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.