First-generation TODs offer lessons for today’s transit-oriented projects
Cities admit to mistakes, hoping others will not make them
Riders get off the B Line train at Westminster Station on November 9, 2016. The city is investing big bucks in the area, and Adams County Housing Authority is already moving forward on a mixed-use affordable housing project at 71st and Federal.
Not all transit-oriented development is created equal, and Denver’s first-generation attempts have some valuable lessons for today’s projects, private developers and public officials said.
Among them is the importance of planning for open space — something Lone Tree failed to do as new office buildings and housing were going up around Lincoln Station, deputy city manager Steve Hebert said.
“There’s one little 20-by-30-foot bluegrass area next to one of the apartments and it’s full of dog poop,” Hebert said. “That’s it — that’s the only open space. We could have done a better job planning for open space.”
Officials and developers working in Lone Tree, Greenwood Village, Englewood and Denver talked about the challenges in early transit-oriented development and what they could have done differently during a panel session last week at the Urban Land Institute Colorado’s TOD Marketplace conference.
Denver’s first rail line, the central corridor from 30th Avenue and Downing Street to Interstate 25 and Broadway, opened in 1994 — 10 years before the FasTracks vote — and was extended to Englewood and Littleton in 2000. Routes to Denver Tech Center and Aurora opened in 2006.
John Leyba, The Denver Post
Urban Land Institute Colorado leads a tour of Westminster Station on November 9, 2016. Officials hope the B Line’s only new station becomes the heart of a vibrant, mixed-use transit-oriented district.
At Englewood Station, the old Cinderella City mall was transformed into an 800,000-square-foot mixed-use, transit-oriented development with retail, office, residential and cultural uses in 2000.
But since then, smaller retailers have struggled to get both pedestrian and vehicle traffic and city officials are exploring moving Englewood Civic Center out of what is a prime location within the station area, community development director Brad Power said.
“We have to constantly look at that next generation. What are we getting in terms of efficiency out of our land use? Where are the opportunities that we can re-redevelop some of these areas?” Power said. “They are living districts. You don’t just plop them down and go to sleep for a generation.”
The vision for Arapahoe at Village Center Station has also evolved, Greenwood Village community development director Heather Vidlock said. City officials intended to do mixed-use, but what developed was high-density office.
“It seems to work in terms of the density of office,” Vidlock said. “It will be interesting to see over time if there is an opportunity for residential to fill in. Without the residential, we really don’t have the retail.”
Developing urban density in a suburban market can create challenges, especially when it comes to parking, said Randy Schwartz, partner at Westfield, which developed office and retail at Lincoln Station with 100 percent structured parking.
“We still have a lot of education to do with the tenants themselves,” Schwartz said. “We’re having a very difficult time getting these tenants, especially the national tenants, to give us credit for being 80 feet from their door with a rail station. They still want their four (stalls) per 1,000 (square feet of office). To do the types of TOD development that we’ve all envisioned, that doesn’t work into the mix very well.”
Affordable housing was also left out of many early TOD projects, Hebert said. Lincoln Station has about 2,300 units within a half-mile radius, and they are all market rate.
“We don’t have affordable housing,” he said. “Rents for the apartments are in the $1,300 to $1,900 range for just one-bedroom units, and there’s only one owner-occupied condo project.”
And while redevelopment around the 10th & Osage Station has been led by affordable housing, Denver Housing Authority executive director Ismael Guerrero said he wishes they had started the planning process earlier to allow for potential districtwide solutions for things like stormwater management and energy.
“At a certain point we had to go vertical because of funding and timing,” Guerrero said. “We missed an opportunity because we hadn’t been working with our partner agencies three to five years earlier in terms of visioning what was possible there.”
John Leyba, The Denver PostRiders get off the B Line train at Westminster Station on November 9, 2016. The city is investing big bucks in the area, and Adams County Housing Authority is already moving forward on a mixed-use affordable housing project at 71st and Federal.