Category 1: Infill
Infill is defined as Urbanization, Brownfield, Redevelopment, and Adaptive Reuse. Projects may include urban developments within major Colorado Cities, or in rural cities or resort communities. As our cities grow and the land use needs of communities change – what projects help to rejuvenate communities and their urban core?
•Blue Dot Place
Downtown Colorado Springs has plenty of historic character, but has been lacking vitality—and residents. That is changing thanks to city leadership and projects like Blue Dot Place. As the first new multifamily rental built downtown since the Eisenhower administration, Blue Dot Place is the leading edge of new residential core. In isolation, a 33-unit apartment building wouldn’t register as noteworthy. However, Blue Dot Place precedes 500 new homes being developed downtown. The project is the vision of planner. Darsey Nicklasson, who lives near downtown with her young family. Guided by local and ULI mentors, Nicklasson conducted her own research and developed a pro forma using ULI templates. She formed a partnership with Kathy Loo to buy the land. “We were told so many times it couldn’t be done, there was no market for urban living in that neighborhood,” says Nicklasson. “We had to stick to our guns and what our guts told us.” Highly energy efficient, Blue Dot Place is 100 percent leased including a local coffee shop that has become a community gathering place.
•Crossroads Commerce Park
Not all infill projects create apartments with ground-floor retail. A city has other needs including working-class jobs and the need to remediate and repurpose polluted lands for productive uses. A legacy of heavy-metal smelting dating to 1886, this 77.5-acre site was once so contaminated that it skirted Superfund status and was proposed to be lined, capped, sealed, and forgotten. Instead, advanced remediation and creative finance has created a safe landscape for humans and an economic engine for northeast Denver with the 735,000-square-foot Crossroads Commerce Park. The adjacent Globeville neighborhood has benefitted from the influx of jobs (up to 1,000 at build out) and infrastructure improvements. The project has helped revive industrial development in Denver at a time when the city and surroundings were losing this sector of the economy and jobs. As part of the deal, one of the first tenants, the 75-year-old Empire Staple Company, relocated from Platte Street in central Denver, freeing that site for infill development while preserving industrial jobs. Innovative groundwater-treatment techniques have restored drinking-water standards.
The Wheatley is a mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development in Denver’s historic Five Points neighborhood. By using a vacant site, working closely with the community, and providing deed-restricted affordable homes, the Wheatley provides an example of neighborhood revitalization without displacement. The project combines 82 apartments (including 18 deed-restricted affordable), 14 townhomes, and ground-floor commercial within a block of light rail. Located in Denver’s only cultural historic district, the building’s design incorporates high-quality materials, massing consistent with neighborhood context, and modern touches. Palisade incorporated the site’s history into the building itself. The name Wheatley comes from the former Phyllis Wheatley YWCA that previously stood on site. The YWCA is named for an African American poet, freed slave Phillis Wheatley. Palisade is honoring this history through an art piece containing in front of the building. This project mixed a number of financing sources: traditional equity and construction loans; tax-increment financing (TIF) from Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA); a loan from the Denver Office of Economic Development; and a grant from Denver OED for the Welton Street Design/Development Challenge.
Category 2: Innovation
Innovation is defined by one or more of these characteristics; using green technology, transportation, energy, financing, public/private partnerships, land planning, community planning, or other explained innovative feature. Colorado has seen its share of innovative real estate development projects – but which project was truly innovative? This award will highlight the most innovative projects from across the state.
•DIA Hotel & Transit Center
The Westin hotel presents a swooping (if controversial) form of steel and glass, offering spectacular views of the Rockies, an aerie to observe planes, and a bird’s-eye view of the iconic tents of Jeppesen Terminal. The project was selected for its innovative fusion of a transit center, airport hotel, public art, and programmed open-air plaza.
This LEED Platinum project includes three key elements: a transit center for regional buses and RTD’s University of Colorado A Line (linking downtown to the world and vice versa); an 82,000-square-foot, open-air plaza; and a 519-room Westin hotel and conference center. The train station’s glass and steel canopy offers passengers dynamic views through the train station and hotel. The new transit connection creates a non-auto option for DIA’s 53 million travelers a year as well as for 30,000 DEN employees.
Most airports are hermetically sealed indoor environments. Here a public open-air plaza hosts outdoor activities and community events and links the hotel and transit center to Jeppesen Terminal, featuring Ned Khan’s “Field of Air,” a kinetic art installation inspired by native prairie grasses.
Financing was achieved through a creative public-private partnership to create spaces that serve the public and provide revenue for the City of Denver through leasing of the hotel spaces. Westin DEN has exceeded projections for occupancy by four percent and operating revenues by 34 percent.
