As the Fox Park development continues to take shape, a critical infrastructure project has people on both sides of I-70 at 47th and 48th avenues holding their breath.
Development team Vita Fox North LLP is planning to construct either a tunnel that would run traffic through Globeville under I-70 to connect to 48th Avenue, or they could construct a multimodal bridge that would run traffic through the northeast corner of the Sunnyside neighborhood at 47th Avenue.
A feasibility study on the proposals is being put together by the development team. People who attended an April 21 meeting at the Globeville Center and who live in both neighborhoods said traffic from the projects would negatively affect their respective residential areas.
Manuel Jiménez of the Vita Fox North development team said the infrastructure projects are part of a larger effort to improve outlet roadways near the Fox Park “island” community, as it is colloquially referred to, as right now there are only a couple options to get out to the larger thoroughfares.
“One important part of that study is the community’s feedback,” Jiménez said. “The city … will decide which of those connections are feasible, and if both of them are not considered feasible, then we would look at another connection.”
That other connection could be a bridge at 38th Avenue and Huron Street. Jiménez acknowledged constructing a tunnel would be much more expensive than building a bridge, but it all depends on the studies.
Jiménez said as part of the development agreement with the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, the project must have an environmental cleanup plan approved in order to start “horizontal” construction.
The developers have already been in the process of a feasibility study for the two options, which were presented at two meetings in May after The G.E.S. Gazette print deadline for this month.
However, Jimenez said the feasibility study will be delivered to the city for review on June 1. The Gazette will follow up in the June edition with more information on the connector project proposals.
“In terms of the next steps of the study and the studies leading up to that, the city’s goals have always been about connectivity,” said Stephen Wilson of Denver’s Community Planning and Development department, who attended the meeting. Wilson said he is also a resident of the Sunnyside neighborhood.
“We’re certainly interested in bicycle and pedestrian connectivity, but also connectivity for automobiles because we have loads of them in the city, but for the site and for this portion of Globeville the automobile mobility is very limited,” he said.
Vita Fox North is also planning to make improvements to the infrastructure south of the connector project to extend Fox Street and build a 44th Avenue connector bridge, which Jiménez said has already been deemed feasible.
The Fox Park development is a 41-acre infill project located in western Globeville at the site of the old Denver Post facility on Fox Street in the area colloquially known as Fox Island.
As the Gazette previously reported, over the course of the next decade, it is planned to be transformed into a mixed-use urban hub with an estimated 3,300 units for up to 6,000 people to call home in addition to 34,000 square feet of retail, 80,000 square feet of culture and entertainment facilities, 14 acres of interconnected parks and open space, and other amenities.
The development area is also planned to host the World Trade Center’s headquarters after it announced last year that the project would move there.
Trupti Suthar, president of the Sunnyside United Neighbors Inc. neighborhood association, said because the 41st and Fox RTD station is near the connector projects, these projects for automobiles would do the opposite of the city’s efforts to increase more public transit use.
“To me that makes no sense,” Suthar said. “If you want less cars and more use of light rail, let’s figure something else out. Why not a bridge that is pedestrian and bike and then only for public transit … and trucks only come in overnight if they need to. We do stuff like that where we’re really alleviating the bypass and the traffic.”
Carla Padilla, a longtime Globeville resident and the associate director of the arts nonprofit Birdseed Collective, said the Globeville side of the proposed project is already taking on more traffic than it can handle, and the island to the east needs a better traffic outlet.
“Right now we are taking the brunt of this whole development of National Western Center, and we feel it’s a win-win situation to create at least some sort of outlet going across,” Padilla said. “We have to deal with traffic. We understand Pecos is busy, but really that’s the only thing we have. It’s almost a dangerous situation, so if we can build a little bit of traffic on (the Sunnyside neighborhood), we feel it’s helpful.”
Padilla said despite the looming infrastructure plans, she supports the Fox Park development, but she said she doesn’t want it to hamper the people who already live nearby.
“We love this development; it’s going to be great,” she said. “But we need that other side connection. We understand … growth spurts and stuff like that, but you can’t just expect us to have to take everybody coming out this way.”
Vita Fox North paid $56.5 million for the property in 2019, according to Denver public records. As part of the residential developments, Vita has committed to keeping 7% of its units income restricted, with 25% of those units kept for households making 60% of the area median income and 75% set aside for people making 80% or less of median income