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Six Years of Downtown Denver Infill… In One Chart!

Happy 2016, Denver!

We recently recapped the extent of multifamily residential and non-residential development in Downtown Denver since 2010 using maps and tables to show some of the basic attributes of the 142 different projects—completed, under construction, and proposed—that are reshaping Denver’s urban core. Remember the general premise behind DenverInfill: surface parking lots are soul-sucking black holes in the urban fabric of the city, and with each new infill development, we repair the urban fabric, add vitality through economic and social activity, and improve the walkability of the area. A few millennia of city-building have taught us that successful communities are those with an intact and coherent urban form, a mix of uses in a compact built environment, and an exceptional public realm oriented around the pedestrian. This is our goal for Downtown Denver.

To complete DenverInfill’s look back at the first six years of the decade and the remarkable transformation taking place in Downtown through infill development, I offer the following exhibit. It started out as a straight-forward infographic, and then as I kept fussing with it, it evolved into something a bit more artsy and elaborate. But either way, I had fun making it (gotta keep those Adobe Creative Cloud skills sharp!) and I hope you enjoy looking at it. Click to embiggen, of course, and yeah, it’s kinda big.

Print

If PDF is more your style, then click here to view/download at maximum resolution.

Here’s to a successful and prosperous new year for Denver and for you!


Downtown Denver Infill Projects: A 15-Year Snapshot

The original DenverInfill website included Downtown-area infill projects planned or built between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009—one complete decade. Since the start of 2010, all infill project-tracking and reporting duties have been handled exclusively here on the DenverInfill Blog (launched on July 5, 2005). With 2014 over, that means we now have fifteen years’ worth of projects we’ve been covering at DenverInfill!

To celebrate this milestone, I decided to prepare a graphic showing the footprint of all (or mostly all) of the infill projects in the Downtown Denver area that were completed between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2014 or are currently under construction. Click on the image below to view at full size, or click here for a huge version in PDF format.

2015-01-02_downtown-area-infill-developments-2000-2014

A few notes about the image: The boundaries are Federal Boulevard on the west, Downing Street on the east, and 6th Avenue on the south. To the north, it goes just far enough to pick up the River North district below 38th Street. Proposed projects are not shown, nor are any adaptive reuse or historic preservation projects. Also, there are dozens of townhome projects that are not shown. I’ve included a few, but there are so many of these smaller (say, under twenty units or so) townhome projects being built in the downtown fringe areas that to attempt to capture them all was simply beyond the scope of this effort. This graphic is meant to be fun and interesting to look at and offers a broad 30,000-foot view (actually, 13,000-foot view according to Google Earth) of the magnitude of infill development in the Downtown Denver area in the past fifteen years. If I missed a few projects, don’t sweat it. This wasn’t meant to be a complete and accurate survey.

There are 305 projects shown. My very rough estimate is that they cover approximately 8 million square feet of ground or about 180 acres or 70 city blocks. By land use, they represent approximately 18,000 residential units, about 7 million square feet of office/commercial space and about 2 million square feet of civic/cultural/educational uses.

What I want you to take from this graphic is how far we have come as a community in repairing the urban fabric of our city center. One hundred years ago, a vacant or undeveloped parcel was a very rare thing in the Downtown area, and there were absolutely no surface parking lots. Downtown Denver in 1915 had a virtually complete urban fabric: blocks of buildings defined and separated by streets, streets defined and framed by blocks of buildings—the quintessential urban form of cities for millennia. This urban fabric was nearly decimated in the post-War era due to a combination of short-term land speculation, ill-conceived urban renewal programs, and a society obsessed with making it as easy and convenient as possible for everyone to drive their personal automobile anywhere at any time.

These infill projects represent our efforts to, essentially, restore the urban form of Downtown Denver of 1915. There are minor differences between the 1915 urban form and what we’re building in 2015 (today, mostly taller buildings and larger building footprints), but the basic form is the same: buildings that touch the property line, have (hopefully) good sidewalk appeal, and frame the street as a public space. A building’s urban form, street frontage, and spatial relationship to its neighbors, is more important to the overall vitality and success of an urban area than what the building “looks like” architecturally. That’s why our emphasis here at DenverInfill has always been about rebuilding central Denver’s urban fabric through infill development to create great streets and public spaces that bring people together and make them glad they’re in the Mile High City.

Happy 2015 Denver!


