River Mile: Planning and Zoning Update

This past spring we reported on a visionary proposal by Revesco Properties for the long-term redevelopment of Elitch Gardens and its parking lots into a major new downtown neighborhood called the River Mile. As we noted in that first post, this transformation would occur over several decades, with the first phase targeting the redevelopment of the parking lots while a new site and relocation plan for Elitch’s itself is prepared. But for the River Mile project to proceed, several critical planning and zoning updates are necessary.

Downtown Area Plan Amendment
The first step was to amend the 2007 Downtown Area Plan. This plan sets the vision for the future of downtown Denver, which includes the Central Platte Valley/Auraria district—essentially the Elitch’s and Pepsi Center areas north of Auraria Parkway and west of Speer Boulevard. Here’s a map (courtesy City and County of Denver) showing the Downtown Area Plan boundaries in purple and the Central Platte Valley/Auraria district outlined in yellow.

Downtown Area Plan Amendment map

The Downtown Area Plan didn’t address the Central Platte Valley/Auraria district in much detail back in 2007 as both Elitch’s and the Pepsi Center were fairly new facilities at that time not anticipating immediate redevelopment. But eleven years later, development in this area is a possibility as the River Mile proposal demonstrates, so updating the plan for this district became necessary. After a year-long process involving numerous public meetings and stakeholder engagement, Denver CPD completed the “Downtown Area Plan Amendment—Central Platte Valley/Auraria District” that was unanimously approved by the Denver City Council on June 11, 2018.

Zoning Changes
With the new vision for this area in place, the next step is to update the zoning code to facilitate implementing that vision. Most of the districts within Downtown have their own customized zoning category to match the district’s context. For example, the “D-LD” zoning category applies to Lower Downtown and the “D-GT” zoning category applies to the Golden Triangle. Currently, however, the zoning covering the Central Platte Valley/Auraria district isn’t like that. It’s a hodgepodge of different zone classifications mostly focused on allowing large entertainment facilities and big parking lots. Therefore, Denver CPD proposed the creation of three new “D-CPV” zoning categories to regulate things like building sizes, parking, and affordable housing requirements in a manner consistent with the new vision. These new “D-CPV” zoning categories constitute a text amendment to the Denver Zoning Code, which must go through both the planning board and city council.

On October 17, 2018 the Denver Planning Board voted 9-1 to recommend approval to city council. On December 17, 2018, Denver City Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the zoning code text amendment. Assuming approval of the new “D-CPV” zoning categories by council, thereafter, Revesco Properties and any other property owners in the area would be free to submit a request to the city for a zoning code map amendment to apply a new “D-CPV” zoning category to their property.

Next Steps
That’s not all. Soon, Denver CPV will be begin preparing design standards and guidelines for this area that will provide more fine-grained tools and requirements to ensure that the architecture and streetscape designs of future buildings and streets are consistent with the vision for this part of downtown. And for their part, Revesco continues to refine their development plans and work on setting up metro districts for funding the future infrastructure improvements like bridges, streets, and public spaces that will form the backbone to the River Mile redevelopment.

Speaking of public spaces, we are happy to share with you some new renderings, courtesy of Revesco’s design team that includes Shears Adkins Rockmore ArchitectsWenk Associates, and DIALOG. Since there are no actual buildings being proposed yet, these images focus on the public realm and are intended to convey the conceptual character of the River Mile’s future public spaces, and not the final design of any specific building or place.

First we have an illustrative concept plan showing the River Mile’s streets, parks, bridges, and building footprints at full build-out, followed by an exhibit depicting the location of the River Mile’s first phase that would occur while Elitch Gardens continues to operate in its current location.

