front of the historic Tivoli building will be redesigned to accommodate a cafe and beer garden with patios that overlook the plaza. The entire area is also being designed with large events in mind—such as commencement ceremonies—where lighting, A/V connections, and other features will allow for the Quad to be transformed into an amphitheater accommodating 12,000 seats.
As part of the Tivoli Quad project, new street infrastructure is going in as well. The biggest of these transportation improvements is the construction of 11th Street. Currently on the Auraria Campus, 11th Street exists only south of Larimer, where it functions mostly as an internal campus drive for parking access and service vehicles. With the Tivoli Quad project, 11th Street is being built as a full-access public street from Larimer to Auraria Parkway, where traffic signals will be installed to make 11th and Auraria Parkway a new fully signalized intersection. 11th Street will also receive bicycle lanes in both directions.
Larimer Street, which used to end in a turn-around loop at 11th (visible in the aerial photos), is being reconfigured to create a T-intersection at 11th, which opens up Larimer between Speer and 11th as a public street as well. The stretch of Larimer Street near the Tivoli between 11th and 10th has been removed and is being replaced with a pedestrian plaza fully integrated as part of the Tivoli Quad design.
Finally, Walnut Street, which presently runs from 9th to 10th Streets between the Tivoli and the parking garage, will be extended to 11th, connecting to the access drive along the side of MSU Denver’s Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center, which will extend Walnut from 9th all the way to 12th Street.
Several of these new streets around the Tivoli Quad will be curbless, allowing the streets to be pedestrian-friendly and to function as an extension of the Quad for large events.
Now some photos!
The new 11th Street, looking from Larimer towards Walnut and Auraria Parkway with the Pepsi Center in the background:
11th Street under construction from Walnut looking south toward Larimer:
Future intersection of 11th and Walnut Street under construction:
Looking down the new Walnut Street from 12th toward 11th, with the MSU Denver Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center on the right:
Intersection of Walnut and 11th Street under construction:
Tivoli Quad under construction with the newly pedestrianized section of Larimer between 10th and 11th on the right:
Tivoli Quad along Larimer between 10th and 11th in front of the historic Tivoli Brewery/Student Union:
These last three photos were taken from the top of the historic Tivoli looking towards Downtown with the Tivoli Quad in the foreground.
View looking northeast at the Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center and Lower Downtown beyond, with the intersection of 11th and Walnut under construction in the center of the view:
View looking east at the Denver skyline and the central section of the Tivoli Quad:
View to the southeast with the new Larimer Street promenade on the right:
What a fantastic project! We’ll revisit Tivoli Quad later this summer after construction has been completed and all of the landscaping is in.
Brighton Boulevard was named, as you probably guessed, for its destination: the community of Brighton located in Adams County approximately 20 miles northeast of Downtown Denver. South of 46th Avenue/Interstate 70, Brighton Boulevard follows the alignment of Wewatta Street on the downtown grid. North of the highway, Brighton Boulevard heads north through the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood before veering northeast and running along the east side of the South Platte River into Commerce City. Then it gets weird. At 69th Avenue, Brighton Boulevard becomes a service road along the west side of Vasquez Boulevard and eventually dead-ends at O’Brian Canal near 80th Avenue. However, back at 72nd Avenue, the service road along the east side of Vasquez picks up the name Brighton Road, which continues another 12 miles into Brighton and ends at Bromley Lane. So, between 72nd and 80th Avenues, there’s both a Brighton Boulevard and a Brighton Road running parallel to each other.
Near 80th Avenue in Adams County, Brighton Boulevard (left) dead-ends at O’Brian Canal while Brighton Road (right) continues on to Brighton. Source: Google Maps
Before we get to the reconstruction of Brighton Boulevard, let’s look at the street’s history!
The stretch of Brighton Boulevard in today’s RiNo was platted as part of different subdivisions from the mid-1870s through the early 1890s. The first segment of Brighton Boulevard, located between 38th and 44th Streets, was laid out as part of St. Vincent’s Addition of 1874 and was appropriately named St. Vincent Street. Developed by Catholic Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, the St. Vincent’s Addition reserved eight blocks of land between 39th and 41st Streets for a hospital to be known as St. Vincent’s Home. The hospital building’s foundation was completed but the project never made it any further and was abandoned.
