By Eric Heinz
Two plans covering several neighborhoods in North Denver are making their way through the city’s planning process, addressing long-term projects affecting transportation, business, and land use issues.
The first, the Near Northwest Area Plan, recently wrapped up surveys focused on those topics. A draft of the plan that will look at the neighborhoods over the next 20 years is expected to be released sometime in early 2023.
The second, the West Area Plan, has already received feedback from residents regarding various topics and a draft of the plan is now available on the city’s website.
“It’s really a planning process, an opportunity to really just step back and think big-picture about your neighborhood and where you want the neighborhood to be in 40 years,” Sung Han, the city’s senior project manager overseeing the Near Northwest Area Plan, said at one of the recent in-person meetings.
“Sometimes we get caught up in the details of a pothole or maybe a broken sidewalk, but this is really an opportunity to step back and think of the bigger picture.”
Both plans look at improvements to transportation and what’s called “missing middle” housing for residents who earn too much for income-restricted housing but not enough to clear Denver’s increasing rent or mortgages, as well as business district improvements and increasing park space, but each has unique characteristics to their respective neighborhoods.
The planning process takes about 18 to 24 months from the start to sending it to the city council for adoption, according to the city’s Community Planning and Development (CPD) department.
Han said these plans inform how the neighborhoods evolve in the future and help residents define that vision. The plans do not offer changes to regulations, establish budget adoption recommendations, nor provide design or engineering of infrastructure projects. Information about each of the plans and the next scheduled developments of them can be found at the CPD website under the “City Planning” link.
Near Northwest Area Plan
The Near Northwest Area Plan has already completed the first two phases of the process, which were to study the neighborhoods and then define the issues that are most important to residents. According to the city, planning for the Near Northwest neighborhoods of Jefferson Park, Highland, Sunnyside, and Chaffee Park began in early summer 2021.
Since then the city has solicited feedback from residents in various surveys as well as virtual and in-person meetings. Han said the takeaways from the first phase of the plan were, like the West Area, to preserve and celebrate the culture of the area, and to provide more active commercial uses where they don’t exist much, such as in Chaffee Park.
The second phase addressed what residents said are needs for better access to health and social programs and services, such as job training, education, and affordable child care.
West Area Plan
The West Area Plan includes Barnum, Barnum West, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, and West Colfax. Between the two, the West is the farthest along in its planning process, as people are now able to comment on the draft plan.
In the draft, it showed West Colfax and Sun Valley as having the highest needs for a neighborhood plan.
One of the most discussed topics was improving quality of life, such as prioritizing environmental justice, improving water and air quality, increasing traffic safety, and others. Sun Valley hosts a major portion of Denver’s cheapest income-restricted housing.
The draft was originally released in the spring, but there were significant changes to it, and a new version was released this fall.
“In a first for neighborhood plans in Denver, the draft also acknowledges the historic inequities the area has faced as well as their roots in past public policy decisions,” CPD stated in an email. “It provides strategies to address these challenges, which residents and stakeholders identified through the planning process.”
Specific to West Colfax, the plan looks to prioritize working with the existing business improvement districts and art venues to provide public art and more inviting areas. This includes requiring “high-quality building and site design” along West Colfax Avenue to preserve and create community gathering places, according to the draft.
The West Area Plan draft comments were due Dec. 16, and it will be forwarded to the city council once those comments are assessed.
More information can be found at denvergov.org and searching for each plan name.