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New Cheesman Park Neighborhood Project: Residences at the Gardens

More infill keeps on coming around Downtown Denver! We are going to be taking a look at a new project over in the Cheesman Park neighborhood; 11th and Gaylord to be exact. There have been some whispers in the past few years about this particular development and I am happy to share with you that it has become a reality!

First off we will take a look at the site outline where this development is going. It’s a unique shape because of the Botanic Gardens directly to the South. Currently there are some existing buildings on site, which we will be taking a look at below.

Here is a rendering of the project [click to embiggen] thanks to Mike Gerber of MGL Partners who also toured me around the site and provided some great details. Residences at the Gardens is a 7-story concrete building with 4-stories setback along 11th Avenue. This adds great street presence without being too overwhelming at the same time. This will provide the neighborhood a total of 156-units with two levels of underground parking. The use of brick and stone reflect the character of the very mature neighborhood this will sit in.

Now for a look at the site. There are a mix of 2-story apartment buildings currently on this site which have begun to vacate. MGL Partners are going to incorporate some of the elements from the existing buildings into their new project as well as save the big trees that have been here longer than most of these buildings!

 

 

Units in this building will range from studios to 3 bedrooms and will also include a 7th floor rooftop deck looking over the gardens and Downtown Denver. We usually don’t see much infill in this neighborhood as most of it has been already filled in. This shows there is always room to upgrade and increase density in already built out parcels.

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47 Comments

  1. Cos says:

    Im confused. I thought there was a high rise goingup on the footprint? Or is this also and aditional addition to cheesman park.?

  2. Julio says:

    Hmm..while I am all for increasing density and developing any vacant land available, I am not as excited about destroying perfectly good, if small, apartment buildings for a developer to make a bunch of money, all while throwing out hard-working people who live in those apartments so richer people can move in instead.

    I guarantee those current apartments are a lot more affordable than this new complex will be, but I guess progress?

    Architecturally the old buildings are very nice early 20th century that fit in very well within this neighborhood. I am surprised by such a large project being proposed in what Blueprint Denver describes as an “Area of Stability.” But on the other hand, this project will create a lot more housing units that we desperately need in this city. I just hope that we continue to try and protect some of these older properties and also try and make sure some rental housing in this city remains affordable for our lower-income residents.

    • Randy says:

      Agreed. I think it’s terrible. We don’t need to tear these building down. To say that this project isn’t “overwhelming” is just nonsense. A slender 30 story building on this site would not have been overwhelming. I think this project is a waste of space. It’s a 30 story building turned on its side.

    • Jordan says:

      +1. For all the vacant lots around central Denver, it bums me out that we’re replacing a couple great looking (on the outside at least) buildings with something that won’t really add to the Cheeseman high-rise skyline.

    • Nathanael says:

      These buildings are exactly the ones which historic preservation was invented for. Solidly built, brick & stone, and good-looking (lots of decorative detail).

      It’s a crying shame to demolish these buildings for some cookie-cutter modern building — especially when you realize what they’re *not* demolishing, right next door. Multiple *surface parking lots*.

      Elegant old buildings? Knock ‘em down! Parking lots? PRESERVE, WE MUST PRESERVE PARKING. There is something deeply wrong here.

  3. Joey F says:

    I agree with the previous comment. I would be very interested to understand the planning context that supports “renewal”
    of this neighborhood. In addition to the zoning that iikely permitted it, what other community benefits were considered?

  4. FrancoRey says:

    I like it! What a great (and rather dense) building for a quiet neighborhood. Although it will take demolition of a few buildings to make this happen, those older apartments aren’t exactly head-turners. They look like they’ve seen better days. Great to hear the developer will save the trees as they are hard to replace at that size! Overall a good, balanced project architecturally and mass-wise. It’s these kinds of projects that will make Denver’s inner neighborhoods feel more like a city and less like a suburb. Let’s hope there’s no opposition to this like Redpeak’s property in the Lower Highlands.

