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New Central Platte Valley Project: Balfour at Riverfront Park

The on-again, off-again proposed retirement community by Balfour Senior Living, planned for the corner of 15th and Little Raven in Downtown Denver’s booming Riverfront Park/Union Station area—originally known as the Cosmopolitan Club—is finally on again and actually under construction.

The project, now known as Balfour at Riverfront Park, has its roots back in the early 2000s as the second phase of the Archstone apartments (now called The Station at Riverfront Park) located across the street from Balfour on the southwest side of 15th Street. In 2005, Balfour, a senior care residential developer, acquired the project and redesigned it as an upscale housing community for urban-oriented seniors. The development went through a series of design changes in response to opposition from its Riverfront Park neighbors. By the time a compromise was reached and the project was ready to move forward, the economy tanked. Fast forward about five years, and the project is back and is now under construction.

The Balfour at Riverfront Park project has been scaled down from its original design, which was envisioned as a seven-story project with 264 units. Now, the project includes 204 units in 5-story and 3-story buildings. According to Balfour’s website, Balfour at Riverfront Park will include 112 units of independent rental homes, 65 units for assisted living, and 27 memory-care units. The project still includes the rehabilitation of the historic Moffat station, which will become the community room for the development. That is awesome.

Getting information about this project, particularly renderings and site plans, has been a challenge. But, here’s a rendering we’ve been able to obtain off the internet of the Little Raven and 15th Street corner, where the 5-story component is located. The 3-story section will be adjacent to the railroad/light rail tracks to the southeast:

Balfour at Riverfront Park should be completed by summer of 2014.

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17 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    So that small green space between Bassett and Little Raven will have to come out? That’s disappointing.

  2. Dave says:

    While I like to see the preservation of this historic building, the loss of green space here is sad, for something that looks like the monstrosity on Platte Street that wraps around Vitamin Cottage. Stucco and cheap. It looks like they’re not only going to scale down the actual intricacy of the design but it seems that it’s a result of a loss of profit because of smaller units. I’d prefer they were never ever allowed to remove this park and trees, and they’d be limited to the lot east of the MOffat building. Once more, losing this as a public facility is a shame. I’m disappointed to see you cheer this on.

    • Ken Schroeppel says:

      Dave, the site was never a “park” but just a grassy area awaiting its planned development. And, there’s a huge park directly across the street!

  3. Dave says:

    I guess my point is a taller building with more units (I said above “smaller” but I meant “fewer”) on a smaller footprint would have been more in scale with the other bulidings than the sprawling suburban-style complexes that feel more appropriate further West in Highland.

  4. Django says:

    The original plan for this site was for much taller buildings but the tenants in the adjacent building to the north complained there views would be destroyed.Hence the shorter buildings.And it does look like the majority of the building material will be light colored brick.

  5. Dan says:

    Not sure I understand Jason and Dave’s comments.
    Why do you guys think we need more open/green space right downtown? Especially when there is a park right there? It makes absolutely no sense.
    This IS NOT the burbs, gentlemen! Buildings are OK.

  6. Jim Nash says:

    Here’s a good example of how the NIMBYS rule. It was neighbors — all newcomers themselves — who suddenly wanted nothing obstructing their mountain views, or their fear of too much car traffic. Never mind the fact that these folks have chosen to live close to the high-density, high-rise Downtown — they now want to keep others out, keep it for themselves. All the viewplanes, all over the city — which flatten-out the scene into a nothing-special environment — come from the NIMBYS. Politicians and planners bow them, by down-zoning the city, setting artificial height and density limits, exercising a heavy-handed Big Brother effect on development. Behind this fear of “My Denver” — my neighborhood — becoming bigger, taller, more dense, more complicated and urban, is the vision of Keep It Like It Is, and Don’t Ruin Denver.

    And while the Union Station project says Big City, through smart transit planning, it runs right into the NIMBYS, who succeeded, in the planning stage, in putting a Mid-Rise Lid over what had earlier been envisioned as a high-rise extension of Downtown, which would have put Union Station closer to the center of a larger downtown. Planners know that high densities around rail stations, especially at Union Station, are what fill up the trains. High-desity centers, point-to-point on trains. That’s how big cities work. In Denver, the NIMBYS will always fight tall, high density clusters around train stations, to keep their views, and keep out more cars.

    It’s the on-going argument about Colorado growth, as per the Late-Sixties bumper sticker, “Don’t Californicate Colorado.” Translation, Now that I’ve moved here, please close the gate behind me, so I can keep it small, for me. Selfish.

