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River Mile in Denver, redevelopment around Elitch Gardens, taking shape

When Rhys Duggan and his partners were discussing plans to purchase the 62-acre property bounded by the South Platte River, Speer Boulevard, Interstate 25 and railroad tracks in central Denver, they called it by the code name “doughnut hole.”

Aside from Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, the site is mostly surface parking lots surrounded by hip, redeveloped neighborhoods like LoDo and Highland.

Now, with a city-led planning process aimed at creating a long-term vision for the area rounding into shape, Duggan and his partners are releasing their vision for how they plan to fill that hole that they purchased in 2015 with backing from billionaire Nuggets and Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke

Rest easy, roller-coaster lovers. Elitch’s isn’t going anywhere, Duggan said, though its 17 acres worth of parking lots are slated to eventually be replaced by a single parking structure and new buildings as part of Phase 1 of his project.

An aerial view of proposed Phase ...

Rendering courtesy of Revesco Properties

An aerial view of proposed Phase 1 of the River Mile project. The first phase would be built over 17 acres of what are now surface parking lots around Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, and include a parking structure to aimed at compensating for 1,800 surface spaces going away.

“I think in the long haul, over 25 years this becomes a new, vibrant downtown neighborhood,” Duggan, CEO of Revesco Properties, said Monday. “In the interim, the park stays in place. Come see us. We’re spending money. We’re adding attractions.”

Rising up around Elitch’s, Revesco envisions a dense, walkable area with high-rise structures interspersed with green space. As highlighted on the project’s website, rivermiledenver.com, the property would be more than offices and condos. It would include three new parks along its roughly 1-mile strip of South Platte River access between Colfax Avenue and Speer. Among its more than 137,000 square feet of projected public space would be a school, day care and community center. A grocery store is critical, Duggan said.

Revesco is doing a “deep dive” on affordable hosing options for the property, Duggan said. Having such a large area in the urban core under the control of one owner provides the opportunity to address Denver’s housing challenges in a unique way, particularly with two light rail stops nearby.

“I think we have done a great job of building a city for a certain demographic and a certain age strata but I think we can do more to build a complete downtown community, where people can really live and work and even raise a family and send their kids to school,” Duggan said. “How do we do that with an affordability component so it doesn’t become an elitist neighborhood? Because I think that serves no one well.”

A concept drawing of how new buildings and parks in the River Mile project could be oriented toward the South Platte River.

Rendering courtesy of Revesco Properties

A concept drawing of how new buildings and parks in the River Mile project could be oriented toward the South Platte River.

He lists things like looking at parking maximums instead of minimums as ways the River Mile will develop differently from other neighborhoods. But Revesco is taking a slow and steady approach to getting started. It has no firm start date in mind yet. First, Duggan and company are waiting for the city to finalize Central Platte Valley-Auraria District amendment to the 2007 Downtown Area Plan, a planning process spurred on largely by Revesco’s interest in redeveloping in the area, city officials say.

“The 2007 Downtown Area Plan did not include much detail on this particular location,” Denver Community Planning and Development spokeswoman Andrea Burns said. “As big changes started to take place in the is area, we wanted to make sure that community has a voice in shaping it future.”

A draft of the plan is now available for review on the city’s website. It sets the stage for a neighborhood that is walkable, economically diverse and embraces the river as an amenity, all ideas the that blend well with Revesco’s aims.

The city is continuing to gather input on the plan, and will fold recommendations into a final version expected this spring, Burns said. From there, it would go to the city planning board and City Council for approval an adoption.

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