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#5: Central Platte Valley Redevelopment

One of the most dramatic transformations in Downtown Denver that occurred during this past decade was the redevelopment of the Central Platte Valley, earning #5 in our Top 10 countdown of Denver’s Urbanism Achievements of the Aughts.

The Central Platte Valley began the decade as a mostly blank slate. By the end of the 1990s, the old viaducts that spanned the Valley had been removed or rebuilt, and the massive rail yard behind Union Station was history. Gone too were the big warehouses once found along Grinnell Court, a street hugging the edge of the Platte River that was also removed. The CPV Master Plan was ready for implementation. As the new decade dawned, construction was underway on Commons Park and Little Raven Street—their outlines can be seen in the first Google Earth image (October 1999) in the animation below.

Central Platte Valley redevelopment animation (1999 - 2007)

Progress came quickly. By April 2003 (second image in the sequence), Commons Park, the Millennium Bridge, the three Riverfront Park condo buildings clustered around the bridge, the Manhattan, and the Archstone Apartments (now The Station) were all completed.

December 2004 (third image), construction has started on the Delgany, the Denver SkatePark was finished, the realignment of Little Raven at 20th Street was complete, and work had started on the Confluence Park Plaza.

By May 2006 (fourth image), a lot had changed. Monarch Mills, Creekside Lofts, and the Townhomes at Riverfront Park were finished and the Glass House, One Riverfront, the Brownstones, and the ArtHouse Townhomes were under construction.

The final image (July 2007) shows everything mostly complete and the Park One Riverfront and the Museum of Contemporary Art under construction. Since that final image, 1900 16th Street has joined the scene on the Union Station side of the tracks.

Despite the remarkable transformation of the Central Platte Valley since 2000, there is still quite a bit of work to go to complete the Riverfront Park Master Plan. The Cosmopolitan Club site at 15th and Little Raven, as well as four other parcels by the Brownstones and the Manhattan, remain as future development sites.

It’s now hard to imagine Downtown Denver without the Central Platte Valley as it is, yet it was only a decade ago that the area was a vast expanse of vacant land. Looking across the tracks, it makes one wonder what the area behind Union Station will be like in 2020. I can’t wait to find out.

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8 Comments

  1. Ralph says:

    Though I sometimes think it would be nice to have the area completed by now, I think the neighborhood will benefit from a longer build out time. The area will feel more authentic and real as it develops naturally (even though it is still highly planned). Forget a new tallest, this will be the face of Denver’s future in the next decade. Oh, and Google needs to fly their birds over Denver for some new imagery, 2007 was eons ago.

  2. Ryan says:

    I second you on that Ralph. Could you imagine if Denver budgeted for a new tallest, or a couple tall buildings in the CBD with Central Platte untouched? I’m glad the focus is not just on our skyline, which is still rapidly changing as well, but more of developing our open spaces that look really bad in the center of our city. Mad props to Denver for the CPV developments.

  3. BeyondDC says:

    It’s going to be Denver’s most walkably urban neighborhood when it’s done.

    In the long term I think Uptown and the Golden Triangle could become better than CPV. If they get a lot denser but retain some of their vintage character, they could potentially surpass CPV. Ultimately they have higher ceilings.

    But in the mean time, CPV redevelopment is happening a lot faster. We’re going to get a good neighborhood, and for at least a couple of decades until Uptown and GT can catch up, it will be the city’s best.

  4. BS says:

    The CPV is quite amazing in how unique it is. Its grand in scale, a great psychological focal point (or several psychological focal points shoved together), where every connected neighborhood is more desirable because of it. Perfect for festivals and an outdoor cultural center for Denver. I really enjoy the river culture that has started and hope that the bike path and the river continue to be developed, as activating the river and bike path is what I find most substantial. Its amazing that the park is very quiet, dark, and empty at night. The design of the park is also completely form over function, with the big circular sidewalk, large aesthetic patch of grass and lack of trees which make it entertaining to see how people actually decide to use the park.

    From a neighborhood community perspective, the park is overrun by dogs, has noisy trains, very expensive lofts which I doubt will stimulate much neighborhood culture, and is so walkable that you have to walk a half mile and over a bridge through a park and over a highway to get anywhere.

  5. Stosh says:

    A resort in the city; what a great idea for rich people, especially in the previously run down area of town that fewer than 20 years ago was mostly under viaducts. I remember the 16th St. viaduct next to Paris on the platte and the homeless tent city at the current site of Commons Park.
    “build it and they will come” and even at $600+ per sq ft; they have. I feel that CPV is Denver’s crowning jewel and it will only get better with the Union Station plan, but what happened to the homeless?

  6. Matt Pizzuti says:

    I respect your thinking, Stosh, and am personally quite wary of the appeal of gentrification. But I have to think that a tent city for homeless people is a humanitarian disaster to begin with and can’t be defended as an ideal situation.

    My understanding is that Denver’s homeless population has moved a few blocks away to Park Avenue and Broadway, and there is some new housing off of Park Avenue West. Yes, I do think there needs to be a similar project within the neighborhood.

    Hopefully Hickenlooper’s 10-year plan to end homelessness in Denver will achieve something (especially if he – here’s to hoping – becomes governor); in the mean time, low-income and affordable housing needs to be integrated within the neighborhood and within the buildings themselves. It is always bad to segregate poverty into one neighborhood, and mixing poor, middle class and and affluent people on the same block make it harder for future city authorities to neglect or isolate low-income residents.

  7. I think everyone is forgetting about the somewhat recent regulations for new structures to be broken down into blocks of parking structure, retail, low income, and whatever else they want to drop in there on top as well as all of the changes in zoning over the last decade. I think that Denver is doing a great job handling its many problems… Honestly the reason homelessness is still so prevalent is that the city does quite a bit to harbor the potentially homeless. The “easier” it is to be homeless, the more will let that be their fate. Denver’s weather coupled with its discouraging “Jesus Saves” type shelters on Park Ave only increase the odds of less fortunate people spending their days wondering around asking for money. From what I’ve heard, just getting rid of the viaducts and developing that parcel of land has improved the downtown area by leaps and bounds. Honestly in the next 5 years, that will be one of the most important areas (what is now 25% of the city) in Denver, specifically in regards to transit and commerce.

    To end on the transit tip, once the rail system gathers enough steam (tax money) to make it out to the Airport and back, Denver might actually have a place on the US map.

  8. DenverLowry says:

    Stosh: I can’t figure out the angle you took on your post. Are you being snide when you praise the CPV for catering to the rich? And are you being sincere in your concern of the homeless? If you’re not sure where they’ve gone, then my hunch is that you weren’t that involved to begin with. Parodoxically, it seems like you appreciate the development, but at the same time think it’s doing a disservice to the homeless because they once were able to sleep under the viaducts. But as Matt Pizzuti correctly pointed out, that was never an ideal situation. In fact, the homeless are still around (and probably in greater numbers due to the economy) while many wait for a food and roof near the various Park Avenue shelters. There are quite a few volunteers that do everything from peel potatos, clean up, and donate food – but it’s still not an ideal situation (but much better than living under a viaduct).

    Thankfully, the city is inter-mixing shelters among the city neighborhoods to try and integrate the poor and not create a “ghetto” in any particular area. Granted, the poor are probably not going to find their way into the CPV – but that’s not a big concern. There are plenty of areas that can be utilized to provide cheap and cost-effective housing throughout the city.

    As for the CPV in general – I think it’s a great long-term plan coming to fruition. Cities need these types of planning to stay relevant to the people living in them. I think it’s great!