Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Light-rail station planning panel in the home stretch

Residents and planners struggling to craft a long-term plan for the Evans Avenue and South Broadway area are finally starting to see their vision come into focus.

The general public may get to look at it within a few weeks.

The vision, termed by city planners the Preferred Alternative Plan Draft, has been distilled from legions of suggestions and ideas offered at public meetings and honed by volunteer representatives from the neighborhoods near the Evans light-rail station. They’ve been at it since late January.

“This last stretch can produce a plan we all can be proud of,” says City Councilman Chris Nevitt, who has participated in the series of focus group and citizen meetings set up to produce a station plan.

“We want a preferred concept that we can feel confident in and comfortable with,” says Barbara Frommell, a senior city planner with Denver Community Planning and Development, which is spearheading the effort.

A focus group meeting Sept. 30 revealed just how far the vision quest has come — but also how far it has to go.

At present, the plan provides for a bold new mix of Main Street style development along the Broadway corridor from Colorado Avenue south to Harvard; a live/work industrial “flex” area along Delaware Street from the light-rail station south to Harvard; bicycle bridges across Sante Fe Drive at Jewell and Iliff avenues; improvements to the Evans Avenue bridge, including elevator access to the RTD station below it; pedestrian improvements at the intersections of Broadway and Iliff, Evans and Jewell avenues; and two- to six-story residential areas, mostly north of Evans Avenue.

The concepts build upon provisions in the Blueprint Denver master plan, but also incorporate residents’ wishes, Frommell says. Most of the changes affect neighborhoods east of Sante Fe Drive, most notably Overland, Rosedale and Platt Park.

Whether the Evans-Broadway area actually unfolds as the evolving plan provides is dependent on public funds, the real estate market, available financing and development incentives, she adds.

At least one focus group member called for residential development taller than the recommended six stories near the light-rail station.

“We need to create density,” said Dominique Cook. “A plan that draws people in, where they can bike, jump on the light rail, go have coffee and go to their condo. We need seven stories.”

Other focus group members expressed concern that the development north of Evans not end up creating a trough of residences between Sante Fe Drive and tall, mixed-use developments at the major intersections along Broadway.

The plan’s proposed changes would rely on Main Street zoning, a 2005 concept that calls for higher density, pedestrian friendly housing, office and commercial development along “transit-rich commercial corridors.”

In the end, though, the group’s uncertainty centered not on where to put future development, but how to protect adjacent areas presently composed of single-family bungalows, duplexes, row homes and small apartments.

“Tell us what neighborhood character is?” senior planner Caryn Wenzara challenged the group, which agreed to fan out through the neighborhoods and try to define it. Results of the effort will be tallied at the next meeting on Oct. 16.

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