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New Union Station District Project: Alta City House

Colorado-based East West Partners is teaming up with Georgia-based Wood Partners to develop the 280-unit Alta City House apartment project in Downtown Denver’s hot Union Station district.

The Alta City House project at 18th and Chestnut Place will be conveniently located next to the new Union Station light rail platforms and the 18th Street Pedestrian Bridge. Here’s a GoogleEarth view with the site identified:

If all goes as planned, the project will break ground later this summer and be completed by Fall 2013. For a lot more detail on the project, I’ll direct you to John Rebchook’s Inside Real Estate News blog, where he recently did a nice report on the project.

Finally, we love big color renderings here at DenverInfill, so here’s a view of the project’s 18th & Chestnut corner. While the design has been tweaked since this image was produced, it’s close enough for now to give you an idea of the project’s overall character (image courtesy of East West Partners). As always, click/zoom to embiggen.

This is an exciting project that will add more people living in Downtown, which leads to more and better retail in Downtown, which leads to more people living in Downtown, which leads to…

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17 Comments

  1. John says:

    I’m really disappointed with this project. The original City House would have been perfect for this location, but instead we get a four story under-use of land project. :(

    • James says:

      Agreed.. I feel developers are afraid to go big even in this location. Or they just don’t care, which is their right since its their land.

      Sure 289 units is great and better than a ranch home, but so would 600 units in 10 stores or 1200..

      I live in this area and its kinda sad to see an area with such national potential to be SO!! under developed.. There isn’t going to be an opportunity to redevelop this site into something exciting for decades now. Put this proposed complex on an empty parcel in Arapahoe Square, Highlands or something… not adjacent to Denver’s new transit hub.. Major let down. This area will have 4 mid rises and some suburban styled apartment buildings … yeah *wimper* :(

      Not only that, its occupying one of the few parcels allocated for taller (potentially denser) developments. I may be wrong about this, but I believe certain parcels were designated for 240ft while others were restricted to lower building heights.

      Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. :)

      By the way. I follow this blog a lot, I really appreciate the coverage. :)
      Thanks again.

  2. Aaron says:

    I know its not a nice additional tower for that area, but doesnt this hold more apartments and creates a better streetscape?

    • Chris says:

      Aaron, you beat me to it. I was typing my much more long winded response when you posted this. :-)

  3. Chris says:

    John,

    It’s been a fascinating, long road to get to the building you see before you today. We have spent the past seven years trying to figure out how to build homes on this parcel of land. Certainly, and as you know, we spent a great deal of time pursuing a high rise on this site. At the end of the day, though, we never found a design that would pencil.

    But, as we have designed the buildings, we’ve gone back to our original intents:

    1. Build homes in the neighborhood, and lots of them. This project has 289 new residences on about 80,000 square feet of land. That’s somewhere around 150 units to the acre. That’s still incredible density.

    2. Engage and activate the street. One way in which this project is much better than the original high rise is its interaction with the street. The former design did not front Chestnut, barely touched 19th and barely touched 18th. An empty parcel would have sat along Chestnut. Here we have completely engaged the street.

    In fact, the five stories along Chestnut will create a wall similar to the one along Little Raven Street, where the stepbacks begin at 55 feet or in LoDo where the maximum height is about the same.

    3. Build something lots of people can afford. The goal at City House (as it was at Glass House) was to be attainable. This project, despite its wealth of amenities and its (we think) ridiculous location, is still so.

    I love highrises, too. But, cities are, first and foremost about people. And the experience of being in a city is first and foremost about the street. This project will add people (and not just those who can afford more expensive homes) and create a street wall where none has existed before.

    We’re excited. Thanks for the feedback, though.

    Chris
    EWP

    • SC48 says:

      No doubt that this will be a nice project, will create a pleasant street wall, will enhance the pedestrian experience and will put more residents downtown. Seems that the complaint most have with this project stems from more of a “macro”/policy standpoint that has nothing to do with the developer. The Front Range is booming, we’re expecting +1 million more people in the next several decades (or whatever time period it is) and open space has already dissapeared into suburban sprawl at an alarming rate. Density and infill that includes highrises is one way to address this issue. There’s nothing wrong with a 5-story development, but a lot of readers of this blog obviously feel that highrises need to be a part of the solution too. And, the problem here, is that if we can’t even build more than 5-stories in the very heart of downtown, where are we going to build that type of density? If a place in the Denver metro area exists that IS conducive to highrise density, this is it. To echo other commentators, just feels like a missed opportunity for our community.

  4. Matt says:

    I’m sure it will be a nice addition to the streetscape and it is a nice looking building… but it is hard to be excited about this. I don’t think we need towers everywhere, but only 4 stories on the land immediately next to the largest transit center in the state? It just seems like a waste of potential. Even a building twice this size wouldn’t be a tower. Heck, a building 5x this size wouldn’t exactly be a skyscraper.