Denver Union Station: Final Update – A Look Back

I didn’t start posting on Denver Union Station until Update 103, when construction of the project was in full swing. Before that, Rick Anstey was the Denver Union Station guru and avid poster. At the time Update 103 came out, the underground bus facility was capped from Chestnut to Wewatta, the old light rail station was long gone, the parking lots were torn up along Wynkoop Street, and construction for the North Wing Building had just started. It was still a whole different story than it is today; there was still a lot of dirt and not much vertical construction, as everything was still underground. In this post every ‘before’ picture will be accompanied by a present day photo. Let’s begin!

UnionStation8.10.5 2014-07-27_DUSGO-07

UnionStation8.10.6 2014-07-27_DUSGO-14

UnionStation8.10.4 2014-05-10_SouthWing-03

Update 103 was also the last time we had a look inside the historic station. Remember Ken’s Union Station tours? That particular day attracted a large crowd as he and Dana Crawford discussed the future of the historic station.

UnionStation8.10.2 2014-07-27_DUSGO-13

Fast forward to Update 105 and 106. I had my first hard hat tour of the project, which was very exciting for both DenverInfill readers and me personally. The foundation for the canopy had just started to go in and the underground bus facility was still a concrete shell.

USTour8.18 2014-05-10_ThePlatform-04

DUSBus8.23 2014-05-09_DUSGrandOpeningP2-05

Then things started to get exciting above ground. My favorite piece in the whole project, the commuter rail station canopy, started to go vertical.

DUS10.14 2013-11-28_DUSCanopy-01

DUSCanopy2.1.26 2013-09-01_DUSPlatforms-05

As months passed, there was a lot of visible construction which made for some exciting photos. In Update 115, Ken snapped a great picture of the first fabric pieces getting installed to the commuter rail station canopy.

2013-05-05_union-station-115-canopy 2014-07-31_DUSLB-01

Jumping to Update 121, the plazas were starting to take shape and the historic station was wrapped in scaffolding while it was undergoing a full restoration. The North Wing building had just topped out and the glass facade was peeking out from under the plastic.

2013-07-14_DUS-NorthWing-03 2014-07-27_DUSGO-08

Then the most exciting aspects of the project came around: sections were starting to open to the public. It was before my time reporting on Union Station when the light-rail station opened back in May 2012 however, I did get to witness the 17th Street Gardens, commuter rail train station, underground bus facility, historic station, and Wynkoop Plaza opening!

2014-07-13_UnionStation-01 2014-05-09_DUSGrandOpeningP2-09

2014-05-09_DUSGrandOpeningP1-02 2014-07-27_DUSGO-02

 2014-07-31_DUSLB-03

This project has completely transformed what was once a barren wasteland situated between two great neighborhoods. Denver Union Station is now the new hot spot in Downtown Denver and will continue thriving as the private sector developments keep rolling in. This was my personal experience from when I started covering this project to sitting here tonight typing up this post. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride. Welcome back to Downtown Denver, we are so glad you are back! I’m looking forward to hearing your experiences and stories during this project’s journey!


More Tower Cranes Going Up Around Downtown Denver!

We all love tower cranes! They are a great gauge to show how much a city is developing, and there’s been at least one tower crane up in Downtown Denver at any given point in time for over a decade. Last spring, in our census, there were a total of 10 tower cranes around Downtown Denver. That number has dipped slightly at the start of this year, as projects have started to finish, but fear not! More are on their way. Let’s look at the most recent additions!

Museum Center + Art Hotel

 

EnV 

The tower crane at EnV is not up yet, but the base has been set, so we are still going to count it. We should see the crane up within the next couple of weeks.

 

2100 Delgany 

 

Here is a bonus photo of the tower cranes for 20th and Chestnut, The Platform, and Verve!

Over the next few months we should see tower cranes start to go up for 1601 Wewatta, The Triangle Building, and the Hyatt Place / Hyatt House. The boom keeps on rolling!


DenverInfill Does Denver Diatribe!

I recently had the chance to be the guest on Denver Diatribe, Denver’s most enlightened podcast about… Denver!

In this week’s podcast, I engage in a lively discussion with hosts Joel Warner and Josh Johnson about RTD’s West Line opening, Denver Union Station, all the construction going on in Downtown Denver and the city’s apartment boom, the evolution of cities, automobile dependency, the transit line to DIA, the little-known community of Littlewood, and flying cars. Please check it out and enjoy!


New Downtown Denver Development Map

Over the past five years or so, despite the recent recession, Downtown Denver has seen strong construction activity and investment that only seems to be accelerating in 2013. Whether it’s the big Union Station transit project and its neighboring private-sector developments, the Better Denver Bond improvements, the state’s Ralph Carr Judicial Center and History Colorado Center buildings, or dozens of other public and private projects, Downtown has been growing and getting better every day. Look in just about any direction, and a tower crane or two will be in your view.

