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Archive of posts filed under the Urban Design category.

Enterprise Enlivens 30th & Lawrence

The rise of the sharing economy has contributed to a renewed interest in the importance of community. The pooling of resources, trading of ideas, bartering of talents and services—these economic exchanges necessitate the existence of an underlying culture that prioritizes social ties. They also highlight the benefits that can arise from embracing diversity of thought, experience, and ownership.

Enterprise, a 66,000 square foot co-working space that opened last month, is here to create just such a culture.

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Located at the intersection of 30th Street and Lawrence Street—in RiNo or Curtis Park, depending on who you ask—Enterprise is the most recent addition to the Denver area’s nationally-recognized cache of co-working spaces.

Formerly the Denver Enterprise Center, a business incubator space active from the mid-eighties to 2008, this mid-century office building had been shuttered and vacant for almost a decade before Focus Property Group identified it as a viable site for rehabilitation. Below is a photograph taken by James Florio in 2014, showing the side of the old Denver Enterprise Center facing 30th Street, before renovations began.

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A $14 million investment bought the mid-century office building an impressive face-lift, with architecture and design services provided by Boulder architect/contractor Tres Birds.

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The interior décor is clean and modern, smooth grays and bright whites accented by pops of color, awaiting personalization from future members. Drop-in tables; dedicated desks; office suites; conference, meeting, and class rooms are available for members at varying monthly rates.

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Removable walls between office suites offer members the ability to grow and expand without needing to relocate. Sleek air conditioned phone booths accent the open work spaces, recalling ’60’s Star Trek set decoration brought into the 21st century by an Apple product designer.

Common spaces are dotted throughout the building. A library space on the lower level promises a quiet working environment, while a state-of-the art kitchen on the other side of the building features offerings from local brewery Ratio Beerworks, along with a nearby game room.

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A coffee shop on the first floor is open to the public, and a rooftop patio offers an incredible view of downtown Denver.

Mobility options for Enterprise members and guests are diverse, with a B-Cycle station onsite, along with personal bike parking, seventy-seven rentable parking spaces, and four electric car charging stations.

Billing itself as a collaborative and innovative work space where the diversity of ideas among its community members are its distinguishing feature, Enterprise promises to be a welcome addition to the new economy in Denver.


RiNo Infrastructure Part 8: 35th Street Woonerf

In Part 8 of our RiNo Infrastructure series, we take a look at the improvements proposed for 35th Street, a key east-west connector for the River North neighborhood. Previous posts in this series include RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, Part 5: Delgany Festival Street, Part 6: River North Promenade, and Part 7: RiNo Pedestrian Bridge.

What is a woonerf? It’s a Dutch term (pronounced VONE-erf) for a street that is designed primarily for pedestrians and bicyclists while still allowing motor vehicle access at slow speeds. Popularized in Europe, a woonerf functions as a shared, social space somewhat like a linear plaza while still providing local access to vehicles. A woonerf design typically uses more subtle infrastructure elements such as bollards, landscaping, and different paving materials to distinguish the areas where pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles travel rather than the traditional curb, sidewalk, and bike lane.

35th Street between Arkins Court and Wazee Street is a perfect candidate to be redesigned as a woonerf. First, it isn’t a through street for motor vehicle traffic; it’s only four blocks long and is blocked by the river on one end and railroad tracks on the other. Second and more critically, 35th Street is identified as a prime east-west pedestrian/bike corridor through RiNo as it will connect the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the river with the 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge over the railroad tracks and run adjacent to the planned River North Park.

Here is a diagram from a recent presentation provided by the city’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative showing a conceptual cross-section for 35th Street:

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An example of something similar to a woonerf in Denver may be the newly redesigned Fillmore Plaza in Cherry Creek North. It has several features found in a woonerf, such as the street and sidewalk being at the same grade and a strong pedestrian-focused design. Here’s a Google Earth street view image of Fillmore Plaza:

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Here’s a Google Street View image of the Bell Street woonerf in Seattle:

As River North transitions from an automobile-oriented industrial zone to a multi-mode mixed-use district, transforming 35th into a great pedestrian street will be key in that evolution. The combination of the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge + River North Park + 35th Street Woonerf + 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge has the potential to have the same transformative impact on connecting River North to the rest of Denver as the Highland Bridge + 16th Street Plaza + Platte River Bridge + Commons Park + Riverfront Park Plaza + Millennium Bridge combination did in connecting Lower Highland with Downtown Denver.

The images below show 35th Street in its current rough-around-the-edges state:

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Currently, the 35th Street Woonerf is in the conceptual design stage. Funding for construction has not yet been identified, but paying for the 35th Street Woonerf could come from a variety of sources including potentially the city, local improvement districts, and adjacent developments.

Next up in this series: Blake Street Two-Way Conversion + Bike Lanes. Stay tuned!


