Eclectic Golden Triangle undergoing a rezone

Group concerned towers would obstruct view from Cheesman Park

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The Denver Art Museum, Colorado State Capitol and Civic Center Park.

These iconic landmarks along with the unique restaurants, cafés and retail shops; schools; residential buildings; and interesting museums and art galleries all make up Denver’s Golden Triangle.

There’s a bank, a gas station and many other amenities, said Anne Lindsey who has lived in the Golden Triangle since 2001.

“You name it, we’ve got it,” she said. Lindsey added there is a dynamic mix of big and small buildings intermingled with some old-and-historic buildings and some that are new and modern. “It’s truly an eclectic area.”

The Golden Triangle is about 45 city blocks outlined by Colfax Avenue on the north, Broadway/Lincoln Street on the east and Speer Boulevard that runs diagonally on the west.

Still in early phases of the process, a rezone is planned for the entire Golden Triangle.

Though the Golden Triangle possesses urban architectural diversity, the most recent development — within the past 15-to-20 years or so — has largely been residential, said Kristofer Johnson, a principal city planner with Denver Community Planning and Development. The city is trying to “move away from the one-size-fits-all” zoning that currently exists in the Golden Triangle, he said.

“We want to make sure developments are contributing to the neighborhood in a meaningful way,” he said. “Particularly with larger projects.”

The Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan was adopted in 2014, but the existing zoning was adopted in 1994. It has a focus on residential, and what Johnson described above as one-size-fits-all, meaning all development projects adhere to the same requirements and limitations, no matter the size of the lot, for example, he said.

Residents have voiced concerns that the mass, scale and design quality of the recent developments don’t contribute to the activity of the neighborhood, Johnson said.

A rezone will provide for a variety of development, such as for office and retail, as well as residential, Johnson said, which encourages “complete neighborhood” development — a place where “you can live, play and work,” he said.

One proposed change the city is considering is allowing point towers — a building design that is tall and slender as opposed to short and boxy.

“The city has looked at this quite extensively,” Johnson said.

He added that point towers are valuable because they typically allow for more sunlight and air to pass through the cityscape, particularly at the pedestrian level.

“The whole idea of a point tower is to try to make sure there is some view, light and air for everyone,” Lindsey said, who holds a degree in architecture and serves on the city’s volunteer Golden Triangle Advisory Committee.

Allowing point powers is a relatively new discussion in the proposed rezone, but it is the one that causes concern for the nearby Neighbors for Greater Capitol Hill, which is a Registered Neighborhood Organization, said Brad Cameron, the RNO’s president.

The RNO is concerned that construction of a point tower would threaten the view plane of the mountains from Cheesman Park, Cameron said.

“We believe there can be reasonable development projects in the Golden Triangle,” he said, “but they don’t need to detract from mountain views.”

One of the city’s adopted view plane ordinances, which are in place to protect views of the Rocky Mountains, is the Cheesman Park-Denver Botanic Gardens View Plane, Cameron said. It protects the views from roughly the Denver Botanic Gardens and west to the Cheesman Park Pavilion.

However, the ordinance ends at Broadway and potential construction of a 300-foot tall point tower on the southern end of the Golden Triangle could potentially obstruct the iconic views from Cheesman Park, specifically those of Mount Evans and the adjacent foothills, Cameron said.

“One of the things that makes Denver special is our view of the mountains,” he said. “It’s a source of great civic pride. We treasure it and we want to preserve it.”

He added that the current zoning in the Golden Triangle allows for a building height of about 200 feet which is “well below the limit that would exist if the Cheesman Park-Botanic Gardens mountain view ordinance extended past Broadway to Speer Boulevard.”

On April 11, the RNO’s board of directors unanimously approved a resolution to oppose zoning that permits point towers in the Golden Triangle, and to support expansion of the Cheesman Park-Denver Botanic Gardens View Plane.

Another RNO, Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, also engaged with city planners on the issue. CHUN’s president Travis Leiker provided the following statement:

“CHUN feels it is very important to be mindful of the perspectives and opinions shared within the neighborhood of particular concern — the Golden Triangle in this case — particularly after city planners and neighbors conducted a robust engagement and feedback process. Moreover, gathering all facts from the appropriate parties is especially important in our shared effort to avoid misunderstandings and to fully gather the particulars of an issue. Certainly, this is the type of strategy CHUN adopts regularly ... Denver’s dynamic quality of life and access to stunning parks and open spaces are essential to the city’s future. We can balance smart development with preserving access to unparalleled views.”

The process to update the zoning began in March 2019, Johnson said, but added that it is still in preliminary phases. It is estimated that a draft of the proposed changes will be ready this summer, which will allow time for public review prior to the adoption process this fall. The adoption process is when the proposed rezone will be in front of Denver’s planning board and then city council for vote on adoption. A public hearing will be entertained by both governmental bodies.

“Rezonings are about modernizing the rules and guidelines — and making sure we are all in agreement with what the area should look like,” Lindsey said. “It’s to get a better design, at the end of the day.”

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