Brighton Boulevard will reopen in one month, but don’t you dare say River North is finished

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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The view of Brighton Boulevard from a future Source Hotel room, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  rino; five points; brighton boulevard; the source; development; construction; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado; skyline; cityscape;

The view of Brighton Boulevard from a future Source Hotel room, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The construction zone on Brighton Boulevard will disappear in one month. Well, part of it, anyway.

But even as it wraps up, a series of major private and public projects are gearing up.

June 21 will be opening day for 11 blocks of the newly rebuilt road, according to city and district officials. Brighton is one of the main drags in the River North redevelopment zone, and the project should significantly improve walking and biking in the area.

The $29 million Brighton project covers 29th to 40th streets. It includes new sidewalks, bike paths, 400 new trees, more than 100 new benches, new bike racks, and new lighting. It also comes with some fun extras, like color-changing lights.

The road will be restored to its previous four-lane layout. The city doesn’t anticipate any major disruptions or closures between now and opening day.

The opening celebration will end 19 months of construction. Meanwhile, countless ‘grams have been insta’ed. Town-homes have been bought and sold again, children have grown old, and my book remains unwritten. Maybe some RiNo transplants have figured out that they actually live in Five Points, too. And the murals, of course, have multiplied.

The view from the Source Hotel on Brighton Boulevard, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The view from the Source Hotel on Brighton Boulevard, Dec. 12, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The reopening of the road will be a significant moment for the development district, turning some of those cheesy computer renderings into reality — but Jamie Licko, the president of the River North Art District, cautions that the transformation’s far from complete.

“It kills me when we see these posts online, in social media, that RiNo is ‘done,'” she said.

For example, construction on the RiNo Park is set to get underway this year, along with a five blocks of the riverside RiNo Promenade. And the city already is working on a second phase of the Brighton project, beyond 40th Street.

Further out, the RiNo organization and the city are working on a redesign of 35th Street from Arkins Court to Wazee Street. The idea is to create a “woonerf,” which is Dutch for “living street,” where pedestrians and cyclists have predominant use of the pavement.

The city already has partial design documents, and RiNo is requesting that Denver allocate $600,000 to complete the blueprints. The district could match 10 percent or more of that sum.

“35th Street we’ve always seen as a connector street — perhaps a new model for a street,” Licko said. The street also would link up with the long-planned bridge across the river to the Zeppelins’ Taxi campus.

That could address one of RiNo’s major problems: It has pockets of activity, but they’re separated by the railroads, by sidewalk-less roads and by unlit areas.

“You have to be willing to go on an adventure,” to get from area to area, Licko said.

Meanwhile, more development plans are percolating in the area. The former dog-care site at 35th and Chestnut recently sold for $3.8 million, as BusinessDen reported. The McWhinney and World Trade Center towers near 38th and Blake are still in the works.

Eventually, the warehouses across from the original Industry campus remain a prime potential development site, Licko said. Ultimately, some 50 percent or more of the district’s land could be redeveloped, she said. The real question, she added, might be whether developers can continue to get access to the capital and land they need.

And the redevelopment wave could reach beyond RiNo, all the way up to Elyria-Swansea, as we reported last week.