    • MarkB says:

      Red Peak’s property is not in Lower Highlands (e.g., east of Federal), where their planned apartments would be perfectly appropriate. It’s in West Highlands, on Meade, Lowell, and Moncrieff, and is not wanted by the majority of my neighbors (or me).

      • Dan says:

        I live in the same neighborhood as Mark B and I am all for the new Red Peak development. I just want to point out that not ALL of us in this hood are afraid of progress.

        • Dan says:

          I am another Dan fully in support of the Red Peak West Highlands development. I have never seen any data supporting the claim that a majority of neighbors are opposed to this development – but then again that is a common claim from people who assume they are ‘on the right side’. Maybe the neighbors that MarkB is talking about all live within a house or two of him – hardly a representative sample.

      • Dirt McStain says:

        MarkB, “we don’t like it” isn’t a good enough argument for why a 4 story “highrise” isn’t appropriate in your neighborhood. A vocal and obnoxious minority also doesn’t make your group a majority.

        Let’s look at some facts. West Highland is roughly 2 miles from downtown. There is a 12 story midrise (yes, 3 times the stories and still not a highrise) 1 block away. The zoning change took half a decade to finalize and gave plenty of time for the neighbors to voice their opinions. The neighbors spoke, and the zoning was approved. No amount of “but, but, but…” will change that. The zoning was a DOWNGRADE from 8+ stories to a max of 6. The developer bent over backwards for you people and eliminated a story when they could have easily ignored you.
        Not to mention that this is a high-end development that will bring property values up and additional commercial revenue to the local shops without additional traffic since your new neighbors will be within walking distance of everything. It’s much better than the old, taller proposal that would have put DHA housing here. So, in the end someone’s handing you a $100 bill but, all that you and your ilk can do is bitch, whine, and blow this whole thing out of proportion. The moment I saw those No Highrises in West Highland protesters wearing burkas to equate their cause with the Arab Spring, I wanted to puke. Worse yet, I wanted never to spend a dime in West Highland again. If I had a time machine, I would gladly let you borrow it so you can go back to the 1950s where you belong.

        • Ted says:

          I agree with pretty much everything that has been said so far in response to the issue of West Highland. In what universe is a 5 story building a high rise? Civilizations dating back at least as far as the Romans have had residential buildings that tall or taller. In pre-war locations all across the US (and even more so in “picturesque” Europe) buildings of that size can be found in neighborhoods, towns, and even villages that have ever had enough prosperity to justify it. For god’s sake, even Boulder with its almost psychotic density limits allows 5 story apartment buildings in quiet, mixed-use residential neighborhoods.

          As far as I’m concerned, 5 stories should never be “out of context” virtually anywhere, ever. At least not so long as we claim to be proponents of the benefits of urbanism. We will never build sufficient density to solve the problems of urban sprawl if we continue to placate these people with this crazy, low-density fantasy.

          • SC48 says:

            I would argue that 5 stories is out of context downtown, particularly in a place like the Union Station redevelopment, with all of its transit connections and its central location. The city should never have allowed that land to be wasted on what Ted correctly calls out as lowrise construction (if it can be built without steel and concrete, I think it’s safe to call it lowrise). The consequences of underdeveloping our most connected and sustainable parcels are going to be far worse in the end than the consequences of “over-developing” a few lots here and there in areas of single family homes.

        • Peter w says:

          Dirt is correct that the neighbors spoke during blueprint Denver’s review process and through the West Highlands Neighborhood Association OPPOSED the zoning. Meade and Moncrieff (which is about three blocks long here) have no business being zoned main street. This is a zoning that is appropriate for Colfax, Colorado Blvd., 38th Ave, etc; Lowell to a lesser extent.
          To say that this development wont add traffic is ridiculous. New residents are not going to walk or take mass transit everywhere they go.
          Just as there is a 12 story midrise one block away (zoning related to the same Red Peak property), most of the adjacent parcels are single family homes (with commercial fronting 32nd).
          I also oppose this proposed development.

