studioINSITE was commissioned to develop a design vision for 14th Street redevelopment in Downtown Denver – a process which began with the 14th Street Initiative. Hired to establish a set of design guidelines to direct the future of 14th Street redevelopment, the project spans 12 linear city blocks between Market Street and Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver. In consideration of adjacent programming, including numerous hotels, the Colorado Convention Center, The Denver Performing Arts Complex, restaurants and a variety other resources for tourism and arts in Denver, the goal was to establish 14th street as a “cultural spine”, adding new streetscape amenities, accommodating existing light-rail and future bicycle traffic, and contributing to the overall improvement of downtown Denver’s physical environment. As a follow-up to the Initiative, studioINSITE led a Feasibility Study to compare initiative ideas with actual survey information. The resulting information was used to determine the feasibility of the larger conceptual plan to expand sidewalks and curbs on the north side.
After the success of the design guidelines and feasibility study, studioINSITE has subsequently led the urban streetscape design for the $14 million streetscaping effort. The project was managed by Parsons Brinckerhoff in Denver, Colorado; communications and public relations were led by CRL & Associates.
The design and programming establish this new cultural core of Denver as the “Ambassador Street.” Welcoming visitors from around the world to hotels, events and world-class restaurants, the street introduces and orients visitors through Downtown Denver. The 14th Street Streetscape redesign involves removing a travel lane, converting the street from a three-lane to a two-lane corridor. It also involved the conversion of a drive lane to a flex drive/parking lane, adding a bike line, widening the sidewalk on the north side of the roadway to accommodate outdoor cafes, installing top-quality banners and signage, and enhancing the sense of place with high-quality streetscape amenities and streetscaping details.
Infrastructure, materials and water conservation efforts have been made with hopes of establishing 14th Street as a certified “Green Roads” project. The level of certification awarded will be determined upon completion of construction in early 2012. The design and construction steps needed for the “Green Roads” certification required a great deal of coordination between the design, management and construction teams (including studioINSITE, Parsons Brinckerhoff, CRL & Associates and the landscape contractor – Concrete Works of Colorado.)
The most significant challenges that the team faced included the promotion of a healthy landscape within a dense urban micro-climate environment. studioINSITE’s response to this challenge integrates a revolutionary in-ground planter design that is predicted to significantly increase the lifespan and growth capacity for street trees in dense urban environments, positioning 14th Street as one of the nation’s most sustainable streetscapes. As opposed to the standard individual tree grates, the creation of 35’ x 5’ below-grade planting areas combined with porous paving techniques, irrigation, accent lighting and plant material selection have established an exciting new direction that the City of Denver and Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc. have endorsed as the preferred method for streetscape design.
Another challenge included the many critical stakeholders along the 14th Street core. These parties (residents, property and business-owners) played a crucial role in the development of the 14th Street design. The design and development team hosted numerous stakeholder meetings over the course of four years and collected feedback relative to design and maintenance. The final design has been agreed-upon by the local property/business-owners. Funding for the project has included significant public and private investment for capital improvements, along with formation of a district that will contribute funds annually to maintain the improvements.
The scale of the project also presented another challenge for the design team. At a total length of twelve city blocks, there was no single programmatic solution for the entire length of the project. A viable and effective solution was to divide the corridor into sections to address budgetary concerns. The Standard Zone includes concrete pavement with accents and porous paving, enhanced signage, pedestrian and roadway lighting, expanded sidewalks and bulb-outs at intersections. The Premium Zone includes standard elements in addition to sculpted planter pots, stone seat walls, stone planter curbs, theater and accent lighting and enhanced light poles with banner elements. This diversity of design, along with the changing program, provides visitors with a vibrant experience as they traverse the length of 14th Street.
Altogether, $1.5 billion in public and private investments have been made along the corridor since 2002. This new streetscape project will build on these investments to strengthen its new identity. Construction is scheduled to be completed through the end of 2011, enhancing downtown Denver’s urban environment with a dynamic streetscape of exceptional quality for visitors, residents and business-owners alike.
14th Street Initiative
VISION, URBAN DESIGN & DESIGN GUIDELINES
Location: Denver, Colorado
Design Company: studioINSITE
2005 – Present
Client: Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc.