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Elitch Gardens Redevelopment Rides Closer to Reality in Denver

City Council Decision Sets Stage for Needed Re-zoning; Conceptual Plans Call for 4.6 Million SF of Office, 1.2 Million SF of Hotel and Conference Space, 8,000 Units and +500,000 SF of Retail
June 12, 2018
Courtesy: Revesco Properties.

The proposed redevelopment of the 62-acre site where downtown Denver’s Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park sits took a step forward at a Denver City Council meeting Monday night with the approval of a piece of the downtown area plan that will guide the direction of development for the Central Platte Valley and Auraria neighborhoods.

Council members unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s existing plans that updates guidelines for development in one of the few parts of downtown Denver that remains mostly unchanged since the recession’s end, at least when compared to its neighbors to the east such as the Union Station area and Riverfront Park.

The amendment was developed by city staff with input from the community gathered at several public input meetings over the course of a year. It provides a general outline and values for the area between Interstate 25, Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard, which includes more than just the Elitch Gardens site, although that is the site currently being targeted for the most dramatic changes.

While they gave unanimous approval, council members also rose questions, most of which are more specific development concerns than those addressed in the plan amendment.

Councilwoman Debbie Ortega questioned the proximity of residential development to freight train lines, which run through parts of the site, emphasizing that there would need to be a buffer between the lines and residents. She also raised questions about flooding, as the South Platte also runs through the area.

Councilman Kevin Flynn asked about the preservation of historic buildings on the Auraria campus, and Councilwoman Robin Kniech asked how the plan would incorporate affordable housing.

Answers to all of these questions and more are still in the works, said Rhys Duggan of Revesco Properties, which along with real estate magnate Stan Kroenke owns Elitch Gardens and is working on redevelopment plans for the site.

Duggan and his team in March unveiled preliminary plans for the area following more than a year of rumors about what would become of the amusement park that has been in downtown Denver since 1995. There are no plans to relocate the park right now, Duggan has said repeatedly, but somewhere in the course of the 25-year development plan, Denverites should expect the park to move.

In its place, called River Mile, Revesco envisions what could ultimately dramatically increase the capacity of downtown Denver.

A conceptual master plan shows skyscrapers between 40 and 59 stories tall, 4.6 million square feet of office space, 1.2 million square feet of hotel and conference space, nearly 8,000 residential units and more than half a million square feet of retail.

The conceptual River Mile plan is a preliminary document rather than a guarantee of what will happen, but the plan amendment approved Monday recommends "an extension of the land use in downtown Denver," including a wide mix of property types.

But that recommendation is not the same as a re-zoning, which is what the Revesco team must now pursue through the summer. Any re-zoning must also be approved by city council.

Molly Armbrister, Denver Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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