  5. MarkB says:

    I’m with Julio and Joey F–it’s a shame a project like this has to destroy the historic fabric of this neighborhood, which was already so decimated by the depredations of the 1960s and 1970s. This project is fine, but it should be built on an ugly surface parking lot closer to downtown instead.

    • MikeB says:

      While I’m all for historic preservation and don’t believe buildings should be knocked down for the sake of being knocked down, I think a number of the comments are being a bit picky.

      “This project is fine, but is should be built on an ugly surface parking lot closer to downtown instead.”

      Development isn’t just about filling in space there also has to be a market to do it. This developer believes that the parcels in question can be better utilized and apparently the zoning allows for that change to occur. I think it’s great that some new blood is being injected into an established neighborhood.

      “I am not as excited about destroying perfectly good, if small, apartment buildings for a developer to make a bunch of money, all while throwing out hard-working people who live in those apartments so richer people can move in instead.”

      Nothing wrong with making money. Without knowing a lot of those buildings being bought I’d assume the developer is taking a considerable risk too. Developer is buying up rental units, which are probably selling at a premium, therefore his basis is going to be high. If for whatever reason he doesn’t hit his rental targets then the project will quickly be underwater. Being vacated from an apartment is never fun but that is one of the drawbacks of renting in general. The renters do not own the property and therefore don’t enjoy the same rights as the property owner.

      Great project and I’m excited to see further infill in a part of town that doesn’t normally see it.

      • Dan says:

        Wow – a voice of logic and reason. Nicely said, MikeB.

      • Nathanael says:

        This part of town has the nicest old housing stock in town.

        This is replacing that with, well, modern junk, frankly.

        In contrast, there are large sections of Denver full of hideous buildings which *deserve* to be replaced. Anything along Speer Boulevard, for instance. A whole lot of the stuff within one block of Colfax (there’s some nice old buildings, but there’s a lot of *junk*).

        And then there are the blocks and blocks and blocks of parking lots along Welton St east of Broadway.

        This is destruction of the good stuff. Destroy the bad stuff instead.

  6. Jerry Gourdin says:

    The zoning of the property is ‘G-MU-20’. This allows for a building up to 20 stories, which means that the 16-story tower would have been allowed. High-density housing belongs nearest to the amenities a city offers, like in downtown. However, that also means nearest to large urban retail/commercial corridors (Colfax, Broadway, etc.) and centers (Cherry Creek, Broadway Marketplace, so on), small corridors/intersections all over the city, including, yes, Highland Square, and parks of all sizes like Cheesman and Sloan’s Lake. This is so the greatest number of residents of the city can enjoy those amenities that are offered by living in the city and not limit them to just a few. A 7-sory building is more than appropriate here.

    • Fritz says:

      I don’t have a problem with this building, although I echo the comments on how they should build this on a parking lot rather than on existing historic neighborhood fabric, bla bla et c.

      That said, the zoning in this area is crazy. Cheesman Park has a buffer of G-MU-20 around it while the rest of the area, right up to the edge of downtown, is G-MU-5 and G-MU-3, even with those crazy 60s condo towers all over! Meanwhile I stare down a bunch of crap parking lots on my way to work, because who can make money on a three-story building?

    • Dan says:

      Another voice of reason – and a 16 story building would also have been appropriate here, alongside the other existing buildings of similar stature.

  7. UrbanZen says:

    At first I wasn’t too crazy about this project, but I’m beginning to like that this building is a good transition from the single family residence stuff to the larger 15 story buildings right on the gardens. The existing buildings are nice, but overly significant. I do like the one at the corner of Vine and 11th, with the somewhat Art Deco look. I hope they keep that entrance. Other than that, I think saving the trees is the bigger win for this neighborhood.

