Cultivating Health in North Denver

by Jill Locantore on August 27, 2015

New report makes recommendations for improving neighborhood walkability

Zuni Park Source Jeffrey Beall FlickrView of downtown Denver from Zuni Park. Image: Jeffrey Beall on Flickr.

For almost a century, the area immediately east of Regis University in north Denver was home to the Sisters of St. Francis. As the resident population of the Marycrest Convent dwindled from several dozen to just seven, the nuns began exploring options for redeveloping the site in a manner that embodied their ideals of community improvement and environmental stewardship. This vision ultimately lead to the “Cultivate Health” partnership among Regis University, private real estate developers Urban Ventures and Perry Rose, the Chaffee Park neighborhood, and several non-profit organizations including WalkDenver.  The goal of the effort is to support the the health and wellness of residents living in the multi-generational, mixed-income community. Project partners are working to create infrastructure and programming that promote an active lifestyle, increase access to healthy food, and offer integrated health care services.

As part Cultivate Health, WalkDenver worked with Professor Amy Hammerich’s Exercise Prescription class at Regis University during the Spring of 2015 to conduct a walk audit of the neighborhood. The students were trained to use the online tool WALKscope to collect data on sidewalks, intersections, and pedestrian counts. WalkDenver also gathered input from residents on the walkability of the neighborhood through a series of community meetings.   Major findings from this assessment include the following:

  • Residents face many barriers that discourage them from walking in the neighborhood, such as dangerous intersections on Federal Boulevard, narrow or missing sidewalks, and a lack of safe connections across I-70 to the south and to the Clear Creek Trail and future commuter rail stations to the north.
  • The preponderance of narrow sidewalks is especially problematic in the eastern portion of the study area around Beach Court Elementary, Zuni Park, and the area south of Aria Denver.
  • Most streets in the northern portion of the study area within Adams County have no sidewalks at all.
  • Older sidewalks in the southwest portion of the study area are cracked and uneven, presenting accessibility challenges.
  • The study area as a whole suffers from a lack of lighting.
  • A lack of marked crosswalks, high traffic speeds and volumes, and poor driver behaviors at intersections along Federal Boulevard, Pecos Street, 50th Avenue/Regis Boulevard, and several other east-west connectors in the study area contribute to feelings of unsafety for pedestrians.

WALKscope Overall Quality Rating
WALKscope data illustrating the overall quality of the pedestrian environment in the study area.  

WalkDenver’s final report includes recommendations on the route for a “Wellness Walk” that connects top destinations in the neighborhood with wayfinding signs and pavement markings, as well as short- and long-term strategies for improving pedestrian conditions along this route.
Zuni Street at 50th Avenue Google Street View
Recommendations include widening sidewalks to at least five feet along the Wellness Walk.  Many parts of the neighborhood currently only have “rollover curbs” that are less than 3 feet wide, or no sidewalks at all.

Download the full report here [PDF].

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