INDUSTRY has become a linchpin for the next phase of Brighton Boulevard/River North as a walkable, bike-friendly, mixed-use creative district.
A former 1940s cold storage warehouse in Denver’s primary food market, INDUSTRY is now activated by more than 500 people using co-working, meeting and restaurant space daily. Shared amenities including an event space/stadium, conference rooms, training rooms, kitchens, beverages, ping-pong, and a yoga studio. Unlike other co-working spaces, INDUSTRY offers separate spaces within a connected space for companies with customized tenant finishes. The next phase of INDUSTRY includes 268 apartments being developed by Lynd and 50+ townhomes.
Given its South Platte location, INDUSTRY provides a model for preservation of environmental and water resources. In partnership with Denver’s Urban Drainage and Flood Control, INDUSTRY serves as a test site for a new water quality retention system, providing a longitudinal study site for comparing different methods of Ultra Urban Best Management Practice in water quality.
•Emily Griffith Campus
In 2012, Denver Public Schools bought this vacant 13-story 1960s office tower to create a vertically mixed-use building unique in the U.S. Thus, the sight and sounds of elementary school kids walking to class or romping on a playground are now common in downtown Denver.
Opening in phases since 2013, the project consolidated workspace for 1,200 DPS employees in a transit-friendly location, while also creating Denver’s first downtown elementary school in 100 years. It became home for the Emily Griffith High School and Technical College, a legacy(?) institution downtown. More than 3,000 people pass through the doors of this once-dormant site daily. The project was cited for providing new educational options for families who live and work nearby, a positive factor for revitalization of downtown and Uptown Denver. The former Emily Griffith site, at Welton and Glenarm streets next to the Convention Center, will itself become a development opportunity, bringing jobs and energy to the Cultural Core district. The project realizes 2008 recommendations from a ULI Colorado Surplus Property Analysis that suggested DPS move their headquarters and manage their real estate assets to increase the budget for educational improvements.
Category 3: Influence
A project of community influence in the for profit or non-profit world, including; Affordable Housing, Economic Development, Environmental Remediation, Historic Preservation, Healthy Communities Places of Work, Community and Facilities. Real estate development is in constant flux – a project creates impact when the result envisions all facets of community and place – and the result is a lasting impact.
•Redtail Pond Permanent Supportive Housing
Housing Catalyst overcame major obstacles and neighborhood fears to develop the $12.9 million Redtail Ponds. The development is influential as the first project and first step in Fort Collins’ 10-year plan to end homelessness. Redtail Ponds provides 60 long-term apartments and supportive services for formerly homeless people, many of whom experienced mental illness or domestic abuse. Redtail includes 40 apartments for the formerly homeless, 15 designated for veterans, plus 20 more homes for low-income households. Each apartment features a full kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room, and views. Redtail also includes a community kitchen, fitness area, computer room, large outdoor patio and a community garden. Building design provides access to natural light and mountain views with many sustainable features. For example, a 60kW rooftop solar array along with high-efficiency systems allow Housing Catalyst to assume the cost of utilities, removing the burden of those costs for the residents.
Formerly the St. Anthony’s Hospital site, SLOANS is a new 7.5 block mixed-use project totaling more than 1,150 new households, 75,000 square feet of new neighborhood-serving retail, and 60,000 square feet of office and medical space. SLOANS is Colorado’s highest LEED-rated neighborhood development and is 20 percent deed-restricted for low income, senior, disabled and workforce housing. The project is a partnership between 10 local development firms. Guided by a master plan developed with the City and community, SLOANS makes use of regional green infrastructure, open spaces, and public finance to revitalize the time-worn West Colfax area The project was cited for remediating an 18-acre former hospital site, including demolition of one million square feet of buildings; leveraging the W Line light rail three blocks away, partnerships with Denver Housing Authority and Centura Health; and bringing new neighborhood services in a walkable street grid to West Colfax.
•Mental Health Center of Denver Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being
Dahlia Campus exemplifies ULI’s principles of Building Healthy Places. The project recycles a blighted shopping center as a community asset, providing a walkable place for health care, education, active living, and urban agriculture. The first-of-its-kind campus sits on four acres, where a 46,000-square-foot building offers early childhood education and daycare, Skyline Academy, a pediatric dental clinic, mental health services, a gym, a teaching kitchen, community spaces and offices. Outdoor spaces include play areas, counseling gardens, an aquaponics greenhouse and a 40,000-square-foot urban farm with a farm stand, allowing neighborhood access to fresh, healthy produce.