St. Vincent’s Addition of 1874 plat map. Source: City and County of Denver
In 1881, the next section of Brighton Boulevard, roughly between 34th and 38th Streets, was platted as part of the Ironton subdivision of January 1881 and the Ironton First Addition of June 1881. The “Ironton” name was appropriate, for throughout the two Ironton subdivisions (and St. Vincent’s Addition too), several smelters and foundries were developed. Business such as Rocky Mountain Ore Production Works, Denver Rolling Mill, Colorado Iron Works (where The Source is today), Denver Ore Sampling Works, and the Grant Smelter Works dominated the area during the 1880s. By 1882, St. Vincent Street had been renamed Wewatta Street.
Portion of Rollandet’s Map of the City of Denver, September 1885 showing Wewatta Street (now Brighton Boulevard) and industrial uses in the St. Vincent’s and Ironton subdivisions. Source: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.
In the 1880s, the area was still largely undeveloped except for the industrial uses noted above, which were mostly found southwest of 34th and northeast of 41st. However, single-family homes on 25-foot lots were starting to sprout up in the area by the late 1880s. Robinson’s Atlas of 1887 shows several small houses scattered mostly along Wewatta and Delgany. Wood houses are color-coded as yellow and brick houses are pink. Just for fun, I’ve cropped a current Google Earth aerial image to the same extent as the Robinson map:
Portion of 1887 Robinson Atlas showing small homes along Wewatta and Delgany with comparison to a 2015 aerial photo of the same extent. Sources: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection; Google Earth.
Many of the houses along Delgany Street between 36th and 38th Streets are still around and used as residences. Several others in the area have been converted to commercial uses.
Small homes from the late 1800s remain along the 3600 block of Delgany. Source: Google Street View.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, the area was fairly isolated by the Union Pacific railroad tracks, with the primary connection into the neighborhood via 38th Street. Connections to the rest of the city improved, however, in the early 1920s with the completion of the controversial Broadway Extension project that pushed Broadway north from its then-terminus at Welton Street and across the diagonal downtown street grid to Blake Street, where a new viaduct took Broadway over the railroad tracks and curved northeast to connect to Wewatta Street. This image of a document from the late 1910s promoting the Broadway Extension shows the proposed path of Broadway.
Promotional material for the Broadway Extension project, late 1910s. Source: Denver Public Library, Western History Collection.
With the completion of the Broadway Extension project, Wewatta Street was renamed Brighton Boulevard by the Denver City Council in 1924.
The mix of industrial and residential uses in the area continued into the 1930s. Here is an aerial from 1933 showing the Brighton Boulevard corridor. Note the mix of single-family homes and gritty industrial/railroad uses. This is a big image—click, zoom, and scroll!
1933 aerial photograph showing a mix of industrial and residential uses along the Brighton Boulevard corridor. Source: City and County of Denver.
Into the post-WWII era, the residential uses were mostly overtaken by light industrial, commercial, and automobile-related uses. This 1992 aerial photo, cropped to the same extent as the 1933 aerial above, shows the loss of much of the 19th century housing in the area.
1992 aerial photo of the Brighton Boulevard corridor showing increased industrial and commercial uses and fewer residential uses compared to earlier in the century. Source: City and County of Denver.
Given the gritty, industrial nature of the Brighton Boulevard corridor and its relative isolation from the rest of the city, the area received virtually no infrastructure improvements from the city over many decades. Denver was content to allow Brighton Boulevard and its adjacent blocks to suffer with poor lighting and storm water drainage and a complete absence of sidewalks, curb, and gutter. This is the streetscape that still exists along Brighton Boulevard today:
The lack of standard urban infrastructure elements like curbs, gutters, and sidewalks have defined the Brighton Boulevard streetscape. Source: Google Street View.
That condition is about to change dramatically, and soon! With hundreds of millions of dollars of new development reshaping the River North area, the city is moving forward in 2016 with a complete reconstruction of the corridor’s infrastructure, paid for by $25 million in city funds (part of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative) and several million dollars from local property owners who voted to raise their taxes through a Business Improvement District and a General Improvement District to fund important upgrades to the project.
The new Brighton Boulevard will include a completely rebuilt street in concrete; new curb, gutter, and storm water drainage; new traffic signals, crosswalks, and intersection designs; wide sidewalks and vertically separated cycle tracks in both directions; buried utilities and new street and pedestrian lighting; and landscaping, wayfinding signage, and public art.
The best way to get a sense for what the new Brighton Boulevard will be like is to watch the following video, courtesy of the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative and RNL Design, who produced the video.
Construction should begin later this year and be complete in 2017.
In Part 4 of our RiNo Infrastructure series, we will take a look at the plans for the new River North Park.
