Walking: A Western Tradition

by Jill Locantore on January 15, 2015

National Western Center Draft Plan emphasizes walking and biking

Submit your comments to the City by Jan 20!

NWC Festival Street Credit NWC Master Plan

Proposed 47th Avenue Festival Street and Elyria Plaza at the front door to the new Trade Show/Exhibition Hall. Source: National Western Center Draft Master Plan.

The neighborhoods surrounding the National Western Center Complex (NWCC) were some of Denver’s earliest pedestrian-oriented developments. In the 1870’s, Slavic immigrants began settling in the communities of Elyria and Swansea to the east of the NWCC site so they could walk to jobs located along the railway. Similarly, in the 1890’s Polish immigrants were drawn to the area west of the NWCC, now known as Globeville, to work at the nearby Holden Smelter. Now a new Master Plan for the NWCC envisions a return to a more walkable community that reconnects Elyria, Swansea and Globeville with new multi-modal connections. The City is accepting comments on the draft plan through January 20.

In addition to advancing the City’s intent to maintain the NWCC as the home of the National Western Stock Show – the “super bowl” of stock shows – the plan also puts forth several “big ideas,” such as improving access to and health of the South Platte River, creating flexible space for year-round programming that drives new tourism, and providing new connections across the river and railroad tracks and under I-70. The plan calls for “a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian network that provides many new opportunities for connections between the neighborhoods [and] regional trail connections  . . . All new streets will include bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and new bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be added to the existing street network adjacent to the project.”

Some of the interesting pedestrian elements described in the plan include the following:

  • A new elevated walkway will connect the Globeville neighborhood from National Western Drive to the planned commuter rail station at 49th Avenue and Brighton Boulevard (the first stop from Union Station along the North Metro Line). The walkway will span the Stockyards and railroad tracks and provide views into the NWCC site and of the mountains, with “vertical circulation points” at regular intervals that provide access to the site below. Varying in width from 15 to 20 feet wide, the walkway will also include bicycle ramps at each end. The walkway will be open year-round to the public.
  • A new “Main Street” connecting between Washington Street and Brighton Boulevard will provide access to almost all of the major venues at the NWCC. Named after one the neighborhood’s greatest activists, Bettie Cram Drive will be a two-lane street with continuous bicycle and pedestrian facilities end to end, and provide a new “gateway” across the river from the west. Proposed cross sections from the master plan are shown below.
NWC Bettie Cram Drive Cross Section Credit NWC Master Plan
  • A new “festival street” along 47th Avenue between Bettie Cram Drive and Brighton Boulevard with wide walks and amenity zones will provide space for markets, festivals, and special events (see image at the top of the page).
  • The plan also identifies ten major public spaces totaling almost 46 acres, or 26% of the site. These interconnected spaces provide the opportunity to make the site more green, healthy, and people-oriented.
The National Western Center Master Plan provides important context for the redesign of Brighton Boulevard, which we covered in our previous newsletter. Visit the City’s website to learn more about the plan for the National Western Center, view a video about the project, and provide your feedback.

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