Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Mid-rise at light-rail station on fast track to approval

That triangle of green space near the platform at the University of Denver light-rail station is now officially up for sale.

Directors of the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which owns the station, agreed late Aug. 19 to pursue talks with a developer seeking the land for a six or seven-story apartment complex next to the station.

The decision keeps alive a proposal that has inflamed neighbors and fanned opposition for nearly two years.

Tuesday night, neighbors raised the white flag.

“I’m one of hundreds of residents who consistently opposed the rezoning, site vacation and now the sale of the property,” resident Barb Steinmeyer told the RTD board. “My neighbors and I realize that the [sale] was a done deal from the very beginning. I drew the short straw and came here tonight to surrender.”

RTD directors had no response. But late in the evening they met behind closed doors to debate the issue, emerging to say they are willing to offer the 25,000-square-foot property to developer George Thorn of Mile High Development. The measure passed 14-0.

No other developer is involved, and the asking price for the property is $500,000. Further, the RTD offer carries stipulations, explained RTD General Manager Cal Marsella.

Because the land is presently used as a detention pond for storm-water runoff, it could only be sold if that function were retained, Marsella said. Thorn has stated in the past that his building would use vaults to allow drainage to continue.

A second stipulation is that the entrance to Thorn’s building meshes with existing roads to create a “kiss-n-ride” for transit users. Presently, the station is set up to accommodate commuters using the parking garage, not picking up or dropping off light-rail or bus passengers.

Denver City Councilman Chris Nevitt has called the design “a disaster” and has urged RTD to fix the problem. The agency contends it can’t afford to.

Earlier this year, Thorn volunteered to integrate the kiss-n-ride feature into his project as an incentive for RTD to sell the land. RTD found the offer attractive, Marsella said Tuesday.

“We had preliminary sketches done to make sure it’s feasible,” said Lynn Crist, executive vice president of Mile High Development.

Crist said all the RTD stipulations were acceptable to Mile High, and said she expects the sale to go through.

“It’s been a long process but we’re excited; pleased and excited,” she said. “It’s worth it.”

Marcella also sees plenty of upside.

“This is textbook [transit-oriented development],” he said. “It’ll benefit the University, and the city has supported it. This embodies the goals of the transit program.”

Read about the proposed light rail high-rise downsizing to a mid-rise.
Read about the light-rail drop off, which critics say needs improvement.

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