A renovation effort put forth by the Parks and Recreation Department began on May 1st of this year ‘Rock’ Park in Arapahoe Ridge. The aim of this renovation is to improve the park as a whole by installing new infrastructure and upgrading playground equipment to meet current standards. The project has just begun, but is scheduled to be completed by the fall of this year.
The first step in this renovation project is the removal and pruning of trees in the park and by public streets. By removing any potential obstructions beforehand, the installation of new infrastructure is expected to go much smoother. This also keeps the park from being closed at a later date, and is most cost effective.
Along with pruning for tree health, one notable tree in Arapahoe Ridge will be removed. An Ash tree has become infested with Emerald Ash Borer, and will be removed to keep the infestation from spreading.
The park itself is not going to be closed off to the public during the renovation period, however. The city has stated that they will make an effort to keep their impact low, although the public should be aware that some amenities may not be available during certain periods of the renovation.
The local community was integral in the planning phase of this renovation, with feedback on the rock structure itself being very strong. With that in mind, the Parks Department moved forward with a plan that would have the least impact on the structure as possible. The plan states that they will install a support to ensure the main cave area remain structurally sound over time, install a rubber surface to replace the pea gravel, and secure the boulders on the main structure through re-grouting.
Once complete, ‘Rock’ Park will be home to a brand new playground meant to highlight the rock structure the park is known for. The Parks Department is also planning on hosting a celebration event for the completion of the project when that time arrives. Further updates on the project can be found on the Arapahoe Ridge Park page on the city’s website.
In December of 2016 a team of designers and developers volunteered their time for a technical advisory panel. The goal of this panel, the Urban Land Institute Colorado (ULI Colorado) was to design a redevelopment plan for the area of East Boulder north of Arapahoe and west of 55th. This 325 acre space is primarily used as an office park with some small industrial sites as well. The panel was tasked by the Boulder Chamber and Boulder Area Realtor Association with seeing how this space could be used for more workforce housing. The panel took this request a step further. They addressed a complete overhaul of the area, rather than just focusing on housing. Their vision of this new hub of creativity would be called East Edge. Linked with new transportation options, East Edge would be broken into three districts that mix residential and commercial use. Existing business would continue being supported and add new ones as well. The idea being that each of the businesses within each district would be within walking distance. This more ambitious and extreme plan is not what many current residents had in mind. A large scale expansion is seen by many as inconsistent their own vision for their neighborhood. However, there are some potential benefits in this plan worth considering which may influence public opinion.
This panel envisions East Edge as a “creativity hub”. ULI Colorado hopes to encourage the growth of new jobs here as well as housing, services, and transportation growth. . They envision transition from an office park to a more multi-use neighborhood.
One challenge to East Edge’s redevelopment plan is in zoning. The panel suggests that the city allow them to go beyond the current 55ft height limit in place (up to 90ft in some areas). This would allow for residential and retail services in the same space. Additionally, office buildings could have shops on the ground level. Because of the area’s low ground level relative to the rest of Boulder the panel believes the view shed would not be harmed.
Another concern ULI Colorado has for East Edge, and all potential development plans, is flooding. The entire area is located within a floodplain, and said to be in need of mitigation. The panel suggests that the Flatiron Golf course be used for mitigation before moving forward.
The top priority of the East Edge plan is to begin by redeveloping the land between Arapahoe and the BNSF rail corridor. This land would become one of the mixed-use neighborhoods for residential and commercial space with an interior main street. This would have the advantage of much safer pedestrian and bike traffic. But this is just one of many steps and details outlined for East Edge. The entire plan is available for all citizens to see on the better boulder website, and are encouraged to do so.
Early in November, Boulder City Council encouraged developers to offer diverse housing at Eastpointe. The aging apartment complex in East Boulder was owned by an ambivalent landlord who kept rental rates reasonable. In December 2014, the property was purchased by Aimco, a Denver based company that is one of the largest owners and operators of apartment communities in the US. Aimco wishes to redevelop the site, but must abide by the City Council’s goals for affordable housing.
In early September the City Council called for the plans to be reviewed during concept phase even though they could not deny the project during this phase. They are only able to offer suggestions consistent with their goals. “We can’t prevent property owners from redeveloping,” Mayor Suzanne Jones said, “but I do think we can try to have it done as sensitively as possible.”
The Eastpointe proposal seems to meet City Council’s affordable housing and increased dwelling density goals. Cash in lieu for affordable housing and an increase in dwelling count from 140 units to 233 help further the Council’s goals. The current parking would be moved underground to leave room for additional green space in the complex.
All these changes will have an impact on those living in Eastpointe as rents are expected to dramatically increase. Residents have spoken out about this increase, concerned about their ability to afford continuing to live there. Another concern is the focus on smaller units which will exclude many families.
“I’m very concerned about the loss of two-bedroom units and the lack of much idea of where those people who right now are occupying those two-bedroom units are supposed to go,” Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said to Aimco representatives. “I would ask that you consider the current residents and really look for what we’re looking for, which is housing that meets more than one person’s needs.”
Aimco Senior Vice President Patti Shwayder stated that it was not likely they would be able to provide low-income housing on the new site. Aimco claims to offer help relocating any residents to the best of their ability. “We’re not a fix-and-flipper,” she said. “We like to be a part of the community. This is great housing where it should be. We’re replacing aging and really inefficient buildings that will come down at some point … with a brand new community that will be sustainable and last for a long time.”
Sakura Square in Denver Colorado has been home to many Japanese-American families and businesses for decades, and is now seeking a proposal to redevelop much of its downtown block to better serve and represent future generations. This redevelopment would be done around some existing landmarks such as museums, martial arts studios, Japanese restaurants, and gardens. The Tri-State Buddhist Temple would also remain where it is, but could potentially be getting a new building. A special effort is being made to preserve well established businesses and locations, such as the Pacific Mercantile, which has been family owned and operated for over 70 years. The owners of Sakura Square’s proposal specifically call for a “redevelopment outcome that reflects their sensitivity to sustainable and superior modern Japanese-influenced design and architecture. Quality over quantity is a focus. When complete, the block should be a simple but iconic expression of Japanese community and culture and have a gracious presence in relationship to the street, neighborhood and community.”
The areas that would be renovated could give Sakura Square, and Denver as a whole, new office spaces, residential areas, and retail space. This proposal comes from a night and day transformation of what Sakura Square was when first established. As Sakura Square CEO Gary Yamashita said “When members of the temple first purchased the block 45 years ago, this area of Denver was literally Skid Row. It was bars and brothels. We’ve had such good fortune that it’s probably some of the hottest real estate in Denver, right next to LoDo, right next to the ballpark, right next to the redevelopment in Arapahoe Square.”
The desire to keep the Square’s location in downtown Denver is more than just a monetary one, however. Many families and businesses feel tied to that location, and have spoken out about selling the block and relocating the temple when considered in the past. Sakura Square is the remnants of a much larger Japanese-American neighborhood that began close to 1900 when many Japanese came to Colorado as farmers.
“2016 is the 100th anniversary of the Denver Buddhist Temple. It hasn’t been at Sakura Square for all 100 years, but this is its 100th year,” Yamashita said. “We’re now looking at re-positioning ourselves for the next 100 years — Sakura Square and the temple. It’s looking into the future.”
The owners of Sakura Square have already put forth their request for developers to submit proposals for the redevelopment with a deadline set for October 19th. From that point they will decide which proposals to pursue further and discuss more in depth plans. Whatever the outcome, this will mark a big change in the heart of downtown Denver Colorado.