As you know, tracking and promoting all that investment in Downtown is at the heart of our mission here at DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism. It is also an important part of the mission of the Downtown Denver Partnership, which works tirelessly publicly and behind the scenes to improve the Downtown environment and promote public and private development in our urban core. Naturally then, I was excited to accept the Partnership’s offer to help them with their new Downtown Development Map. The map turned out great and it does an awesome job of graphically reflecting the tremendous investment that’s taken place in Downtown Denver during these past few years. Even our own DenverInfill man-about-town-with-camera, Ryan Dravitz, has one of his photos on the map. Nice job, Ryan!

Save the map as a PDF and share it with your friends or send them a link to the map’s page on the Partnership’s website. And of course, don’t forget to remind your friends to put DenverInfill, DenverUrbanism, and the Partnership’s new weekly online newsletter, Confluence Denver, on their reading list!


DenverInfill… A 2012 Retrospective

It’s that time of year again! Let’s take a look back at 2012 and reflect upon our accomplishments during the year in making Denver’s urban core the best it can be. For our previous retrospectives, use the link under the Pages section on the right side bar.

The big story in 2012 had to be the magnitude of the multifamily residential construction boom that developed during the year in the Downtown area. I recently posted an extensive overview of this issue in late November, so I won’t repeat all those details here. But the bottom line is that there are over 3,700 residential units within the greater Downtown Denver area under construction right now—and that is profound for two reasons:

First, it was only two years ago in my 2010 Retrospective that I wrote, “Well, what can I say that everyone doesn’t already know: the economy tanked, the boom is over, and we’re in a period of ‘transition’ (that’s a nice way of saying there’s not going to be a lot of private-sector real estate development in the next few years).” Then, just one year later in my 2011 Retrospective, I observed, “We’re on the cusp of a MAJOR housing boom in central Denver… I’ll wait until our 2012 Retrospective to say that the ‘Boom is Back,’ but this is a heads-up that it may be.”

OK, let’s say it: The boom is back!

The intensity with which private-sector investment in central Denver came roaring back in 2012 was amazing. Strong population growth and the lowest apartment rental vacancy rates in a decade will do that for you. But this current residential boom is more than just a function of market supply and demand. It’s reflective of something much bigger, which brings me to the second reason why this construction boom is so profound: it dramatically reflects the reality of the suburbs-to-city cultural and demographic shifts taking place across the United States, and the strong appeal of Denver’s urban core in particular.

Let’s take a look at US Census Bureau data of authorized building permits for privately-owned residential units (i.e. no public housing) for the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield Metropolitan Statistical Area, year-to-date, through November 2012 (the most recent month available as of this posting date). I created the table below using metropolitan-level data from here and county-specific data from here. (Note: the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA does not include Boulder County.)

What are the key points we should take from this table?

  • Almost half (43%) of all permitted residential units in the metro area were in Denver County.
  • Almost two-thirds (61%) of permitted residential units in 5+ Unit multifamily buildings were in Denver County.
  • Within Denver County, four out of five residential building permits were located within a multifamily 5+ Unit building.
  • While some of the roughly 3,700 residential units under construction in the Downtown area were probably issued permits in 2011, most were likely issued in 2012, which means that somewhere around one-third to one-half of all multifamily residential units authorized in 2012 in the entire Denver-Aurora-Broomfield metro area were located within the greater Downtown Denver area.

Twenty years ago, in 1992, Denver County had a total of 506 residential units (of all kinds) authorized, out of a metro total of around 11,000, or about 5% of the metro total. That’s an order of magnitude difference in twenty years. Profound change, indeed.

Downtown-area housing was not the only big news in 2012. Public-sector development continued full-steam ahead. Two big state projects reached completion (the Ralph Carr Colorado Judicial Center and History Colorado Center) as well as two state educational projects on the Auraria Campus were also completed in 2012 (Metro State’s Hotel & Hospitality Learning Center and Metro State’s Student Success Building). The City of Denver finished construction on the Denver Police Crime Lab, as well as the Clyfford Still Museum—a major addition to the city’s cultural scene. The federal government completed a major renovation of the Cesar Chavez Building (plus a new parking garage), and RTD brought construction of the 12-mile long West Line to almost the completion point. Just over three months to go before the West line opens! Major construction also began on the East Line to DIA, the Gold Line to Arvada and Wheat Ridge, and the half-billion-dollar expansion of the terminal at Denver International Airport (with RTD transit center) also started in 2012.

