Xcel Energy’s plans to demolish the Zuni Generating Station in Lincoln Park are on hold days after ten Denver City Council members signed a letter asking the utility company to delay a potential demolition.
The letter asked the utility company to instead work with people who live in the area who would like to see the massive power plant reused. The plant shuttered in 2019.
“We are proud of the long standing partnership and relationship with Denver,” Xcel Energy spokesperson Michelle Aguayo said in a statement to Denverite. “We will continue to work with both the City and the (Colorado Public Utilities Commission) as we decide the future of the site. Xcel Energy has a franchise with Denver with an established process that allows a pathway for the city to purchase the property if they wish.”
The one-page letter dated Nov. 3 asks the company to work with people in the Lincoln Park and Sun Valley neighborhoods to figure out the next steps for the power plant. It’s addressed to Xcel Energy Colorado president Alice Jackson.
Aguayo didn’t say whether the letter factored into the company’s decision, only that the company has been working with the city on the site’s future for “quite some time.”
“Residents of Sun Valley and neighboring areas lived with the impacts of a variety of pollutants into the South Platte River, flood risk, and disinvestment,” the letter reads. “The discontinued active use of the Xcel Zuni Generating Station has opened the potential to transform those impacts.”
City planning spokesperson Amanda Weston confirmed the office had initially received a “concept plan” from Xcel that includes a proposal to demolish and remove coal from the site on May 4, but another proposal submitted on July 15 was changed to not include demolition of the power plant. A concept plan is essentially a preliminary step that includes a review by city staffers before a formal plan is submitted to the city, and Weston pointed out these plans often go through changes and are resubmitted.
Councilperson Jamie Torres, who represents the area where the plant is located, said she’s reached out to Mayor Michael Hancock’s office about her community’s concerns and to figure out the next steps. She said people have been interested in reusing the plant since before she was elected to her seat in 2019.
However, she said she’s not totally sure how people nearby want to see the site reused. That’s partially why she said she wanted Xcel to pause its plans, so that people could weigh in on the station’s future. She noted Denver Housing Authority is buying space with “tank farms” near the station to develop housing.
The plant dates to 1901 and is likely eligible for landmark status, according to a letter from Historic Denver executive director Annie Levinsky addressed to Hancock.
“The plant’s location along the S. Platte River tells an important story about Denver’s growth and development, its early infrastructure and the sinews that tied the central city together,” Levinsky wrote in her letter.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Annie Levinsky is executive director of Historic Denver, not History Colorado. Due to incorrect information provided by the city planning office, this article has been updated to reflect the date when Xcel submitted a revised concept plan that no longer included the demolition of the power plant.