Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Neighborhood group softens opposition to high-rise development

Having lost a key battle to defeat plans for a high-rise apartment at the University of Denver light-rail station, a neighborhood group has vowed to continue, but soften, its opposition even as plans for the project move ahead.

Board members of the West University Community Association (WUCA), which represents homeowners in the vicinity of the station, now say they favor tactics of negotiation and delay over protest and intransigence. The change in approach is in response to Denver City Council’s decision April 30 to loosen the zoning of the light-rail station property despite of neighborhood opposition.

WUCA members had hoped that the council would reject the rezoning, which would have stopped the high-rise project in its tracks. Instead, city council approved the request on a 9-1 vote, clearing the way for Mile High Development to seek the remaining key elements it needs before construction can begin.

Among these key elements is “land vacation,” a process by which the city would give up a small piece of land it owns at the light-rail station, effectively transferring the land to RTD, which owns the rest of the property. Without the vacation, the project cannot proceed further.

Knowing that, WUCA board members on May 9 formally asked District 7 City Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie to use her influence to delay the vacation process for the remainder of her term, which ends July 16 when the winner of the June 5 runoff election takes over her council seat.

MacKenzie, who said she felt “morally” bound to support the project after negotiating a tough parking, height and construction agreement between the city and the developer, has not committed to the WUCA request. Rather, she told board members May 9 that she would consider delaying any land vacation only if it brought about good faith negotiations between WUCA and George Thorn, president of Mile High Development.

“We won’t get concessions unless it’s in exchange for your support or non-objection,” MacKenzie said.

Board members agreed to reconsider their position on the issue and attempt to reopen talks with Thorn.

A spokeswoman said Thorn had no comment but that plans for the project were continuing.

To read more about the rezoning efforts, please see the DU Today archives and the following articles:

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