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West Colfax: April 2014 Construction Update

If you happen to take a walk between Sloans Lake Park and Federal Boulevard, you’re going to see and hear a ton of construction going on. I’ve previously reported on three projects in the area, but thought I’d give you a mini tour of everything that’s going on in the neighborhood while updating you on those three projects. First the map:

Aerial with buildings

All of the parcels I’ve highlighted here are in some state of construction. The parcels outlined in red are mixed use developments that are underway: The St Anthony’s Hospital Redevelopment (#1) and Mile-High Vista (#5). The orange parcels are all townhome developments; thirteen projects averaging 6-8 units with. I’ll update you on the Framework project (#2) that I wrote about in an earlier post and show some pictures of the radical changes happening on 17th Ave (#3). Finally, there’s a bit of an unknown, the site at Federal and 16th avenue (#4) has recently been scraped in preparation for sale.

Project #1 – St Anthony’s Redevelopment (see my orignial post)

There currently isn’t much in the way of building happening at the old hospital site, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation going on. All the buildings that are to be taken down have been demolished (minus an old maintenance building on 17th Avenue being used for a construction office) and the site is currently being regraded. Cameron Bertram of EFG, the owner’s representative, says that by mid-summer we should see utility work well underway and by fall the new city streets will be put in place. EFG currently has four of seven blocks under contract and is nearly ready to close on another. The Kuhlman Block Alliance will be developing the northeastern-most corner with a boutique hotel in the existing Kuhlman Building, restaurants, retail and apartments. Trammell Crow Residential will be developing two interior blocks with nearly 370 apartments. Finally, Littleton Capital Partners will be developing a retail anchor on the southern-most block facing Colfax. This block will contain a renovated 4-story office building, a retail pad, and a 12-screen Alamo Drafthouse Cinema as the anchor tenant. Here’s a rendering of the cinema block from Colfax and Raleigh Street taken from EFG’s website www.sloansdenver.com.

2014-04-10_Alamo Drafthouse

Project #2 - Framework at Sloans Lake (see my original post)

Over at Framework, there is much work underway. The first phase is mostly framed and the developer has informed me that he will be breaking ground the second phase very soon as the first phase is already completely pre-sold. Here’s a shot of the first building (along 18th avenue).

2014-04-10_Framework

The three-story buildings are strikingly noticeable among the primarily 1- and 2-story single family homes in the area, and given their location at the top of a small hill, can be seen rising up from the neighborhood from Sloans Lake Park two blocks away. This project was the first townhome development in the area, and has since spawned a flurry of construction on neighboring blocks; thirteen townhome projects are now underway in the immediate vicinity.

Project #3 - 17th Avenue

A radical change is occurring on the north side of 17th Avenue where five adjacent lots are in varying stages of construction by five different developers. What was once a 1- and 2-story single family street is rapidly getting an urban makeover.

2014-04-10_17th St Projects 2014-04-10_17thSt

Project #4 – A high profile site gets scraped.

On the triangular site overlooking the Federal Boulevard/Colfax interchange once stood a small institutional building. Recently, the owner scraped the building in order to better sell the property. The remainder of this 2+ acre site is covered with an asphalt parking lot, with spectacular views of Mile High Stadium, Downtown and Southeast Denver (not that the asphalt cares much). I personally hope someone snatched up this gem of a property and turns it into something worthy of this extremely prominent site. Here’s a panorama of the site taken from Grove Street.

2014-04-10_Federal Site

Project #5 - Mile High Vista (see my original post)

Last, but not least, is the Mile High Vista Project.  As you can see in the pictures below, the 7 story workforce housing component of the development has topped out and is being skinned and finished. Five stories of housing sit atop a two story podium of parking, resident amenities, and office space. The building is slated to receive a LEED Platinum rating, which is highly commendable for an affordable housing project.

2014-04-10_Mile High Vista 2 2014-04-10_Mile High Vista

In front of the apartment building (anchoring the corner of Colfax and Irving) is a two-story steel frame building that is to become a brand new 25,000 sq.ft. Denver Public Library branch. Construction of the branch had been delayed for some time due to some soil issues, but after a redesign of the foundation they are now making significant progress and hope to open next year.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of the neighborhood; as you can see, it’s rife with construction activity, redevelopment and densification. Check it out and stay tuned.