In this next concept rendering, we see a new public space adjacent to the Pepsi Center/Elitch Gardens light rail station, which is just out of view at the bottom of the image:

River Mile public space conceptual rendering, courtesy of Revesco Properties and their design team

The signature public space in the River Mile would sit along the South Platte River and offer a grand urban plaza as well as numerous opportunities to directly engage with the river:

River Mile public space conceptual rendering, courtesy of Revesco Properties and their design team

Other parks along the river would offer more tranquil settings with natural landscapes along the river’s edge:

River Mile public space conceptual rendering, courtesy of Revesco Properties and their design team

Development near the river would feature buildings with active ground-floor uses, separate bicycle and pedestrian paths, and natural landscapes:

River Mile public space conceptual rendering, courtesy of Revesco Properties and SAR Architects

The River Mile’s public spaces would integrate with other amenities like community centers to create welcoming, inclusive places:

River Mile public space conceptual rendering, courtesy of Revesco Properties and their design team

The River Mile is a long-term effort, but it is making good progress in these early stages. Let’s hope that continues! We will keep you posted as new milestones are reached in the evolution of downtown Denver’s next great neighborhood.

EDIT 10/29/2018
The date of Denver City Council’s public hearing and vote on the new zoning has been changed to Monday, December 17, 2018. This date has been updated in the post above.

By |2018-10-30T06:11:00+00:00October 28, 2018|Categories: Central Platte Valley, Infill, Transit-Oriented, Urban Form, Urbanism|Tags: |28 Comments


  1. Robert De La Rosa October 28, 2018 at 5:13 pm - Reply

    wait they’re goign to tear down elitches?

    • Ken Schroeppel October 28, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      As our posts explain, the owner of Elitch’s, Revesco Properties, has a long-range plan to relocate Elitch’s to a new location in Denver, freeing up its valuable downtown location for the River Mile development. The first phase of River Mile, which may take a decade to complete, can be accomplished while Elitch’s is still in its current location.

  2. Jeffrey October 28, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    I hope that lightrail is integrated into this.

    • Eric October 28, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      There’s already a stop at Elitch Gardens.

  3. […] New Renderings, Updates for Development that will be Transforming Seas of Parking Lots for Decades to Come (DenverInfill) […]

  4. FrankieRay October 29, 2018 at 9:14 am - Reply

    Elitch Gardens, then Coors Field, followed by the Pepsi Center were the catalysts that accelerated the rebirth of Denver’s downtown and what would become known as LoDo, which in turn led to the development of the Union Station area and others. As beautiful as this proposed development is, if it’s carried through as illustrated, I feel it will be unfortunate to see the removal of Elitches midway structures and their respective lights. They have become an integral part of Denver’s skyline, adding life to an otherwise static assemblage of high-rises. Sure would be nice to see a large, lit up ferris wheel (London, Seattle, amongst others) incorporated into the proposed landscape to retain at least some small part the Elitch Gardens contribution to our skyline, maintaining the pizzazz that Elitches has for the past twenty-five years!

    • sgsfghfg October 29, 2018 at 10:20 am - Reply

      I totally agree with this. Keeping the ferris wheel and the observation tower on-site would be really cool!

      • Mike October 29, 2018 at 8:45 pm - Reply

        Denver has always deserved a better ferris wheel, but how do we get landmark protection for the observation tower? Or, at least ensure that it is reconstructed elsewhere in downtown/River Mile?

    • Dan Zervoudakes October 29, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

      While I am a huge fan of this proposal, I agree it would be sad to see Elitches disappear entirely… I’ve grown so used to it being a part of the skyline and overall “Denver experience”.

      I understand the reasons for moving Elitches (again), however it would be cool if a Ferris Wheel or other similar structure was put into the plans here as an homage to the park it will be replacing.

  5. Marc October 29, 2018 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Wait, are the Pepsi Center lots southeast of the proposed build-out area to be included in the River Mile development, or is that going to have to be a separate development proposal from the Kroenke group?

    • joe October 29, 2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply


    • Zoltan October 29, 2018 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      The Kroenke group should devote the Pepsi Center parking lots into developing a new (additional) convention center. Why should most cities have only one? Las Vegas supports multiple convention centers but has less air access than Denver. As the Gaylord has demonstrated, additional capacity cannibalizes very little. The Pepsi Center parking lots are the last chunk of land in the city core large enough to support a major convention facility.