    You’re right, Dave, a taller building, with a smaller footprint, would have preserved much more open space, and better-respected the historic building. The NIMBYS defeat themselves, by forcing a flatter, duller streetscape. Go figure.

    The only way to overcome NIMBY Inertia is with a clearer, fuller vision of what Denver should become in the 21st Century. A stronger, more positive vision of a growing, robust city, instead of an apology for its growth. As it is now, politicians and planners here only follow the vision of the Less Is More crowd.

    • Dave says:

      Couldn’t agree more. This is why we are hearing about 55 story skyscrapers being plopped in the middle of some lots in the silver triangle rather than where they belong (central platte valley and financial district), because the lots adjacent are empty. It will have that odd effect of the Lowes/owl building in Glendale. Sprawlish then BOOM a giant monster. Does nothing for infill, which is why I’m surprised so much cheering going on here. Density should go UP in this area, not sprawl around the folks already there. Planners should have NEVER let the developers build to the lot lines without at least letting the first few floors be parking then stepping back so residents who buy will at least have some view corridor left.

      But hey, infill. In 40 years, perhaps the owners of this blog will cheer the tear down of this one as an improvement. :)

  7. Corey says:

    I normally detest NIMBY’s complaining about losing their views, but in this case I think the developer of Riverfront Park is at fault by having the west-facing condominiums begin on the third or fourth floor knowing that the neighboring lot was to be developed. If I owned one of the lower floor units I wouldn’t be happy that I now have a view of a blank wall or rooftop. Even though it is downsized from the original design, this building still seems to have the proper scale for this location. Although I am not a huge fan of most new “Mediterranean” style architecture because it usually looks like cheap California or Florida synthetic stucco crap, I like this building. It appears this building is almost entirely brick and I like how it engages Little Raven and the park. I especially like the arch over the circular street.

  8. Dan says:

    Really happy to see this move forward. Studied this specific site twice while in grad school. Glad the Moffat station will get rehabbed-so much history here that has gone unnoticed for a decade!

  9. Neil Corman says:

    I noticed the start of the project at the end of March while at an event at the top of Davita, thanks for the insight.

  10. Dave says:

    @Dan, thanks for letting me know that this isn’t Lone Tree.

    But take a stroll down there, perhaps Park Meadows Blvd off of Lincoln, and you will see this development already done in a sprawling complex complete with a dental office in the complex (I am sorry I can’t recall the name). It’s sort of nice down there I guess if that’s your thing.

    To the point about green space: Yes, there’s plenty of green space, my point was build HIGHER, you could balance the green space. Get a tower that could help the INFILL of the mid-rise skylines appearing there from DaVita to Riverfront.

    But what we get is some stubby, suburban mid-rise in a material and color that reflects nothing of the architectural materials or history of the area whatsoever. And say goodbye to any public use of the Moffat building.

    I understand before the editor of the blog has always said it was more about cheering on infill, which to a point has its merits, than it is about architectural integrity (I’ve bemoaned the architectural repetitiveness of the multi-families being thrown up in Highland). But it wouldn’t hurt to at least take some architects and developers to task on occasion.

  11. Richard says:

    There was a proposal a few years ago for a highrise condo tower at the site caddy-corner to this one at 15th & Little Raven adjacent to Confluence Park. Hopefully that project can become a reality and it’s still a highrise (15+ stories) and not shortened due to NIMBY’s. It’s a perfect location for a tall tower book-ending the southern part of Commons Park. Hopefully someday a similarly tall residential building book-ends the northern part on the vacant parcel surrounded by Little Raven, Bassett and 18th creating more of a mini-Central Park urban vibe.

  12. JerryG says:

    The critique of this development has merit, but I feel it is a little misplaced. There are three other developments where I think there were, and are, bigger missed opportunities: City House, Block 32 at RiNo, and the development that looks to be going in next to City of Cuernavaca Park. Although Balfour could have built higher, I think they compromised at 5 stories to maybe avoid a costly legal battle. And this is a senior care facility/development and perhaps the economics weren’t there for higher densities. Although, I do take issue with the 3-story portion: what a waste of an opportunity.
    In addition, there are already plenty of empty lots that can be built much higher than 5 stories. First, there is already a 21-story building going up in Union Station and there are two more lots in the neighborhood that will also go up that high. In addition, there are plenty of empty lots for even higher densities in, yes, Silver triangle, Golden Triangle, and Arapahoe Square. I think that I would rather have a more modest building now in that space than to wait 10 years or more for some kind of ‘skyscraper’ to be built that could potentially look really out of place.

  13. Took the words right out of my mouth Dan.