New West Colfax Project: Mile High Vista

By Chad Reischl

In the 1960s, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority (along with CDOT) cleared a large swath of land in what is today the West Colfax and Sun Valley Neighborhoods of Denver in order to clear what was perceived to be a slum and build the Colfax and Federal interchange. The neighborhood, which had once been a thriving Jewish neighborhood with houses and shops (Golda Meir once resided in the neighborhood; her house was saved and moved to the Auraria Campus) was replaced with a giant cloverleaf intersection, a new housing development (with 8-story towers and smaller townhomes) and a grocery store-anchored strip mall with a gas station. As the neighborhood surrounding this new shopping center continued to decline over the next few decades, the grocery store closed and sat empty for years, only recently partially filled with a new Hispanic grocer. The gas station on the corner of Colfax and Irving closed as well and was eventually torn down, leaving a two-acre lot (half paved/half gravel) that was rarely used except during Denver Bronco games. Now, like many other parking lots and vacant parcels in Central Denver, this lot is getting redeveloped. And, unlike its previous incarnation, this site is coming back to life as a mixed-use, transit oriented, urban development.

Spurred by rising real estate prices and renewed interest in the area due to construction of RTD’s West Line, the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) moved to purchase this two-acre parking lot from the owner of the shopping center in early 2011 in order to create a transit-oriented development. The parcel, outlined in orange in the Google Earth map below, is situated less than one-half mile from two light rail stations and is accessible by four major bus routes. It is also highly visible from both Colfax and Federal and has great views over Sports Authority Field and Downtown Denver. Given the development potential, the owner was reluctant to sell the property, but ULC brought an interesting partner to the table that ultimately sealed the deal: the Denver Public Library.

At the time, DPL was looking for a site to build a new bond-funded branch in the West Colfax Area. The library wasn’t having much luck finding an appropriate site until ULC suggested putting the library on their prized site (alongside additional commercial and retail development). The property owner loved the idea and stipulated that he would sell the land only if DPL would build its branch there. The Library Board eventually agreed and the property was bought by ULC using money from the Denver Transit Oriented Development Fund.

As shown in the two images below (courtesy of ULC and Studiotrope Design Collective), the site will contain three elements: the new branch library anchoring the corner of Colfax and Irving, a 6-story residential building to the south, and a 2-3 story commercial building also on Colfax. A parking lot for the library and commercial pad occupies the center of the property.

 

The library, designed by Studiotrope Design Collective (rendering below courtesy of DPL) will be named in honor of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, an influential Hispanic civil rights leader in the Denver Community. The 25,000 square foot library will be a two-story facility with a modern façade that is intended to reflect the diversity of the neighborhood. As you can see in site phot, construction of the foundation for the library has just begun.

 

The 6-story residential building is being developed by the Del Norte Neighborhood Development Corp. The building, designed by Studio Completiva, is also under construction (renderings below courtesy of Studio Completiva). This building will have some ground-floor commercial space including a day-care facility. Parking will occupy part of the ground floor and continue on Level 2. Above will be four stories (72 units) of affordable workforce housing.

As of today, no distinct plans have been made for the third component of this development, but with construction underway on the two other components, it shouldn’t be long before plans are unveiled. With 72 units of new housing, a public library, and a commercial/retail building, the site is shaping up to be an exciting, dense, urban development that will be a new gateway for the West Colfax Neighborhood and a catalyst for more development in this up-and-coming area west of Downtown Denver. Stay tuned for more postings as this exciting project continues.

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Chad Reischl is an aspiring urban planner with a background in architecture and landscape design.  He has a Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from UC-Denver with an emphasis in urban place making and economic development.  Chad is currently a resident of the West Colfax Neighborhood of Denver and is co-president of the West Colfax Association of Neighbors (WeCAN).  He is dedicated to creating sustainable, healthy, and well connected urban communities for future generations to enjoy.


Inside the Infill: Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center (Final)

It’s time to conclude our coverage of the development of the new Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center with this special Inside the Infill post.

