By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4)– The Denver City Council voted Monday night in favor of long-term development plan that would completely change the face of the Central Platte Valley-Auraria District.
The Downtown Area Amendment Plan, was compiled through a process led by the City and County of Denver along with the Downtown Denver Partnership. It took place over a year and involved extensive community and stakeholder input.
“This area provides a unique and rare opportunity for the city and for downtown. Following the community’s lead, this plan helps lay the groundwork for a truly complete downtown neighborhood with a riverfront that has the potential to become Denver and downtown’s next great place,” said Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development.
The land, bounded by Interstate 25, Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard, is a prime piece of real estate, home to one of the country’s rare urban theme parks, Elitch Gardens
The plan doesn’t say the theme park will close but does acknowledge it may have to move in order to further the community vision. Rhys Duggan, whose Revesco Properties bought Elitches in 2015 for $140 million, fought questions Monday night about a specifics on the potential move.
Duggan told commissioners Elitches around to stay for the foreseeable future. Revesco hasn’t considered other relocation options partially because Duggan says, these days, it takes 125 acres to create an urban theme park, which is part of the reason why there are so few.
“Finding a site in metro Denver will be challenging but we’re committed to looking for it,” Duggan told commissioners Monday.
Both community members and council members were highly critical of the way the plan addressed racial inclusivity and affordable living.
Councilwoman Deborah Ortega told city planners and developers she was concerned that Denver was losing the diversity that made it a great city to begin with.
“We need different price points that will serve the various levels of income,” said Ortega.
Council member gave their approval but not before offering words of caution.
Councilwoman Robin Kniech talked about the “trust gap,” assuring what’s in the plan is the same thing discussed at the table with city agencies.
Duggan assured council members that having the 62 acres under large ownership, rather than fractured ownership, would make the plan much easier to follow.
Councilman Paul Kashman told planners, “You have a great opportunity and a profound responsibility.”
The next step will be the rezoning process which Denver City Council President Albus Brooks said Monday would likely take place in six months.
He encouraged anyone who cared about the plan to attend the upcoming planning and zoning meetings.
Formal Announcement From Downtown Denver Partnership
The Downtown Denver Partnership sent out the following email on Tuesday:
Downtown Area Plan Amendment Adopted by Denver City Council
City Council approves community-driven vision for complete, connected, walkable downtown neighborhood; giving residents, stakeholders a say in the future of Central Platte Valley-Auraria District.
On Tuesday, June 11, Denver City Council voted unanimously to adopt the Downtown Area Plan Amendment for the Central Platte Valley-Auraria District. Like the 2007 Downtown Area Plan—which guides the Partnership’s work to create a downtown that is prosperous, walkable, distinctive, diverse and green—the amendment process was conducted under a steering committee, co-chaired by the Downtown Denver Partnership and the City and County of Denver.
The amendment details a community vision for a complete, walkable neighborhood that connects to the rest of downtown. It calls for more and better connectivity, prioritizing pedestrian and bicycle connections; affordable housing for every type of household, including families; and the services and amenities a complete neighborhood requires, such as open space. The amendment also seeks to maximize the South Platte riverfront with respect to The Outdoor Downtown Plan, a master plan that provides visionary and actionable policies, programs and projects that will enrich Downtown’s parks and public spaces.
The Central Platte Valley-Auraria District was included in the original Downtown Area Plan but without detail or specific guidance for future development. Much of the land is surface parking lots serving cultural and entertainment venues, including the Pepsi Center, Elitch Gardens, the Downtown Aquarium and the Children’s Museum. With potential for redevelopment of the area on the horizon, city planners sought input from the community on how to guide the future of the area ahead of any development changes.
The Downtown Denver Partnership’s Members, councils and boards of directors were heavily involved in the Downtown Area Plan Amendment planning and public outreach processes, providing input and expertise to the steering committee. Neighborhood organizations, residents and the general public were engaged in the process through a variety of community meetings and online surveys.
“The 2007 Downtown Area Plan has been the guiding vision for building an economically powerful downtown,” said Tami Door, President and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, “This amendment will strengthen our ability to attract more housing and mixed-use and inclusive development to the Central Platte Valley-Auraria District by having allowed the public to provide input into the future of this area.”
“As the economic and cultural hub of the region, it is important that we think big and pursue bold strategies to ensure that we are investing in the future of our city,” said Bill Mosher, chairman of the Downtown Denver Partnership, “This amendment offers a strong vision to revitalize and reimagine 200 acres of underutilized land in Downtown, which will ultimately contribute to the economic vitality of Denver and the region.”
Click here to read the Downtown Area Plan Amendment. The Partnership will continue to provide updates on the next stages of developing this planning area.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.