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Central Platte Valley: The Confluence Update #2

The Confluence, a proposed 34-story apartment tower at 15th and Little Raven in Downtown Denver’s Central Platte Valley district, appears to be moving towards the start of construction. The project’s development review application was submitted to the city on September 17 and is working its way through the approval process. This project’s genesis goes back before the 2008 recession, so this post gives some historical perspective and, in August 2013, we offered our latest post on the project’s status.

Today, we have an additional rendering and some further explanation about the project’s design concept.

Here is a larger version of the rendering from our previous post (project architect is Dallas-based Gromatzky Dupree & Associates). This is the view along Little Raven looking northeast toward 15th Street:

Here is an additional rendering looking northwest, with 15th Street on the right and Little Raven on the left.

As I mentioned in our August post, I had the opportunity to chair the Urban Land Institute’s Technical Assistance Panel that recommended this concept. The additional rendering above helps illustrate some of the urban design ideas behind our concept.

The prior zoning on this site would have required a building covering the entire parcel with a footprint about the size of a football field and six to nine stories in height. Very few people in the neighborhood, or on our panel, were excited about that form of development. Thus, our challenge as a panel was to come up with a concept that maintained the same amount of development potential as the prior zoning, while reshaping that square footage into a form that would be more responsive to the site’s context.

The key was to shift the density upwards into a thin tower with a greatly reduced footprint, resulting in a site plan with open space that could become an extension of Confluence Park Plaza. However, there were choices as to where on the site the tower should go.

On one hand, we wanted to have some type of substantive building form to anchor the 15th/Little Raven corner. Corners are very important elements in the urban fabric, and not having any kind of building mass at that corner would be a missed opportunity. On the other hand, putting a 34-story tower right up against the sidewalks at 15th/Little Raven seemed too much for the corner to handle. Additionally, our panel also wanted to make sure that the design concept created a street wall along Little Raven, provided a strong pedestrian connection from the corner diagonally to Confluence Park Plaza, and offered places for ground-floor retail/restaurant uses to help activate the Plaza.

The solution can be seen in the image above. The tower is shifted down Little Raven towards the creek, and a low-rise, pedestrian-scaled building segment defines a street edge along Little Raven. At the 15th/Little Raven corner, a mixed-use building with active ground-floor uses and a scale compatible with structures nearby anchors the corner. A passageway near the corner penetrates the building to provide an important visual and pedestrian connection to Confluence Park Plaza.

I’m really happy with the way this project’s design turned out. The Confluence is a fantastic project to celebrate the Central Platte Valley’s remarkable transformation into a dense urban neighborhood. If all goes as planned, the project should break ground within the next few months.

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35 Comments

  1. RickB says:

    Wow. Very pleased to see this great design in the neighborhood. I like the passageway to the confluence and especially like the height at that end of the city. It will be a great compliment to the growing skyline.

    • TakeFive says:

      RickB… Indeed and considering the time & effort that went into the site, it seems like the result will be a Home Run. As you suggest that passageway is a great creative touch.

      I would like to add how lucky we are to have Ken who can so clearly and logically summarize both the background and benefits of this development.

  2. Jeffrey says:

    Very nice! Now we just need more condo towers too!

    • Lani says:

      Jeff – unfortunately builder defect legislation has essentially eliminated most major condominium construction. Developer’s won’t think about them, contractors won’t build them, and insurers won’t touch condos until legislation in Colorado is changed…Ken, any chance you might do some research on the builder’s defect issue in Colorado and how it has essentially eliminated condo construction?

      • Ken Schroeppel says:

        I would refer anyone interested in the construction defect issue to read the big cover story that Westword did on the issue not too long ago. To my knowledge, it is the most comprehensive look at the issue so far.

  3. Dan says:

    Definitely my favorite announced/under construction project in Denver right now. I can’t believe it isn’t going to be for-sale units though. I realize the construction defect laws are a deterrent, but this market just seems too ripe for a couple of condo towers. One would think a large developer or two has to take advantage of this opportunity soon.

    • Catherine says:

      Existing owners in the immediate area don’t want more ownership as it will impact their investment(s).

  4. Dan says:

    Love everything about this design except the 2 stories of blank wall right at the corner of 15th and Little Raven. Other than that, very impressive!!!!

    • Richard says:

      I imagine that is glass that is just not rendered, as I would assume the streetfront retail would wrap around that corner. Seems perfect for a restaurant with outdoor seating on the park side.

  5. Ben says:

    These are the projects that Denver needs more of. No more embellished boxes. We need beautiful urban architecture, public spaces, public art, and inter-city transit.

  6. Brendon says:

    Echoing the others in desire to see more condo towers go up. I was told all these new apartment buildings could be sold off as condos in the future? Is there any truth to that, and if so, curious as to how that works?

  7. Stosh says:

    25 years ago, Tent Cities lined the Platte and Viaducts bypassed boarded up Warehouses and Factories now lovingly referred to as LODO.
    A lot has changed since then and this project may be the biggest and best change yet.
    The Architecture feels iconic and yet welcoming. To me it represents Denver’s Past, Present and Future; which is fitting since this is where the city originated. Bravo!

