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Elitch Gardens Owners Will Seek Rezoning, Unveil Long-Term Plan for Site

But the Park Isn't Going Anywhere - Yet
March 5, 2018
An aerial view of the Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park on the northwestern end of downtown Denver. The area highlighted in red indicates where a new parking structure will be constructed following a re-zoning effort by the park’s co-owner and developer as the first phase in a 25-year development effort to create a new neighborhood in Denver.

Preliminary details about the redevelopment of Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park emerged today after more than a year of speculation about the future of the property, which is one of the few large plots of infill land left in Downtown Denver.

Elitch Gardens co-owner and developer Revesco Properties shared early ideas for the future of the site with CoStar News Monday. The site is adjacent to light rail, making it a prime candidate for sought-after transit-oriented development.

The ultimate vision for the 62-acre site has been named "The River Mile," and will create a new downtown neighborhood in Denver, said Rhys Duggan, president, CEO and managing partner of Revesco. Full build-out of such a development will come in phases over the next 25 years, Duggan said.

And, Duggan emphasized, Elitch Gardens is not moving anywhere for the foreseeable future. The park will be relocated eventually, but for the time being, roller coaster fans should expect to make the same trek down Speer Boulevard that they have since the park moved downtown from northwest Denver in 1995.

Duggan and his team plan to seek re-zoning for the property from the Denver City Council similar to that in other parts of downtown, allowing taller, denser buildings to be constructed on the site. Right now, zoning at Elitch Gardens allows for structures that are about 200 feet tall.

This re-zoning will coincide with the completion of a year-long process to establish new planning guidelines for the area surrounding Elitch Gardens, Duggan said. Planners are finalizing an amendment to the Downtown Area Plan that will outline clearer guidelines for the Central Platte Valley and Auraria neighborhoods.

Changes sought by the development team overlap with many things outlined in the amendment, Duggan said. In addition to allowing taller buildings and providing better interaction with the light rail, Duggan wants to open frontage to the South Platte River, which runs through Elitch Gardens.

Conceptual land use maps published by the Denver Department of Community Planning and Development in the public review draft of the Downtown Area Plan Amendment show downtown mixed-use spanning from Auraria Parkway to the northwest, across the South Platte River to I-25.

"The desired land use for the plan area is an extension of the land use in downtown Denver," the draft states. "It consists of a mix of residential, commercial, office, civic, institutional and entertainment uses."

The draft, dated Feb. 13, goes on to suggest that updating zoning regulations to "encourage an appropriate mix of uses, as well as flexibility to incentivize for a variety of uses in a concentrated area" would help the area meet these land-use goals.

The Revesco project team will meet with the planning board on April 4 and proceed with the re-zoning through the summer. A final vote from city council on the Downtown Area Plan amendment is expected at the end of April.

The first phase of development, and the only one that has any concrete details at this time, is a parking structure that will be built on existing surface parking at Elitch Gardens.

The structure itself will include about 1,400 parking spaces, with some surface parking as well, Duggan said. The goal is to maintain the 1,800 spaces currently available at the park.

Ultimately, The River Mile could include up to three riverfront parks, various pedestrian crossings, public spaces including rec centers and schools and an affordable component.

Revesco, along with Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and Second City Real Estate, purchased Elitch Gardens in 2015 from Florida-based CNL Properties. Six Flags owned the park before CNL.

Revesco Properties is a Denver-based boutique real estate firm that historically has dealt mainly in retail but has branched into other uses with the acquisition of Orchard Pointe in Greenwood Village earlier this year and the development of Billboard 17, a mixed-use project that will house Revesco’s headquarters in Denver’s Highlands neighborhood. The company owns assets in the U.S. and Canada.

Molly Armbrister, Denver Market Reporter  CoStar Group   

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