As commercial real estate communications experts, we make it a point to stay on top of the latest developments in the markets we serve. In Denver, we’re accustomed to seeing downtown surface parking lots turn into beautiful hotels and office buildings, retail ventures pop up in RiNo and trendy apartment communities rise in Cherry Creek and Highland.
Recently however, our focus has turned to East Denver with City Council passing the East Area Plan, a vision for development that spans the East Colfax, Hale, Montclair and South Park Hill neighborhoods. The area is home to over 33,000 people and stretches from Colorado Boulevard to Yosemite Street and 23rd Avenue to 6th Avenue.
The plan kicked off in July 2017 with the establishment of a steering committee. This fall, the committee unveiled a 255-page document that provides area-wide recommendations for land use and built form, economy and housing, mobility, and quality-of-life infrastructure. Here’s a snapshot of the plan’s guiding principles for the next 20 years:
- Help current residents and small businesses stay in the community long-term by connecting them to resources and creating additional housing options for families and individuals.
- Ensure the East Area is an inclusive place in the future by increasing the amount of affordable housing using all available methods.
- Make Colfax Avenue a street that brings the East Area’s diverse community together.
- Celebrate the architectural history of East Area neighborhoods by encouraging the preservation of existing homes and requiring complementary design of new housing.
- Preserve trees and landscaped areas. Create new parks and community-gathering spaces and use green approaches to storm-water management to make the East Area safe from flooding, healthier, and more climate resilient.
- Save lives and reduce pollution by making streets safer, slowing down traffic, adding protected bike lanes, completing the sidewalk network, and improving bus connections and reliability.
The plan is thoughtfully laid out, and we’re especially inspired by a few of the its features:
- Goals and tactics prioritize equity, not equality – With almost 40% of the population identifying as not white, and East Colfax being home to many refugees and immigrants, the East Area is one of Denver’s most diverse pockets. The plan calls for improving access to opportunity through equity, not equality. Per the plan, equality calls for giving everyone the same bicycle. Being equitable means giving everyone a bike that fits their personal needs.
- Transit-centered development is key – The plan directs growth to coincide with Colfax Avenue’s Bus Rapid Transit, and increases building height restrictions to up to five stories along much of East Colfax. For areas like the Mayfair Town Center and 9th and Colorado, developers can build even higher if their buildings provide community benefits like affordable housing and parks.
- The community was heavily involved – Community engagement efforts touted 10 workshops and open houses, 17 targeted engagement sessions, 17 focus groups, 24 steering committee meetings, and 59 events through RNOs, BIDs and office hours. The steering committee heard from 2,625+ participants and received 8,160+ survey responses.
Successful implementation the East Area Plan will rely on the passions and efforts from community members, public/private partnerships and the City of Denver. We’re excited to see thoughtful planning that is informed by equity, public transportation and community input because we know how important placekeeping and community-building are to creating a vibrant city that is for everyone.