  8. carlospolis says:

    I cant imagine how epensive rent will be. We need more condos !

  9. timothy says:

    Nice looking addition to Lodo, but I am becoming concerned about the lack of open spaces in all of downtown Denver. The density is getting too tight. We don’t need big, open areas, but more small, tastefully decorated plazas. These are always welcome additions in areas of high population density. The time to act is now while the areas are still available.

    • bryan says:

      I find this confusing…where in Denver is “too dense”? Where is there a lack of a park or easily accessible green-space? There are a ton of plazas in downtown already…and two more coming to DUS, plus the 17th street arcade. Respect your opinion but just don’t follow given that Denver is one of the least dense big cities in the US, and even the most dense neighborhood – Capital Hill – is really not even that dense.

  10. Mark B. says:

    For those of you who missed it, there was this story on the lack of condo construction this morning on Colorado Public Radio: http://www.cpr.org/#load_article|Why_there_are_so_few_condos_for_sale_in_Denver

  11. Kyle says:

    This is awesome!! Finally a great building. Good job Ken and the urban designers, architects, landscape architects and developers! I would love to be able to spend my money on a place there. I also hope they don’t have a blank wall at the intersection but I’m sure that it will be addressed.

  12. KS says:

    I don’t disagree it’s a cool concept, but given everything else around in the Riverfront Park, REI and Commons Park area, I think the 34 stories are WAY too many. Apparently those of us living across Little Raven from this project are the only people in Denver who appreciate the low profile of what’s currently on that corner and the surrounding area, and don’t look forward to a giant tower overshadowing the park, the creek and our homes.

    • Dan says:

      I agree, the building on that property is beautiful and I will hate to see it go. I’m also hoping that Glass House will be torn down soon, that would be a prime spot for a 7-11 or Taco Bell.

    • Lars says:

      Boo hoo….a 34 level high rise is going to block the view from my 21 level high rise. Its called urban living…

      • KS says:

        Dan, the building there is ugly. I hate it. They tore down the “cute” building a few years ago. Please don’t think I won’t love to see it replaced. I LOVE the concept of this whole new development, I just wish the 34 story element was more like 6.

        Lars, I’m in a townhome, I have no view. I’m purely concerned with continuity of the aesthetics in the area. Glass House is only 23 stories, and is the largest nearby building. At 34 stories they may as well have built this building in Thornton for as close as it is to its nearest comparable high rise. I don’t dislike high rises or urban living, I love downtown and live here on purpose. I just like things to look like they fit into the area around them.

        We’re all entitled to our own personal opinions – isn’t it great. Especially when you’re the one living next door to someone else’s great idea that will never personally impact them ;)

        • T says:

          KS there is a place for people like you. It is called LoHi. It is right across the I-25. It is NIMBY paradise. I think you will love it. The most they will put up with there is 5 stories- and sometimes not even then. When you bought your condo or town home in CPV, it was your duty to check the zoning for land surrounding it. If you did not take the due diligence to do so, then the only person you can blame for living next a site that is zoned to that height is yourself. Further more, the footprint of the tower is very minimal. If anything I would say you lucked out. If a 6 story building were to be built on that site, it would have been required to take up the ENTIRE site. Then you would have been complaining that it completely eliminated a park. Lastly, the tower fits perfectly in place. For any given area, there has to be a tallest building.

          • Ken Schroeppel says:

            T,

            I think you’re thinking about West Highlands where the “No High Rises” people are objecting to a five story apartment building. LoHi, immediately across I-25, is not a NIMBY neighborhood. Five-story apartments are sprouting up everywhere in LoHi and I’ve not heard of any complaints (I live in LoHi). West Highland does not equal LoHi (several miles apart).

          • T says:

            Thanks Ken,

            I have always thought they were one in the same. I take back my LoHi comment then. Thanks for the clarification.

          • Ken Schroeppel says:

            No problem.

    • UrbanZen says:

      Ummmm…..this proposed building on only 20 meters or so taller than Glass House and 1900 Sixteenth St. Not to mention the other 3-4 sites in the immediate area than can go to 80+ meters.

    • Corey says:

      This site is ideal for a high rise. Anything else would be a huge under-utilization of the birthplace of Denver. As a fourth generation Denverite, I feel it would be insulting to just build another generic 5 story apartment block there.

  13. Ken Schroeppel says:

    To add to the discussion about the height of the area around 15th and Little Raven…

    The Commons PUD is the zoning for the Riverfront Park area. According to the zoning, Commons Subarea 4, which is the area bounded by 15th Street, Delgany, Cherry Creek, and Little Raven, has a maximum building height limit of 100 feet.

    This means that The Delgany, The ArtHouse Townhomes, Creekside Lofts, Townhomes at Riverfront, and The Station Apartments were all built significantly under what the zoning allows. Monarch Mills is the only building that took advantage of the 100 foot height allowed. This entire subarea could have been covered by 9-story buildings.

    So, while 34-stories is certainly taller than anything immediately nearby, the townhome-scale of the properties across Little Raven from the proposed Confluence tower are 6 stories shorter than what they could have (should have) been.

    • Jim Nash says:

      Ken, hoping this tall tower is the first of many, starting a new era of big-city housing Downtown…