Twenty years ago, the 1950s the grocery-anchored Dahlia Square shopping center was 85 percent vacant, leaving a gaping hole and a neighborhood “food desert.” Working with a community accustomed to broken promises, MHCD worked to ensure everything offered at Dahlia Campus is a direct result of community input. For example, a local soup kitchen chef noticed children were only eating soft foods because it hurt their teeth to eat solid foods. MHCD partnered with Kids In Need of Dentistry (KIND) to provide dental treatment for children up to age 18. More than an acre is dedicated to the Dahlia Campus Farm & Flowers, which includes a greenhouse with an aquaponics system to grow tilapia and catfish and a farm to grow produce and flowers. The food produced on site is sold at a farm stand donated by Taylor Kohrs. Dahlia Campus is seeking LEED Gold.
Category 4: Inspire (new for 2017!)
A public project that inspires the community, spurs additional development and linkages, and has a lasting impact on the public realm including transit projects, greenway/trail systems, parks, and other public spaces. The project must be submitted by public entity and at least partially funded by public funds. Only horizontal projects will be considered; individual buildings are omitted from this category.
•I-25/I-70/US 36 Express Lanes
With Colorado’s population growing fast, these three related projects recognize that simply adding auto lanes will not forestall gridlock—multimodal solutions are needed. For example, the US 36 Express Lanes Project reconstructed 16 miles of the 60-year-old highway with two express lanes and the 18-mile US 36 Bikeway. The project allowed RTD to introduce the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit system, the Flatiron Flyer, which has increased transit ridership and decreased congestion, weather delays, and travel times. The project was funded and built under a controversial P3 agreement that the State Auditor’s Office concluded provided the best value for taxpayers. CDOT has introduced innovative tolling transponders to collect revenues with no loss of travel time.
Critically for ULI best practices, communities along the US 36 project are producing transit-oriented land use plans around BRT stations. These will increase density, mixed-use and transit access in the corridor.
The 13-mile I-70 Mountain Express Lanes, a critical economic lifeline for Colorado’s mountain and resort communities, has decreased travel times by 30 minutes. Congestion has also decreased in the non-toll lanes. The project has had a positive land-use effect on communities like Idaho Springs, which are reclaiming formerly auto-congested areas for local residents and future mixed-use development.
•The W Line Catalyzes a Certified Creative District
Like some other IMPACT finalists, this project applies ULI best practices to transform an auto-centric, suburban community into a compact, walkable and healthy development. The results are attracting new vitality for the first time in a generation. West Colfax was once Lakewood’s “Main Street” but suffered from long decline and had seen no new residential development in 40 years. The 2013 arrival of the $700 million RTD W line provided a catalyst for change. Working with local residents and businesses, Lakewood created the Lamar Station Area plan with zoning and incentives for new residences, live-work, neighborhood-serving retail, and studios for art, dance and music. A $110,000 grant from the US EPA helped launch the 40 West Arts District, one of Colorado’s 18 certified creative districts. Meanwhile the city leveraged grants to create new streetscapes, public art, and traffic-calming measures. These measures link the station area to the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) campus, a key component of the arts district. Private and public investments have followed including: the 110-unit Lamar Station Crossing; 155-unit West Line Flats (designed using ULI’s principles for Healthy Places); the 60-unit 40 West Residences; and a $20 million renovation of the JCRS (Casa Bonita) shopping center, and SLOANS, another Impact Award finalist. New galleries, a coffee roaster and 40 West Farmers Market have followed, with a four-mile ARTLine pedestrian/bicycle project planned. Since 2010, sales tax collections and jobs created have blossomed, along with community events like MuralFest, which attracted 5,000 guests in 2016.
•Westminster Station TOD
When B Line commuter rail was planned as part of FasTracks, RTD originally proposed a park-and-ride station built around a parking lot. The City of Westminster had a grander vision to leverage this station 11 minutes from DUS transit hub as a 75-acre TOD. However, investment would not come based on market demand alone. This is one of the city’s poorest areas, with nearly 30 percent of residents at income below the poverty line. Under a visionary station area plan, the city and other public agencies have invested $250 million into what some call the most beautiful station in the FasTracks network. Components include a 40-acre regional park containing natural wetlands, a nature playground and bike connections to Adams County; a 600-space parking garage, and a terraced station plaza leading to a dramatically elevated platform. The station only opened last summer, and has already attracted a new 70-home affordable apartment building and a “residential wrap” of the parking garage to include up to five stories of residences over retail. Ridership is nearly double original projections. The project was commended for addressing principles of Building Healthy Places by promoting active transportation, a compact, walkable environment, and improved quality of affordable housing. Where residents now number in the hundreds, the station area may eventually house up to 2,600 residents, with local jobs increasing from 128 to 1,820.