    I didn’t see any mention of parking on the included link. I’ll be a lot more enthused if there isn’t any.

  5. Nick M says:

    The size? Doesn’t bother me. Paris and London have a TON of four and five story buildings that define them.

    The design shown in that render, however? Oh yes. Just what we need. More of the same uninspired, unornamented work that will do little more than blend in with every other four story design in the area.

    Is it so hard to come up with just a couple angles or curves or ornaments or art installations or colors or SOMETHING to give one of these places some character?

    • JamesM says:

      AMEN! Denver is being filled by boxy buildings… Architects/ developers- PLEASE give us more character/ whimsy/ sense of place in the emerging new Denver! The housing stock in Cap Hill is so dynamic – variety in rooflines/ materials… chaotic, but inspiring and FUN. Please inspire us as you house us!

  6. PaulS says:

    I am not an expert in urban development, but from a layman’s perspective it seems fairly shortsighted to construct a four-story building in one of the parcels allowed a greater height in one of the nation’s preeminent under-construction transit hubs. I was hoping for bigger and better at this site. Big disappointment.

  7. Daniel says:

    I was very impressed with the drawings and design put forward by EWP for 16 Chestnut, the office tower planned next to the millennium bridge. It appears that EWP and klipp have thought about creating a visually interesting and dynamic building at that location.

    However, the comments here really do go back to design expectations (and disappointment) for what is the best location in all of Denver (ie, anything in the CPV within two blocks of DUS). Chris with EWP even admits this in his commentary. The combination of flat boxes with little variation or signature feels weak in comparison to the very interesting office tower proposed by EWP only one block away. The 20th & Chestnut development fits into this same line of criticism.

    Also, as noted, these are outside comments, and we are not in the trenches like EWP. I think perhaps the real challenge here is the architecture…how can klipp and the office building be so impressive, and then a block away this box apartment development is so blah?

  8. JamesW says:

    Lets just say … If this was SimCity … I would be pulling out the bulldozer right now. ;)

    Its a decent design, just not the right location. Could you pop a tower in the middle with some density? office, or condos? 150 to an acre is great in downtown Fort Collins, Boulder or a suburban TOD… but downtown Denver next to Union Station???!?!?!?? At least build the base to add a tower later.

    Are you really afraid you won’t be able to fill a building twice, or three times this size in one of the most vibrant sections of the city? Someone living here would have train access to all of downtown, DIA, the Tech Center, South, East and West Denver. There will be demand! You know your going to be kicking yourself in 5 years. This is one of the few locations in town that could really support something large.

    I guess it all boils down to one fact. Denver is building the transit hub in the middle/end/beginning (who knows which phase) of a recession. If construction was at this point in 2004, we would have a bunch of larger more ambitious projects. ;) Oh well.

  9. Richard says:

    There are still the parcels east of Chestnut and along Wewatta that will likely be taller towers so this “background” building doesn’t bother me since it adds density, retail space and is located next to the tracks. I’ll without judgement until more proposals come out for the other parcels which will likely be high-rises in the vicinity of 17th/18th & Chestnut/Wewatta (around the fantastic Zocalo proposal which is 19 stories). Speaking of that project, can you do a blog post about its current status??

  10. Scott says:

    this building is a failure. It looks like it belongs at the light rail station out in englewood or littleton. Not in the heart of the city. Also, these style buildings will look HORRIBLY outdated within 20 years. can’t you guys see this? I hope that Chris from EW takes a look at some of these comments and takes them to heart…. nice enough building but total failure east west

  11. Kyle says:

    I agree. Most of these buildings are very disappointing. If I didn’t already own a place downtown and was looking to rent an apartment, i don’t think I would spend my money in one of these new apartment buildings popping up in the Union Station neighborhood or Central Platte Valley. I would probably go for the proposed one off of 15th that Ken just posted or try to rent in one of the existing buildings in the neighborhood or even in the RiNo area. I understand that this design does more for the street presence but that could have been easily addressed with a different design too. I don’t think it is an excuse that validates this poor design. I also understand that it will have a lot of amenities, which is very nice, but it definitely doesn’t make this project unique. It sounds like most of the new buildings are offering a lot of amenities, which I think is great. However, it doesn’t set itself apart. The only thing these new apartments have going for them is their location; which is why I think it makes this so frustrating.

    I don’t think any of these buildings will be something we can look back on and be proud of. None of them have any unique character or intrinsic value. These might as well be in suburban Scottsdale or another planet.

    Don’t get me wrong, i think we can all be proud of Denver and the interest it has created. The fact that this much construction is going on really says something of our city. It doesn’t say much for the developers and architects.