Dreaming Big in the Golden Triangle

by Jill Locantore on January 22, 2015

New neighborhood plan sets its sites on creating people oriented places

GT Plan Speer & Triangle Short Term Rendering 1

Proposed short term improvement to the “Speer Triangle” at 14th Ave from the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan.

A lot of people walk and bike in the Golden Triangle, which is not surprising given the Denver neighborhood’s close proximity to the Central Business District, connection to the Cherry Creek Greenway, high level of transit service, and historic neighborhood street grid. Still, getting around the area – a burgeoning arts, cultural, and creative district – is no picnic on your own two feet or two wheels. The auto-oriented arterials of Speer Boulevard, Lincoln/Broadway, and Colfax Avenue completely hem the neighborhood in and create major barriers for bikes and pedestrians.  In some places the hapless human must navigate nine full lanes of vehicular traffic just to get across the street. Within the neighborhood, multiple surface parking lots form “missing teeth” in the urban fabric and degrade the quality of the pedestrian environment, and there is a general lack of pedestrian amenities such as lighting, street furniture, wide sidewalks, wayfinding, or attractive transit stop treatments.

A new neighborhood plan for the Golden Triangle, which the Denver City Council adopted in November of last year, tackles these issues head on.  The plan envisions an eclectic, connected, creative, and livable neighborhood, and identifies short- and long-term strategies for achieving this vision, as well as “transformative projects” that embody bold ideas and will have a great impact on the neighborhood in coming years.  Our friends over at the Denver Urbanism blog recently reported on one these transformative projects: converting Broadway into a true multi-modal corridor with a protected bike lane all the way from Colfax to Speer.

Broadway-Photo-2

Proposed redesign of Broadway from the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan.

Two additional transformative projects are particularly interesting from the pedestrian perspective: an Arts and Cultural Trail, and a Neighborhood Greenway on Acoma. The Arts and Cultural Trail would not only connect pedestrians and bicyclists to venues within and outside the Golden Triangle, but allow the art to “spill out” and infuse the the surrounding spaces. Going beyond just signage and marked routes along a street, the plan calls for “a world-class and iconic pathway” that includes public art and sculpture, pavement markings, integrated landscaping, cutting-edge stormwater design, and enhanced bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

GT Plan Bannock Arts & Cultural Trail Rendering

Rendering of Bannock Street as part of an Arts and Cultural Trail, from the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan.

Stretching along Acoma Street from 9th Ave to 12th Ave, the Neighborhood Greenway would be a specially-designed, “slow” street that prioritizes active transportation enhancements such as bulb-outs and improved intersections, and creates a safe, pleasant, and easy place to walk. According the plan, “this one-of-a-kind street will provide space for quiet reflection and neighborly contact, welcome a wide range of users, support special uses such as urban gardens, and even serve as an improved habitat corridor for city wildlife.”

GT Plan Acoma Greenway Rendering 2

Acoma Street could incorporate flush-curb, slow street concepts to promote play and activity.

A few more strategies in the plan that caught our eye:

  • Update the zoning and design guidelines to promote a high quality pedestrian experience through building placement at the sidewalk edge, privately-owned public gathering spaces, ground-floor facade articulation and transparency, cohesive streetscaping, and active uses at the street level such as retail, galleries, and restaurants.
  • Enhance pedestrian travel and safety through traffic calming, repairs and improvements to the existing sidewalk network, crosswalks, bulbouts, pedestrian-scaled lighting, art, signage and wayfinding
  • Implement transit “super stops” that have unique branding, special lighting, and expanded passenger waiting areas.
  • Locate new, structured parking on the edge of the neighborhood to capture vehicles and then facilitate multiple walking trips internally.
  • Activate open spaces such as Civic Center Park and the “Speer Triangles” through low-cost, small-scale, innovative projects (“tactical urbanism”) that attract new users (see image at the top of the page).
  • Revise Public Works regulations to permit parklets in the public right-of-way and create a City Parklet Guide to inform development of these spaces.
As the plan notes, building and maintaining of all of these planned neighborhood amenities will require the identification and implementation of a public funding mechanism – a key topic that WalkDenver will be focusing on in 2015.  We’re excited that the Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan lays out a bold vision for how these public funds could be put to good use!

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