And then there’s that public-sector project that involves the state, the feds, the city, RTD, and the private sector too: Denver Union Station. The project began 2012 with the new light rail station open, half of the underground bus terminal constructed, and a big hole in the ground for the second half of the bus terminal. During 2012, Light Rail Plaza was completed and opened to the public, the reconstruction of 16th Street and Wewatta Street was mostly finished, the second-half of the underground bus terminal was capped and the commuter rail platforms set in place, the 17th Street Garden Plaza was completed (but not yet open) and serious work began on Wynkoop Plaza. One of the most visible aspect of the Union Station project also started taking shape in 2012: the dramatic canopy structure over the commuter rail platforms. Major construction began in 2012 on both the North and South Wing Buildings and Denver Union Station itself closed in late 2012 as it begins its restoration and transformation into a modern/historic transit center with plenty of retail and restaurants and a boutique hotel. Finally, in 2012, I conducted 17 of our DenverInfill walking tours of the Union Station project. Over 500 people attended the tours and we raised over $2,000 in donations for Union Station Advocates and for the students studying in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Colorado Denver. Thank you!!

Downtown investment wasn’t limited to residential and public buildings. In 2012 we started to see activity in the office and hotel sectors as well. In addition to the two new “wing” office buildings at Union Station starting construction, the DaVita headquarters opened in 2012, site work started late in the year on 16M (the mixed-use office/residential building at the corner of 16th & Market), and several new office buildings were proposed in the Union Station area. In addition to the new hotel at Union Station, two additional existing buildings (the Colorado National Bank and Xcel Energy buildings) also continued their conversion into new hotels. More good news for the Downtown office market in 2012: the new United States Patent Office will be located in Downtown Denver!

Finally, 2012 was a good year for DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism. Ryan Dravitz gave his camera a serious workout with a steady stream of construction update posts throughout the year, Ryan Mulligan continued his ongoing series of posts about West Line construction and other RTD news, and we launched a new series about East Line construction thanks to our new contributing blogger, Robert Wilson. I completed a 15-part DenverUrbanism series on Denver’s Single-Family Homes by Decade (which darn near took the whole year for me to finish!) and the rest of our DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism blogging crew (Derek, Dan, Shawn, John, and Rick) contributed great content as always. During the year, almost 600,000 people visited the DenverInfill/DenverUrbanism blogs or the original DenverInfill website.

To conclude: 2012 turned out to be a great year for Denver. More and more people are moving into the Downtown area, more investment dollars are flowing into the city center, and Denver citizens remain committed to improving our city. Hopefully, 2013 will be a year where these trends continue.


Goodbye Empty Lots, You Will Not Be Missed

In present day Downtown Denver, there is one thing that is hurting our urban core: parking lots. They are all over the place creating an inconsistency in our urban fabric. But, there is good news! The ‘parkinglotification‘, as Ken likes to put it, is starting to disappear. Today we will be covering most of the sites that are in pre-development status or are going to begin within the year (hopefully). It’s always nice to visualize what is going to soon be built on these lots. Sit back and enjoy the ‘soon to be’ tour of some great developments. (As always, click the pictures to embiggen and the links for project details)

First, we will start with ‘One City Block‘. It does in fact take up an entire city block. Having this parking lot gone is a major start for the continued development of Uptown.

 

2300 Walnut is another project that is taking up an entire block and it looks like basic utility work has begun. Great sign of progress with this development!

 

I have always hated the fact there was an ugly dirt lot directly across Coors Field. Broadstone Blake Street is going to fix this eyesore of a problem.

 

Parking lots in front of a mass transit hub like Union Station are never okay. Luckily the South Wing (Left) and North Wing (Right) buildings are taking up those lots. Notice, a crane base has been set for the North Wing building!

 

Next up we have 16 Wewatta which is on a more pleasing eyesore level, and Cadence / 1601 Wewatta. GE Johnson has their trailers out on the site of Cadence, another hopeful sign of progress.

 

Continuing down the path of the upcoming Union Station neighborhood, you have 16 Chestnut (Left) and Alta City House (Right).

 

A quick skip away, there are the Delgany Apartments (Left). A fence has been put up around the lot, another good sign of progress. Then you have 20th and Chestnut (right) which is approaching groundbreaking.

 

Last but not least, the AMLI Riverfront project which is making a huge leap forward to helping complete the Riverfront Park master plan.

I cannot wait until I can start making updates of these projects individually when they all kick off. Just on this tour alone I covered 12 lots that are planned to be filled. This doesn’t include the developments that are in progress which have already relieved an ugly parking lot of its active duty. We are on the verge of a boom which is great news for our city.