A vibrant city is one that founded on community engagement, leadership, intention and investment. Downtown Denver is one example in which these aspects are actively a part of the present and future. As an example, the decision to redevelop the rail yard at Union Station and transform the Union Station district from cargo rail to a passenger-centric amenity provided another layer of community to downtown Denver. The Downtown Denver Partnership sits squarely in the center of city building efforts by creating opportunities for our citizens and businesses to grow downtown as the economic engine of our region. We met with Tami Door, president and CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, to gain some insight on the state of downtown Denver.
JS: Denver’s Union Station development has become a strong example of successful urban investment. How has this impacted the state of downtown and what do you see for the future?
TD: The Downtown Denver Partnership, founded more than 60 years ago, has long been focused on creating a vibrant city. We do this by building upon our vision for downtown, identifying opportunities, engaging with the community and seeing it through the planning process with the city. I believe strongly that it’s our investment in visioning and the time we put in up front for early discovery and defining project goals and outcomes that creates a strong platform for decision making, especially on multiyear planning initiatives.
For a long time, Denver wasn’t seen as a city center. Rather, we were leveraging the mountains and lifestyle to attract visitors, companies and population. We believe now we have the opportunity to be seen as the city center in the Rocky Mountain West and people are moving here because Denver is a great city. No longer is Denver lost in the rhetoric of the “mountain” dialogue. We’ve worked hard on a place-based economic development strategy to provide a vibrant downtown where people want to live and work, and Denver’s Union Station is just one example of that.
As to our future, the Partnership has many active initiatives, some large and some small, each cited on aspects of the “Vibrant Center City” concept outlined in the 2007 Downtown Area Plan, our long-term strategy. Our next big effort is Arapahoe Square, which is a neighborhood that is ripe for redevelopment. This area, located between Larimer and Tremont streets, and Park Avenue and 20th Street, comprises approximately 30 city blocks. We envision it to be the densest mixed-use neighborhood in the city.
JS: What are some additional examples of work your team has launched?
TD: We are focused on perpetuating our culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. We co-founded Denver StartUp Week, the largest free entrepreneurial event in North America, and co-created The Commons on Champa, our Entrepreneurial Center at 1245 Champa, with our city and Colorado Technology Association partners. We are building a significant platform of support and community to help companies start and grow in our center city.
As a place-based economic development organization, an important component of this relates to our parks and public spaces. It is essential to activate them in a way that reflects the brand of our center city. We do so through such great programs as the Southwest Rink at Skyline Park, Wynkoop Plaza events and more.
We continue our efforts to advocate for the addition of more protected bike lanes to enhance commuting opportunities and, as the 20-year plan states, to create a bicycle city.
We are beginning to develop plans for the “downtown loop,” which proposes combining an innovative bike and pedestrian path connecting Denver’s center city neighborhoods. It is quite ambitious and very exciting. It is envisioned to be a unique expression of our lifestyle, arts and culture.
As we look to the future of downtown Denver, planning is a constant. And implementation is the key. Whether it is a new development or a series of events, there is a continuous cycle of things to be revived and plenty of opportunities to create something new. It is through this balance that we sustain our downtown. Our center city is constantly changing. Through the Downtown Denver Partnership, the business community is inspired and committed to ensuring downtown Denver further secures its position as the Queen City of the Rocky Mountain West. \\