Alta City House Update #1

Today I am sharing some exciting news with you! Construction for the Alta City House project in the Union Station neighborhood has commenced. If you don’t remember what the details of this project are, head on over to Ken’s post from last spring here.

Right now, we are at the ‘moving dirt’ phase of construction. This is a great sign of progress and another huge empty lot bites the dust! Here are a couple shots of the site to give you an idea of how much land this is going to fill in!


A lot of the streetscape improvements are complete in the Union Station neighborhood so when Alta City House is complete, the street presence along this stretch of 18th will be at the maximum level of enjoyment.

Another lot down and many more to go in the Union Station field. It’s good to see more infill starting in 2013!

By | 2016-12-18T06:19:38+00:00 January 20, 2013|Categories: Infill, Residential, Union Station, Urbanism|Tags: |16 Comments


  1. chachafish January 21, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Thanks for the update. I’m anxious to see this empty lot of dirt and weeds disappear!

  2. JR Ronczy January 21, 2013 at 3:36 am

    Good to see more activity around Union Station.

  3. Richard January 21, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Has the design changed at all since when you posted those renderings last April? I would hope they have put more detail into the street level retail spaces. And do you know if there are any plans to eventually connect 18th from Wynkoop to Wewatta either via tunnel or bridge?

    • Ted January 22, 2013 at 8:24 pm

      I don’t think that there is ground floor retail on this project is there? It hasn’t been mentioned in any of the project posts, and doesn’t look like retail on the renderings either. I was just assuming this project doesn’t have any retail.

  4. Chris January 21, 2013 at 4:46 pm


    The plans have changed, although I don’t know that the renderings you saw were ever more than approximations of the design anyway. As to the bridge, the answer is, “Yes, there will be a bridge there.” It will be constructed as part of the DUS and IMA Financial Center construction projects. And, as to the tunnel, there is a tunnel at 17th Street, not 18th Street, that leads under the commuter tracks and to the doors to the historic station.

    Take care.

    – Chris
    East West Partners

  5. Chris January 22, 2013 at 9:47 am


    your quote: “As to the bridge, the answer is, “Yes, there will be a bridge there.” It will be constructed as part of the DUS and IMA Financial Center construction projects”

    Is this a pedestrian bridge or vehicle bridge?



  6. SC48 January 23, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Everyone in this city gets so worked up over height limits, and whether or not something is too tall for its surroundings (see, e.g., Red Peak & West Highland debacle). Why doesn’t anyone get worked up when a development is too low for its surroundings? I’m sorry, but some of the projects being built behind Union Station seem absurdly low. Given the transit connections, this is the most environmentally sustainable patch of land in the metro area and its use for residences and/or offices should be maximized. We only get one bite at the apple on this one, just seems like such a waste that more isn’t being done with it. That area should be built right and well, not necessarily quickly.

    • Ted January 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      While I agree with what you’re saying on the principle of this needing to be one of the most densely developed areas of town, I don’t think that it is in any way true that “we get one bite at the apple.” All cities go through iterative cycles of building and tearing down, building and tearing down. Just the other day in one of my architecture classes we were discussing the ways in which many of the greatest urban spaces in the world have evolved in a constant give and take, always responding to existing conditions and rarely consciously anticipating the future.

      Now this isn’t an excuse for “planned obsolescence,” but it is an acknowledgement that just because not every building scores a total homerun doesn’t mean that the neighborhood, or the city, is “doing it wrong,” or is even doing it any different from any other city. NYC for example is actually discussing ways to identify obsolete structures and development opportunities around Grand Central Terminal even still today (and they still have plenty), so it is truly a never-ending process. I for one am completely comfortable with this reality and think that it makes for better, more organic cities.

  7. Richard January 23, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    I can accept 5 stories at 18th & Chestnut but hopefully the parcel to the south along 17th will be much taller, as well as the parcels along 17th between Chestnut and Union Station. Do we know when announcements for those sites are expected? I assume they will all be residential with retail along 17th and Wewatta.

  8. Chris January 24, 2013 at 2:41 pm


    Two of the projects on 17th have already been announced. One is under construction, Cadence by Zocolo. The other, by Holland Partners, is in at the city and will be 240 feet. On the block bordered by 17th, Chestnut, 16th and the Light Rail, we (East West) will be building a 240 foot office tower.

    On the parcel opposite that one, between 17th and 18th on the Light Rail, we have 140 and 240 feet of height. Barring a miracle, we’ll use all of that height. Although we don’t yet own the B block adjacent Union Station, we will and our height limit there is 220 feet. We’ll be using all of it.

    All of these projects will have substantial retail components.

    • UrbanZen January 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      I’ve always been curious as to why the city went with these height limits of 240, 220 & 140, and how they determined which parcels get which limit. Is it all controlled by the DUS view plane, or does shadowing and general appearance play into some of these.

  9. Bryan January 24, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Chris –

    Thanks for all the good information…question for you – given that there is a general 240 foot height limit in the CPV, can you do a air rights transfer from Alta to other parcels?


  10. Chris January 28, 2013 at 9:32 am

    BCP and UrbanZen,

    The height limits were created primarily through two zoning processes. The parcels along the CML were given their heights when the Commons PUD was created about 15 years ago. That zoning was recently vested for another 20 years and will not change. The zoning around the station was created in a zoning process that was undertaken during the public comment stage around Union Station in the early aughts.

    As to what drove those height limits, UrbanZen is right that light was a consideration. So, too, was develop-ability. To some extent, the height is limited to create development. When one can build to the sky, there’s a temptation to wait until that happens, which, as many of the parking lots in the CBD demonstrate, can be a really long time. Flexibility was also a serious consideration. There’s a lot of land to develop here, we want to get it done as quickly as possible, and we’re developing through multiple financial cycles. As such, it was hoped that all developers would have enough flexibility to develop in almost any cycle. That’s generally worked. You can see it best at Riverfront Park where we’ve really been able to vary our product and, as a result, finished 1,500 new units in eight years, through two downturns.

    I should mention, too, that I love the varied heights. I know there’s a lack of logic, but it creates a great short view.

    As to the ability to move height around, it’s an odd structure. Height limits on parcels are fixed. It cannot change. However, there is only so much commercial density that can built in the Commons PUD. That density is owned by the various land owners and, if they don’t use that density, it can be transferred to other parcels in the PUD. However, generally speaking, each land owner has an amount of density appropriate to their sites.


    • UrbanZen January 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks for the explanation Chris! Makes perfect sense to me. I like the varied heights too, and unlike some people, have no problem with the shorter scale for Alta City House. But I do likes me some height and look forwad to seeing what you guys come up with for the parcel just east of the Millenium Bridge.

  11. Chris January 29, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    16 Chestnut will be a one-story, surface parked drug store.

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