By Eric Heinz
With plans underway to develop the old car dealership lot at 4995 Washington St. in Globeville, time could be a factor in determining where the neighborhood’s new library will be located.
Community members met with Denver Public Library staff for a third time in August regarding plans for the library, which is expected to be at least 10,000 square feet and has a budget of $12 million from the 2021 RISE Denver GO Bond. The closest libraries to Globeville are the Valdez-Perry branch at 4690 N. Vine St and the Bob Ragland branch at 1900 35th St. in Five Points.
Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group has thrown its hat into the ring to develop income- restricted housing with mixed use on the ground floor through a 99-year lease at 4995 Washington St. The development firm has partnered with Denver-based Rocky Mountain Communities and the G.E.S. Coalition on the project.
The city paid $6 million in 2019 for that site and an adjacent lot, which combined are a little more than three acres, in an effort to build more income- restricted housing. The opportunity to put a library within the complex is something library staff said they don’t want to miss.
Javonni Butler, a project manager with Evergreen, said because the development company is looking to finance the project with low-income housing tax credits from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority in the spring, they want to move quickly.
“As we lead up to April, we have to really have a concept of our project and what that is,” Butler said. “It’s not like we want a hard and fast deadline. As we develop our project concept and when we think about the programming of the site, we have to start to kind of fit in the different pieces of the puzzle.”
If 4995 Washington St. is selected as the new library location, it would be about a four-year process before it would open, Butler said. The city rezoned the property last year to allow for a maximum of five stories with mixed use.
Annie Kemmerling, the Denver Public Library’s director of neighborhood services, said a deadline for spending the bond money is also on the table, and they would not want to have to go back to voters to request the funding a second time.
But some Globeville residents at the meeting in late August said they would prefer to have the library at another site the city examined— the shuttered 4.7 acre Salvation Army campus at 4751 Broadway that was purchased by Wolf and Stutz Investments for $6 million in 2020.
The Salvation Army site, however, doesn’t have a development plan in the works that could include a library, Kemmerling said, adding the city could try to convince that development team to include a library, but if it doesn’t, it will become harder to find a location.
“If they do come up with one and it doesn’t align with the library’s vision, that is a very real risk, so now we’re legit starting from scratch,” Kemmerling said.
Carla Padilla, an associate director with the Birdseed Collective nonprofit in Globeville, said the Salvation Army site is closer to schools, such as Swansea Elementary. She also had concerns about the walkability of Washington Street, which has scant sidewalks and fairly consistent busy traffic.
“If you’re trying to access it on Washington, no one in the community is gonna go,” Padilla said. “It needs to be … backed away from the street, no entrance from Washington because Washington’s crazy. Who’s going to want to walk down there?”
Butler said the library could face 50th Avenue, which is less busy and would allow people to enter without necessarily having to traverse Washington Street.
City Librarian Michelle Jeske said because the library is funded through bond money, the city would need to own the library portion of the development, not just lease it. She also said so much attention has been paid to the plans for 4995 Washington because they are farther along.
“To the question about whether a decision has been made, I can assure you it hasn’t,” Jeske said. “We do not want an opportunity that could align to go by, and the risks have been mentioned around that. There’s a plan. There’s a concept.”
Butler said Evergreen is planning to release some additional details of its plans for the 4995 site in the coming weeks.
In addition to the location, meeting attendees discussed what they wanted at the library, with a space for arts and crafts being one of the biggest requests. Butler said no matter what the design, there will be some kind of public space on the property. “If (the library) were to not work out, we would explore other amenities,” Butler said. “But we do believe with the library and the other amenity that we hope to bring, this is going to definitely, I think, address a lot of the wants and needs of the community sooner than later.” The arts and crafts space would take up about 1,000 square feet of the library. WASHINGTON
Washington Street Corridor
Denver received $13.9 million in federal funding last December to revitalize North Washington Street. The project also has $23 million in Elevate Denver Bond funds, for a total of nearly $37 million.
The project will modernize Washington Street from 47th to 52nd avenues and will include improvements to walking and biking, access to transit, streetscaping, energy-efficient lighting, and new curbs and gutters, according to the city.
Denver has been, for at least the last five years, examining how to make the Washington Street corridor more accessible to pedestrians and traffic in general. Washington Street was identified in the Globeville Neighborhood Plan as “an attractive corridor that creates a positive sense of place, attracts private reinvestment, and better accommodates all transportation modes,” according to city documents.
The Denver North Business Association recently hosted a walking tour of the area that could be affected by the study, where members said they envision a new business and residential corridor.
The city plans to complete the Washington Street projects between 2024 and 2025.