The five-year plan for improvement to the Washington Street corridor hit another milestone toward completion with the purchase agreement of two properties along 48th Avenue.
The city is currently in final negotiations with the property owners of two parcels of land, which are priced at $2.2 million; the owners proactively initiated the sale conversation after learning about the intentions to improve the area. This allowed the city to be ahead of schedule as it would usually need to wait for land acquisition ordinances to be passed by the City Council.
According to Mark Gonzales, a senior civil engineer for the city of Denver, there are four projects in the area, all occurring simultaneously.
The projects focus on key improvements for flood mitigation, mixed transportation, installation of green infrastructure and movement of overhead utilities underground. These projects affect the north south corridor of Washington Street as well as the east-west portion from Logan Street to Emerson Street.
Improvements will include updated drainage, new sidewalks, curbs and installation of trees along the sidewalks. All improvements are being intentionally designed to minimize impact to existing structures however possible.
The improvements came about as a result of a need for better drainage systems and flood mitigation in the area. Priorities for the city include collecting water drainage, treatment and re-use of the water, with the intention to clean up the area and make it more appealing for current and future residents.
According to Gonzales, the focus is to design a space “for the people who are already here to love, to feel comfortable and to feel like they are in a nice area.” This design includes consideration for pedestrian, bicycle and pedestrian multi-use thoroughfares, and attention to designing around existing structures.
“The goal is to limit acquisition of space by the city,” Gonzalez said. “We want this to be a benefit to existing property owners by increasing the value of their properties wherever possible.”
The city plans include designing and maintaining 10 feet of multi-use sidewalks and 8 feet of space for “amenity zones.” Gonzales said the Denver team intends for these spaces to be functional, safe and accessible. The installation of green infrastructure “amenity zones” will allow residents to enjoy trees, decorative grass and shrubs while also helping to mitigate flood risk and improve drainage. The city has also started conversations with existing owners regarding any extras such as special trash cans, snow removal and additional maintenance. The top priorities of the project are to mitigate flooding, install more green space to clean up the air, and improve the aesthetics by moving all of the existing utility lines underground.
Although the city has completed the design and planning phases, it hasn’t started negotiations yet for right-of-way or further acquisition of property. According to Lisa Lumley, director of real estate for Denver, “the process is moving forward with major projects with a land acquisition ordinance that gives the authorization to consider condemnation if it is necessary down the road.”
Due to the current status of the project and negotiations, Lumley was unable to provide exact dollar values that the city has spent or intends to spend on the projects.