Denver prepares for “whatever happens next” near Elitch Gardens

There’s still an opportunity for residents to weigh in what they’d like to see the future of the Central Platte Valley Auraria District look like.

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Elitch Gardens near downtown Denver. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver officials are laying the groundwork for a possible mixed-use community near Elitch Gardens Theme Park.

City planners are looking for “community input in whatever happens next” for the area east of Interstate 25 that includes Elitch Gardens, the Pepsi Center and the Downtown Aquarium. An official plan for the area could go before Denver City Council for approval in January, said Andrea Burns, spokeswoman for Denver Community Planning and Development.

What CPD is referring to as the Central Platte Valley Auraria District, located between Auraria Parkway and Speer Boulevard, was included but not detailed in the Downtown Area Plan. The city is planning to update that 2007 document with an amendment providing more information to guide developers and planners interested in the 200-plus acre area.

Today, the Central Platte Valley Auraria District holds some of the most visited attractions in Denver, drawing millions of people each year. But the area is also covered by parking lots.

Property owners, city leaders, and planners have met as a committee four times since April to talk about the area. A community meeting was held in July.

“What we’ve heard so far from the steering committee and the public include interest in activating the waterfront and creating a mixed-use community that connects seamlessly to downtown,” Burns said. “Affordable housing has also come up time and again.”

The local investment team that bought Elitch Gardens has been exploring the long-term potential of some of the property since it bought it in 2015.

“The property owner is currently exploring the possibility of creating a new, mixed‐use community on portions of the property that are underutilized by the amusement park’s current operations. This includes about 17 acres of surface parking lots that sit unused for six months each year,” according to the city.

A call to Elitch Gardens was not immediately returned Thursday.

There’s still an opportunity for residents to weigh in on their preference for the future of the Central Platte Valley Auraria District. The city has an online survey where it’s taking feedback and plans to hold a public meeting in October. The exact time, date and location of the meeting are still being nailed down.

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Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or @adriandgarcia on Twitter.

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