The roots of this project go back to the early 2000s. This post from 2007 references a 2005 newspaper article about building a replacement for the undersized and out-of-date Colorado State Judicial Building. This post from early 2010 gives us a first glimpse of the project’s design, and that the new home to the state’s highest courts would be named after Colorado’s heroic governor during WWII, Ralph Carr, who fiercely opposed the internment of Japanese-Americans. Over the past six years, we’ve featured over 20 posts about this project, including the demolition and implosion of the former judicial building that once stood on the site. State court employees have now moved in, and the building opens for business to the public tomorrow. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held in January, and an official dedication of the building in May.

Let’s wrap things up with some photos of the completed interior. Ryan and I each had a chance last week to tour the new judicial center, so the photos below represent contributions from both of us. There are three courtrooms in the complex: two for the Colorado Court of Appeals (first and third levels) and one for the Colorado Supreme Court (fourth level). Here’s a shot (left) of the entrance to the larger Court of Appeals courtroom on the first floor featuring white marble (from Marble, Colorado), and a photo (right) of the inside of the smaller Court of Appeals courtroom on the third floor, which feels more intimate with lots of rich wood accents:

 

The Supreme Court courtroom on the fourth level of the courthouse portion of the project is stunning. Here are two images. On the left is the bench where the seven justices will sit. On the right, is the glass-domed ceiling that floods the courtroom with natural light:

 

Hints of Colorado symbols and icons are integrated throughout the building’s design. The Colorado flag’s big block “C” is subtly evident as a decorative detail in wood trim found throughout the building (left) and the columbine, our state flower, can been seen (right) in numerous carpet patterns through the building (OK, I really need to polish my shoes!):

 

The most dramatic space in the project is the grand atrium, a voluminous public space topped by a glass rotunda that serves as the central orienting feature to the courthouse. Speaking of Colorado symbols, the floor of the grand atrium features a huge columbine design (left) and, if you stand in the middle of that columbine and look straight up at the rotunda at just the right angle, you see another big Colorado “C” (right):

 

From the upper levels of the courthouse, the view out the glass-walled grand atrium looks directly at the Colorado State Capitol, currently undergoing a major renovation (left). In the courthouse’s main staircase, a dramatic piece of public art celebrates different milestones in Colorado’s history (right):

 

The courthouse includes the Colorado State Law Library, which features a mix of traditional library shelving, public art, and high-tech digital capabilities (left). On the right is a view of the chambers of a Supreme Court justice:

 

On the south side of the block rises the 12-story office tower portion of the project, which houses the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and other legal offices and agencies of the state. Here’s a photo of the main hallway leading from the courthouse to the office tower (left) and the ceiling and public art inside the atrium/reception area of the office tower lobby:

 

The new Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center is beautiful on the inside and outside, and it appropriately represents one of the three branches of state government in a dignified and civic manner. Additionally, the new Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center offers fantastic views of Downtown Denver! So, here are four bonus photos for your enjoyment. On the left, the view straight north up Broadway, and on the right, the view of the Denver City & County Building and Civic Center Park:

 

Finally, here’s a great view of the Denver Central Public Library and the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building (left), and a sweet shot of the Denver Art Museum’s Ponti tower, the Denver Justice Center, Mile High Stadium, North Table Mountain, and the Rockies beyond (right):

 

Welcome, Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center, to Downtown Denver!


Ralph Carr Judicial Center Update #8

While riding the bus on my way home last night, I was thinking to myself: what really makes a city shine at night and what can Denver do to achieve this? One huge step in the right direction is lighting. Whenever there’s a newscast, sporting event, or special story on a city, the camera will always focus on well lit buildings. Nobody likes the look of dark boxes. My point? The new Ralph Carr Judicial Center is doing everything right. The lighting couldn’t be more perfect.

When Ken and I did the Inside the Infill tour over a year ago, I was told a secret I had to hold until it was visible to the public eye. “The lighting will make you stop in your tracks,” I was told. And sure enough, it did. (I haven’t enhanced these photos in any way. They are as close to the naked eye as I could get.)

 

The fences were recently taken down so its street presence is much more prominent, not to mention you can now get up close and personal to it.

The four main columns on the office tower are illuminated providing a great accent between the top and bottom.