  8. SVC says:

    This is more like Urban Renewal than Infill.
    I have been in some of these buildings and they have beautiful ornate features that will be lost forever if the proposed lack luster mid rise apartment building is allowed to proceed.
    Time and time again we have seen projects like this proposed and historic structures torn down only to be left with empty parking lots. I agree, Lets fill in all the parking lots surrounding our city before we start allowing the tearing down of the few remaining historic structures we have left.

    • Nathanael says:

      There are even useless parking lots RIGHT NEXT to these buildings. Parking lots which are being preserved.

  9. SC48 says:

    I agree with most of the comments on here as well. This looks like a great infill development that will increase density close to the City’s core and will provide much needed additional housing units in a comparatively sustainable setting (vs. the suburbs). But, that said, in a city like Denver, with sooooo many demolition-worthy structures, why are these buildings being taken down to build it? Just seems like a shame, is all…

    • UrbanZen says:

      Probably because it’s one the best locations in the city, and horribly under-utilized for it’s zoning. I don’t necessarily agree with demoing these buildings, but the city turned it’s back on them years ago with the high density zoning, then not correcting it during the last re-work of the zoning code. This site is the low hanging fruit.

  10. Ted says:

    Not every single structure in these quiet residential neighborhoods needs to be saved forever. If we ever want neighborhoods in our city like Greenwich Village in NYC, Beacon Hill in Boston, the Rowhome neighborhoods of San Francisco ect, it will require dense, zero-lot-line developments in more neighborhoods than just downtown. These low-density neighborhoods should never be treated as sacred cows, no matter how emotionally attached to them we may be.

    • Fritz says:

      Well, hang on– Capitol Hill is the highest density neighborhood in the city already. The site of this is surrounded by a mix of newer high and midrise apartment buildings, smaller apartments, and brick Victorians. What people are objecting to is that the buildings being demolished are architecturally classic (if not significant) 1920s brick apartments with terra cotta roofs, et cetera, with the other half of the objection being that the area also has so many vacant lots and crap 50s motel-style apartsment that really should go first. But like UrbanZen says, it’s a factor of the zoning in the area– as one of the few MU-20 parcels, it was going to go sometime.

      • Nathanael says:

        “What people are objecting to is that the buildings being demolished are architecturally classic (if not significant) 1920s brick apartments with terra cotta roofs, et cetera, with the other half of the objection being that the area also has so many vacant lots and crap 50s motel-style apartsment that really should go first.”

        Bingo.

        “But like UrbanZen says, it’s a factor of the zoning in the area– as one of the few MU-20 parcels, it was going to go sometime.”

        Zoning blows. I suggest replacing it with a policy of allowing ugly, low-quality, cheaply-built buildings to be MU-20. ;-)

  11. Cos says:

    That blows. Ive always wanted the highrise on the park look. My parents ate from n.y and central park is great with the highrises along the park avenues. Oh well.

  12. TeeGee says:

    Wow, that is one ugly building. I’m not sure where the “elements from the existing buildings” are because I don’t see them. I think the parking will be a great addition and I’m not opposed to increasing density, but the architecture here doesn’t seem very creative or interesting to me at all. There are many, many new apartments and condos in Capitol Hill that have done a great job fitting into their surroundings. This is not one of them. Years from now, this will be a throw-away building like so many of those small apartment buildings from the ’60s. There’s a way to increase density with style. This isn’t it.

  13. Daniel says:

    Those apartments are beautiful representatives of Denver’s original organic character. Every single one of these new apartment blocks are characterless, and seem to be struggling together to give the city the appearance of an enormous office park. Seems a shame to me. Higher density is not necessarily an upgrade.

  14. SVC says:

    I don’t have a problem with density, in fact I might understand tearing down the existing buildings to replace them with a well designed tower but to tear down these three 3 story ornate apartment buildings only to replace them with 1 boring mid rise apartment building does not substantially increase the density. The same density could be achieved by adding on a couple of levels(maybe in glass) to the existing buildings. I agree, we must make way for new density but where and at what cost to our historic neighborhoods

    • Freddie says:

      They’re 2 stories – not 3. And their footprint is tiny compared to the broad, 7-story building that will replace them. There is no doubt this new project greatly increases density. And one might argue that the 2-story buildings getting replaced are insignificant, typical, Capitol Hill apartment buildings – the likes of which east Denver has countless (and far better) examples of.

