Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Planners back light-rail apartments; decision delayed

Blowing December snow put on ice a plan to rezone land near the University of Denver light-rail station for an 11-story high-rise, but the delay did little to ease the chill between the developer and neighborhood groups.

One of the two organizations fighting the proposal, the West University Community Association, voted to strengthen its opposition just days before city planners issued a report endorsing it. The Denver Planning Board was to rule on the measure Dec. 20, but delayed action.

The dispute is over a bid to rezone a speck of land just west of the light-rail platform to allow a 210-unit rental apartment complex with retail shops on the ground floor. The change in zoning would significantly cut parking requirements for the builder, Mile High Development Inc. and allow parking to be satisfied by adding a fifth level to the RTD garage at University station.

Residents say the extra level would be insufficient, forcing cars to park in the neighborhoods. They also say the land would be better used for light-rail riders than residents and are seeking a year-long moratorium to measure usage of the station.

“I don’t want to see our options go away,” West University board member Rick Schutz said last month in supporting a move to underscore their opposition by contacting RTD board members.

RTD would negotiate details of any project should the rezoning be approved. The other group on record as opposing the rezoning is University Neighbors.

The developer contends that the apartment project would provide a pedestrian-friendly mix of residences and retail shops and be close enough to light-rail to lessen the need for cars.

City planners agree.

“Transportation choices and walkable places in the area of the University of Denver … support a customer base for the University and build a customer base for the transit system,” planners wrote in recommending approval. The project squares with the city’s master plan and “Blueprint Denver’s vision of creating diverse, compact, development appropriately located at transit stations,” senior planner Caryn Wenzara wrote in her report to the planning board.

Should the rezoning application be approved, the issue would advance to the city council. Details on the project are still in development, said Lyn Crist, executive vice president of Mile High Development, and talks aimed at easing residents’ fears are in early stages.

This article was originally written for The Source, January 2007.

Editor’s note: City officials have postponed the public hearing on a plan to rezone property at the University of Denver light-rail station, which had been set for Jan. 3. No new hearing date has yet been set.

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