      • Erik October 30, 2018 at 8:20 am - Reply

        I think we’ve yet to see the effect the Gaylord will have on the market.

        • Zoltan October 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm - Reply

          The DP has reported that the vast majority of groups at the Gaylord are to hold their meetings in Colorado for the first time, though that may just be boosterism. However, if the Gaylord has caused many conventions to book away from the CCC, I believe the hoteliers (especially those who filed suit in opposition to the Gaylord) would have raised a ruckus by now. Since the MICE industry has a planning horizon that exceeds a decade, I think we should have seen much of the effect of the Gaylord already.

  6. sgsfghfg October 29, 2018 at 9:53 am - Reply

    Renderings are just speculative, I get that… but those renderings are expecting a LOT out of the Platte River in terms of wideness and fullness. Is there a plan to build a dam downstream in order to keep the water at a certain level?

    • Tom G October 29, 2018 at 2:49 pm - Reply

      Agreed! If you look at the current satellite images and then the renderings things don’t add up. That seems like a giant river in those renderings.

    • Ryan October 29, 2018 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      I believe the plan is to dredge the river through that stretch to build up the surrounding land. I’m no engineer, but I believe it could yield a similar effect.

      • Ken Schroeppel October 29, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

        This is correct. I believe they are planning to dredge the river to deepen it for floodplain reasons and widen it in spots to create amenities like a lagoon.

        • jmiller November 4, 2018 at 3:18 am - Reply

          Who is “they” who will dredge? Who will pay for the modifications? And, in KC, Brush Creek has undergone extensive channelization and the result is that of a clearly urban stream. What does Denver want? A wild sort-of-looking stream with naturally low flow or an extensively modified stream?


          • Ken Schroeppel November 4, 2018 at 7:38 am

            The developer would pay I believe through the use of metro districts, although there could be some public urban drainage funds uses… not sure.

  7. Doug October 29, 2018 at 9:57 am - Reply

    THe real hope is that they move Elitch’s to a spot with more land and they actually become a real amusement park. Ya know, maybe have some real roller coasters, more than the two or three we have now.

  8. JKS October 30, 2018 at 7:23 am - Reply

    I would love to see Elitches move to the vacant land just north of the Central Park Station on the A Line. There is easily twice the space as the current location. It would still be somewhat centrally located and would have easy access by rail, I-70, and I-270. Other than that, and possibly the vacant train yard east to the 10th and Osage station, it would have to relocate way out in the burbs.

    • sgsfghfg October 30, 2018 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      I just looked at that area (in Stapleton) on google maps and I agree with you. Looks like a great spot for Elitch’s to set up shop.

      The 10th & Osage site would be OK, assuming all the buildings & tracks there are actually abandoned/out of use (I don’t know the area well enough to say for sure if they are).

    • MDH October 30, 2018 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      As someone who lives near CPS – NIMBY! Not a terrible idea, though. I think that land has some much higher use than what’s currently there.

  9. Erik October 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    I hope that at the very least, the new development offers something special to replace the many landmarks on the site. Though the city wouldn’t be the same without our meager little observation tower and ferris wheel, offering a world-class landmark in their place would go a long way in rallying public support for the upcoming changes.

    • TFH October 30, 2018 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      Well it looks like at least conceptually they’re thinking of something like this with the glass-enclosed merry-go-round in the picture of the grand plaza. Obviously this isn’t a world-class landmark but its a nice nod to the histroy of the site.

  10. denvertoSD October 31, 2018 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    Why is everyone so ecstatic about the ferris wheel? It’s just a small, ordinary Farris wheel. So many cities have one too, especial beach cities. They should keep an attraction that would be unique to have a in a city environment and that doesn’t take much space. Like the halfpipe ride or that one loop coaster.

  11. Heath November 10, 2018 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    Kroenke will probably move Elitches to Commerce City by his soccer stadium. He already owns a lot of land in that area ….

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