      Some of you guys should call yourselves IMBY’s and print up some t-shirts that say, “Only sky-rises in Cheeseman Park!” :P

      • Nathanael says:

        Seriously, why not put a little high-rise in on one of the neighboring parking lots? That would be much more suitable.

  15. Pam says:

    Will the Residences at The Gardens be apartments or condos? I really wish the developers were bringing new condo projects to this area as we have a shortage of good real estate and by the time the apartments are built there will be a serious shortage of condos.

    • Randy says:

      My guess (and it’s just that) is that financing for condo projects is still a little too risky for lenders given the housing/banking issues over the last few years.

      With rental vacancies at extremely low levels, a rental project is less risk and easier to obtain financing for.

      I’m going to make a couple assumptions: 1) with the increasing trend of urbanization, the demand for rentals will remain strong. 2) many people (for whatever reason) will choose to rent vs. buy. 3) rentals in an urban setting like Denver will continue to thrive and drive more development in the downtown area.

      That being said, I’m hopeful that some of these projects will be converted to condos prior to/near completion and/or soon we’ll see more condo projects announced.

  16. John says:

    I’m sorry Ryan, this is not good news. Those buildings are unique. This makes Denver more characterless. We’re in the business of revitalizing Denver’s urban appeal by retaining what we have and building what we don’t have. This is boring and disappointing news.

  17. Nathanael says:

    The new building plan is spectacularly banal and ugly; you have dozens of buildings just like that already, and they aren’t standing up well historically.

    In constrast, the buildings being demolished are actually beautiful.

    I’m guessing they “have to” demolish the old buildings in order to build the underground parking. But this is just 50s-style “urban renewal” idiocy.

    It’s all about the parking. Demolish buildings to build parking. When will it stop?

    • James says:

      Amen Nathanael!

      • Mark says:

        Nathanael says it well. I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1999 and this intersection is on my running route. The replacement is a dull and cheap looking box while the current structures have a lot of character and beauty. This is a step back and in no way an improvement.

  18. Bridget says:

    I agree with a lot of the comments so far that this is, indeed, very sad news for the neighborhood.

    I live within a block of the buildings set for demolition in one of the unsightly 1960s high-rises. I now know how some of the tenants of the original Denver Squares and colonial-style homes must have felt when my building went up fifty years ago.

    While I recognize the only constant is change, I’m surprised plans for this specific building were approved for the very quiet space along the gardens. To me, the style is very typical “infill” and Denver is becoming riddled with them. Have we not learned from the mistakes the Cheesman Park neighborhood made half a century ago?

  19. a different Fritz says:

    Reminds me of a project in my hometown in CA in the early 1990s. A developer assembled 4 lots with 19 units(a house and 18 apartments, 2 floors maximum) to build a faux-Mediterranean villa with 49 units on 4 floors. It was within accepted zoning. Oddly upon completion the new building – the rents were so much higher that the building sat empty for over a year other than a caretaker.

    I generally support character over modernity.

    Since this seems to be “in the bag” I will head over there and take photos before more history is lost.

  20. Michael says:

    I really can’t believe it… I had a friend here from Chicago, who used to live here. He commented on just how many of the older buildings with character have been demolished. We talked about how excited people were about all the new buildings in lodo, lohi, rino, etc etc etc, and agreed how that all look the same Big square boxes with no imagination. Chicago was smart enough to save so many of its historic structures. Thats what makes it so charming for such a huge city. To me this is not a cause for celebration. Another developer got his way. Yet lots of blank/parking lots all over town still sit. Sad…

  21. Mike says:

    Why do they have to keep building these big ugly block buildings that all look like hospitals.
    I can’t believe they demolish beautiful old buildings to replace them with stucco and siding
    abominations.