Back in 2010, I was on Google Earth one day wandering over the planet’s surface—a surefire way for many hours to slip by for geography geeks like me—and had the latitude/longitude grid turned on and noticed that the 105th Meridian West cuts directly through Denver Union Station. In fact, it pretty much runs right through the dead center of the station’s front facade. At that time, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I were focused on the preliminary designs for Wynkoop Plaza and so I suggested that we should advocate for a public art project that embeds a line marking the path of the meridian across the plaza. Everyone thought it was a cool concept, but it was too early in the plaza design process and we didn’t get much traction on it, so we let the idea go for the time being.
The 105th Meridian West cuts across Wynkoop Plaza and Denver Union Station.
Fast forward to spring 2014 and Wynkoop Plaza was nearing its July opening and work was well underway on the plaza’s granite pavers and other features. I reintroduced the idea of the 105th Meridian project to my Union Station Advocates colleagues and this time everything fell into place. After some negotiating with the Union Station project team, the concept was approved. Union Station Advocates kicked in most of the funds for the project, with the Denver Union Station Project Authority (DUSPA) covering the balance. Key to the project’s speedy approval was my friend and fellow Union Station Advocates board member Dana Crawford. If you want to get something done, your odds of success are greatly improved if Dana is part of the effort! Bill Mosher from DUSPA and our Union Station Advocates chair Anne Hayes were also very instrumental in making the 105th Meridian project happen.
Over one weekend in October 2014, workers embedded a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip into the granite pavers. My crazy idea from 2010 had become a reality!
The 105th Meridian West at Denver Union Station is marked by a 1-inch-wide stainless steel strip embedded in Wynkoop Plaza’s granite pavers.
The next issue to work on was the interpretive sign. Virtually no one would know what the line in the plaza represents unless we had some type of sign or marker explaining the situation. After several months of contemplating where the sign should go, what it should look like, how big it should be, etc., we finally settled on a sign to be mounted inside the south entry lobby of the historic station a few steps from where the line crosses in the plaza. I then did a bunch of research, learning more about meridians and time zones than I ever thought I’d know, and wrote the text and developed the graphics for the interpretive sign. My friends and fellow blog contributors Ryan Dravitz and Derek Berardi helped out. Ryan provided the photo and Derek did the graphic design and layout for the sign. Dana Crawford and her team that manage the historic station paid for the interpretive sign and its installation.
The sign was installed in late November.
Grant Adams (left) and Xavian Lahey (right) from Nine dot Arts help JDP from JDP Art (center) install the 105th Meridian sign inside Denver Union Station.
The 105th Meridian West may not be as famous as the Prime Meridian at Greenwich or the Four Corners when it comes to imaginary lines you can visit, but it is a fun curiosity and interesting part of Union Station’s history. I hope next time you’re at Denver Union Station you’ll check it out! Here’s a PDF of the interpretive sign if you aren’t able to make it to Union Station to see it in person. The sign includes a full list of people and firms who helped make the project possible. Thank you to all who had a part in the process!
Wynkoop in LoDo and 21st Street in Arapahoe Square are very different urban streets. Wynkoop is resplendent with Victorian-era brick warehouses, strong urban form, an attractively streetscaped public realm, and civic icons like Denver Union Station. 21st Street? Surface parking lots and a largely incoherent urban form are the street’s defining characteristics. However, Wynkoop and 21st Street actually have an important attribute in common: neither are through-streets that provide vehicular connectivity beyond their extents, as both streets are capped at both ends by landmarks. Wynkoop terminates at Cherry Creek on one end and at Ballpark Plaza on the other. Similarly, 21st Street stops at Coors Field on one end and at Benedict Fountain Park at the other. This situation makes Wynkoop and 21st Street excellent candidates to be transformed into high quality bike/ped streets while still providing modest vehicular access.
Diagram courtesy City and County of Denver.
Last night I and about 100 others attended a public meeting held by Denver Community Planning and Development and their planning consultant AECOM to review preliminary plans for such a transformation. Some of the big ideas include a two-block park within the 21st Street right-of-way near Larimer, converting Wynkoop in front of Union Station into essentially an extension of Wynkoop Plaza, creating a signature bike trail along both streets that could form the start of a bigger downtown loop, and reconfiguring the Broadway/21st Street intersection to provide a major mid-block bike/ped crossing of Broadway.
For more information, check out the city’s webpage on the project, and definitely check out David’s excellent overview at Streetsblog Denver.
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:www.coloradogives.org/dafken
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.
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.
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.