DENVER – A gritty stretch of riverfront property in Denver’s River North (RiNo) district could one day become a pedestrian-focused park.
At a public meeting on Wednesday, staff showed the latest design plans for the RiNo Promenade along the South Platte River.
The proposal calls for closing parts of Arkins Court to traffic between 35th and 38th streets and transforming the entire area from 29th to 38th into a 10-block-long linear greenway which would be connected to the planned River North Park at 35th Street.
That greenway could include an observation tower, a river theater, a pavilion and a gangway, which was inspired by the High Line in New York City, an elevated urban park built on an abandoned stretch of the old New York Central Railroad.
“If we can get people up a little bit into a structure that provides better views of the river, the water and the beautiful Denver skyline, a structure like that would be a great destination,” said Gordon Robinson, director of planning for Denver Parks and Recreation.
“The River North neighborhood is probably one of the coolest parts of Denver,” he said, adding that planners knew there would eventually be a thriving neighborhood at this location, that’s why they started planning for what the river would look like years ago.
Robinson said RiNo already has a flourishing art scene and is undergoing quite a bit of redevelopment.
Kelan Smith knows that first hand.
He and his partner, Tracy Weil, the founder of the RiNo Art District, live and work in a working studio on property between Chestnut and Arkins Court.
Between them, they have three art-related businesses – Weilworks, which provides art district consulting and graphic design; Farm 39, where they grow heirloom tomatoes and peppers; and Inherent Character, which provides branding, identity, wayfinding and interpretive sign programs.
Smith said they’ve seen big changes come to the area and are looking forward to the Promenade.
“Getting the riverfront to be a riverfront is really important,” he said, “because it hasn’t been for a very, very long time.”
Smith said the only issue he has with the proposed RiNo Promenade is design-related.
“Being a designer myself, the aesthetic is – you put 10 things in and you take 5 things out,” he said. “I think there’s a little too much going on. I think it’s a little busy.”
Some of the planned amenities are intended to match the planned use of the adjacent private property.
There would be a river theater on one section, quiet shelters on another.
Smith says he’d like to see a seemless transition between the sections.
The planning, funded by private businesses, property owners and grants, is about 30 percent complete. Robinson says it should be finished by the end of the year.
The big question is funding.
Robinson said the price tag will be about $10 – $12 million, and that funds will have to be generated via a public – private partnership.
Once a decision is made and council signs off on it, actual construction can begin.
Robinson said it might be done in phases, and that under the best-case scenario, it would be finished in 3 to 4 years.
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