Here is the 4-story court house. The city and county building will compliment Ralph Carr Judicial Center nicely when all the holiday decorations are up.

Given the lighting was not in the original renderings, I am very pleased on how well they fit this in. What do you think of the lighting feature?


Denver Museum of Nature & Science Expansion Update

If you have been by City Park lately, you have probably noticed a red tower crane hanging out with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. There is an annex being built connecting to the museum. This is a five level expansion with two of the floors underground. This is how the breakdown will work. The two underground floors are going to be for the Rocky Mountain Science Collections, the ground floor will have science studios for schoolchildren, and the second floor will feature a science center for early learners. That leaves the top floor which will contain a new gallery for temporary exhibits. Life on Capitol Hill did a great article with the full details that can be found here. Renderings can be found here, and here courtesy of GH Phipps.

Now for some pictures! Given there are two sub-levels in this project, it is very hard to see what is actually going on down there. The fence wraps around very far outside the actual site but from general observation, it looks like an elevator core is rising and there is a gigantic hole where they are building the underground section (where the mobile crane is located).

 

 

One of the things I love about this museum is the park at its feet as well as the view of Denver from it. Here is a little bonus picture of that wonderful Denver view.

That little ‘crane forest’ is the St. Joseph’s expansion in Uptown which we will be covering in the next post or two!


Cesar Chavez Building Modernization Update #5

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Cesar Chavez modernization is going along very well and seems to be almost complete. The facade is pretty much complete and the final touches seem to be coming along on the front of the building. Let’s take a look!

This is looking at the project from the front. You can notice that it is a lot ‘glassier’ than the previous entrance and facade. On the right you can see a couple letters titling the building, but it appears they are being taken down. Perhaps there was a design change.

 

On the left is the competed parking garage. I like how there is a screen and even though it still looks like a parking garage, it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. On the right is another upper view of the awesome solar panel structure on top of the garage.

 

I am glad this building is no longer a green eyesore in the community. It’s very pleasant to look at and many people I have spoken with think it’s a brand new development.


Ralph Carr Judicial Center Update #7

As time goes on, projects do not really change much from the outside as they near completion. This is a very true case with the Ralph Carr Judicial Center. However, there are some changes and some interesting angles that we haven’t yet seen of this wonderful development.

First, we will start out with the courthouse side. It looks like the stairs to the entrance are starting to be constructed and the columns are beginning to be unwrapped. One very unique, and great, feature is the grass roof on top of the courthouse. There aren’t many of these in Downtown Denver so it’s always very neat to see one.

 

Notice anything different when looking at the overall view of the Ralph Carr Judicial Center? No cranes. Cranes show a great sign of development but it’s only when they get taken down you can get the full effect of what the project will really look like. The hoist elevator has also been taken down from the office tower and has been sealed in. This will pretty much be what it looks like (unless there are more surprises on hand).

 

Here are a couple more angles of this development I took while photographing other projects. I really like the presence and feel of this project in our Civic Center district.

 

As a little bonus, I stepped out on my patio in April and noticed the big yellow crane was being taken down. Since it was a wonderful weekend day, I took many pictures and complied them into a sort of time-lapse. I didn’t have the idea at the time of using a tripod and making a legitimate time-lapse so it’s a little jittery but still a neat little video.


Denver Police Crime Lab: Final Update

The Denver Police Crime Lab very recently cut its ribbon for opening making this the third recently completed project in the Civic Center district. We were even lucky to get an inside look of the crime lab when it was somewhat completed. Here are all the updates for this one.

Better Denver Bond Projects

Denver Police Crime Lab Update

Denver Police Crime Lab Update #2

Inside the Infill

Denver Police Crime Lab Update #3

Not much has changed since I did the last update in March but it is always nice seeing a project completed without any of the construction fences up and the street landscaping in place. Here are some angles of the new and shiny Denver Police Crime Lab.

 

 

 

On the left is the atrium at the front of the building. You can see that it is lit up and there is some decorative art hanging from the ceiling. I bet this looks really cool at night. On the right, I was able to capture the back side of the Cesar Chavez Modernization. The crane has been taken down and the facade is pretty much complete along with the parking garage.

 

I love seeing all these new buildings and streetscapes. Downtown Denver is becoming a great world class city.