RiNo Infrastructure Part 7: RiNo Pedestrian Bridge

Part 7 of our RiNo Infrastructure series focuses on the proposed RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the South Platte River. Previous posts in this series include RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, Part 5: Delgany Festival Street, and Part 6: River North Promenade.

Denver’s River North district generally consists of three major areas: the area west of the South Platte River, the area between the river and the Union Pacific/RTD railroad tracks, and the area east of the railroad tracks. Much like how the 35th and 38th Street pedestrian bridges help connect the middle and eastern parts of RiNo together, the proposed RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the river will help connect the middle and western parts of RiNo. The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will be built at the foot of 35th Street, as can be seen in this diagram on the planned River North Park:

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These photographs show the proposed approximate location of the bridge’s eastern end at Arkins Court and 35th Street:

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The city recently started preliminary (30%) design for the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge after receiving public input over the past year or so through several public meetings and web surveys. The design work is being paid for by the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative and the city’s Office of Economic Development and should be finished by the end of the summer. Having a preliminary design will then allow for cost estimates to be made and for fundraising to begin to help pay for the bridge’s construction. Completion of the 100% design is targeted for 1st Quarter 2017, while fundraising will continue throughout the year. Ideally, sufficient money will be raised by the end of 2017 to allow for bridge construction to begin in 2018.

Based on cost, constructability, and public input, a suspension bridge is the type of bridge chosen for this project. Designing and building the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge is a public/private/non-profit partnership, with the City representing the public sector, Zeppelin Development and potentially other RiNo property owners and businesses representing the private sector, and Bridges to Prosperity representing the non-profit sector. The image below, courtesy of Bridges to Prosperity, is an example of a suspension-type pedestrian bridge they helped construct in Nicaragua. While the RiNo bridge will be shorter and not necessarily the same design as this example, it illustrates the basic bridge type proposed for River North.

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The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will not only help connect the different parts of RiNo to each other, but it also will provide an important bicycle and pedestrian connection for the Globeville neighborhood. Located west of the river and north of the Burlington Northern rail yards, getting from Globeville to River North by bicycle currently isn’t easy, as Washington Street/38th Street are rather automobile-heavy, bike-unfriendly roadways. In the future, bicyclists will be able to head south from Washington Street while still on the west side of the river and cross over using the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, providing direct access to the new River North Park and the 38th and Blake Station via the proposed 35th Street Woonerf (the topic of our next post in this series!) and the under-construction 35th Street Pedestrian Bridge.

Additionally, the Denver Public Library, a strong advocate for the new RiNo Pedestrian Bridge, is planning to have a special facility in the proposed River North Park, so the new bridge will provide nice access to their new facility for Globeville residents.

The RiNo Pedestrian Bridge will be an important new link in Denver’s expanding infrastructure designed for people, not just cars.


RiNo Infrastructure Part 6: River North Promenade

So far in our RiNo Infrastructure series, we have taken a look at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction, Part 4: River North Park, and Part 5: Delgany Festival Street. In this post, we will review the proposed River North Promenade.

The River North Promenade is essentially a redesign of Arkins Court between 29th and 38th Street into a pedestrian-oriented promenade. The promenade has been divided into three zones, each representing a different conceptual design. Here’s a Google Earth aerial showing the current condition and the project’s extent:

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This map shows the same area as above with the project’s three character zones. All of the exhibits below are courtesy of the City of Denver and landscape design consultants Wenk Associates, and are conceptual in nature. They are not final designs.

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A description of each zone:

Let’s explore each of these zones.

The Urban Residential zone extends from 29th Street to approximately 32nd Street. The “Urban Residential” name relates to the adjacency of several proposed multi-family housing projects, such as the Industry Apartments. In this section, Arkins Court would continue to provide access for motor vehicles, but with a rebuilt street offering one travel lane in each direction, on-street parking, and a pedestrian promenade ranging from 20-30 feet in width.

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Key features of this zone may include a River Overlook and a Linear Park:

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In the middle is the Park/Open Space character zone from 32nd Street to 35th Street. This zone’s main design influence is the proposed River North Park (visit that post for renderings). A feature here may include a Boxcar Garden:

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To the east is the Mixed-Use/Entertainment character zone from 35th to 38th Street, where adjacent residential, office, and restaurant land uses would help activate this stretch of the promenade. One idea for this zone is to integrate a café into the promenade design:

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The city and the local property owners recently identified funding to begin the preliminary (30%) design for the promenade. No funds have been secured yet for the construction of the promenade, but finding a way to pay for the project is a priority for RiNo stakeholders and the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative. Some sections of the promenade may be built in conjunction with adjacent new private-sector developments.

Here is what Arkins Court looks like today:

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Next in our RiNo Infrastructure series: the RiNo Pedestrian Bridge over the South Platte River.


17th and Wynkoop Receives Ped/Bike-Friendly Upgrades

Now that the A-Line to Denver International Airport is up and running, the number of people passing through Denver Union Station has increased. This is making the corner of 17th and Wynkoop—the historic station’s downtown-facing portal and popular tourist photo-taking spot—busier than ever, with bikes, cars, taxis, pedicabs, tour buses, delivery trucks and pedestrians seemingly navigating the intersection at the same time. This slow but continuous dance of people and their transport machines gives the corner an urban energy that reflects the vitality of the Union Station district and Downtown Denver. However, the standard crosswalks, bike lanes, and other design and regulatory elements in place at the intersection were too minimal, confusing, ineffective and/or biased in favor of the automobile.

In fall 2015, my fellow Union Station Advocates board members and I decided to push for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to the 17th and Wynkoop intersection in anticipation of the A-Line launch and the other FasTracks lines opening later this year. We held a public meeting and spread the word about the issue, as described in my post from last October, 17th and Wynkoop: Downtown’s Most Important Pedestrian Intersection? Fortunately, Denver Public Works shared our views on this and put a rapid-response team in place to plan, design, and implement a package of high-visibility, lower-cost improvements for the intersection in just a couple of months! Public Works was very responsive and great to work with—particularly planner Riley LaMie who led the planning effort—and, just in time for the A-Line opening, 17th and Wynkoop has been upgraded to a much more pedestrian/bike-friendly intersection. Here are a few before-and-after shots:

Wynkoop crosswalk:

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17th and Wynkoop south corner:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking southwest:

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Bike lane Wynkoop Plaza side looking northeast:

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Wynkoop crosswalk:

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The new crosswalks are certainly more visible, and the painted bulb-outs with bollards significantly shorten the pedestrian crossing distance. The new painted bulb-outs also prevent cars wanting to make a right turn from illegally using the parking lane as a right-turn lane by squeezing between the sidewalk/curb ramp and cars stopped in the through lane. The project also included new parking-lane signs that clearly designate passenger loading zones along the Wynkoop Plaza side of the street:

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Despite these new signs and street markings, motorists still find ways to do dumb things, like stopping right in the middle of the bike lane to let passengers out…

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…or stopping half in the bike lane, half in the traffic lane, for the valet parking…

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…or driving on the bike lane between traffic and the parked cars:

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I took those last three photos within minutes of each other. #streetfail #streetfail #streetfail

Nevertheless, these are wonderful improvements that clearly communicate that pedestrians and bicyclists have the priority at the intersection of 17th and Wynkoop!

Shouldn’t every intersection in the city look this good?


Post A-Line Coverage Preview

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!

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What an amazing sight from the platforms.

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I hope everyone is enjoying the celebrations going on today along the A-Line. As a reminder, the whole rail system is free today!


RTD A-Line Opening Countdown: TWO DAYS!

It’s Wednesday which means only two days stand 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 covered the commuter rail canopy so many times, 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.

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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.

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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.

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Even from the air, the station is completely stunning.

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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!


RiNo Infrastructure Part 4: River North Park

Let’s continue our look at the new infrastructure supporting the transformation of Denver’s River North area from a gritty industrial zone to a thriving mixed-use urban district. So far we’ve looked at RTD’s 38th & Blake Station followed by Part 1: 35th Street Pedestrian BridgePart 2: 38th Street Pedestrian Bridge, and Part 3: Brighton Boulevard Reconstruction. Today in Part 4, we’ll focus on River North Park. To get a better understanding for the vision of the proposed River North Park, I met with Jamie Licko, Executive Director of the River North Art District. Thank you Jamie for the information and insight!

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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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One final existing conditions image—a Google Earth bird’s-eye perspective that I’ve oriented to match the concept plan below:

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OK let’s get to the plans for the River North Park! The following images are courtesy of Denver Parks and Recreation, the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, and Wenk Associates, the landscape architecture firm that designed the park.

The preferred concept plan for River North Park:

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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:

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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:

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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):

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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


Downtown’s Newest Public Space: Tivoli Quad

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.)

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In this second Google Earth image from October 2015, work had started on the Tivoli Quad project:

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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):

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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:

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11th Street under construction from Walnut looking south toward Larimer:

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Future intersection of 11th and Walnut Street under construction:

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Looking down the new Walnut Street from 12th toward 11th, with the MSU Denver Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center on the right:

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Intersection of Walnut and 11th Street under construction:

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Tivoli Quad under construction with the newly pedestrianized section of Larimer between 10th and 11th on the right:

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Tivoli Quad along Larimer between 10th and 11th in front of the historic Tivoli Brewery/Student Union:

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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:

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View looking east at the Denver skyline and the central section of the Tivoli Quad:

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View to the southeast with the new Larimer Street promenade on the right:

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What a fantastic project! We’ll revisit Tivoli Quad later this summer after construction has been completed and all of the landscaping is in.