Apartments could replace the last parking lot behind Union Station, as neighbors grapple with growth, safety in Downtown Denver

The new building would be 12 stories and include 204 apartments.
4 min. read
This Downtown Denver parking lot may soon include apartments.
A parking lot at 1901 Chestnut Place is being considered for development, August 1, 2022.
Kyle Harris / Denverite

Over the past decade, a dense neighborhood packed with luxury condos and apartments has sprung up behind Denver's redeveloped Union Station, attracting a flood of well-off retirees and millennials alike -- along with complaints of sidewalk safety and crime.

Now, the last surface-level parking lot in the area, at 1901 Chestnut Place, is being eyed for a 12-story apartment building, BusinessDen first reported. The proposed project's working name: Block 11.

The company, Block 11 Remainder, LLC submitted concept plans to the city at the end of June, as fellow developers turned in a glut of applications before June 30. That was the last date developers could apply under old rules -- before the launch of the Expanding Housing Affordability program, Denver's plan to push developers to do more to create income-restricted housing.

So far there has been a drastic slow-down of new large-scale proposals since Exanding Housing Affordability was passed by City Council and signed by Mayor Michael Hancock. Community Planning and Development anticipated the number of new proposals would temporarily drop.

Focus Corporation, of Focus Property Group, is listed in application materials as the developer, and JNS Architecture and Interior Design is the architecture firm.

The project would bring 204 apartment units, a mix of studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, along with 172 parking stalls and ground-level retail.

The new development is being proposed as tensions have boiled in the Union Station neighborhood and many storefronts remain empty.

The Lower Downtown Neighborhood Association, the registered neighborhood organization representing Union Station and other parts of LoDo, has been waging various public safety campaigns.

Toward the end of 2021 and in early 2022, the group championed a more active police response and more social services at the Union Station bus terminal to address an increase in visible drug use, litter, crime and homelessness.

The advocacy group pushed the city to crack down in the neighborhood and arrest hundreds of people, most for drug offenses, while ramping up visits from social workers.

More recently, LoDoNa has been waging a campaign to address scooter safety in the neighborhood.

At a meeting last month, members reported being endangered by scooter drivers zipping up the streets.

Some community members proposed an outright ban on scooters in downtown. Others pushed for better signage, geofencing technology that would prevent scooters from running on sidewalks, and education campaigns for riders.

Recently installed rideshare parking for Lime scooters and bikes, August 1, 2022.
Kyle Harris / Denverite

In recent months, some residents have said that if safety issues were not addressed, they would be leaving the area.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure has been meeting with residents to find a fix.

How ready is downtown for more residents?

Even before the housing market started cooling off, property values were dropping in the area.

Downtown office workers are still not returning to their office jobs, and many businesses sit vacant. Retail rental opportunities are abound.

Vacant retail space in Downtown Denver, August 1, 2022. (Kyle Harris / Denverite)
Kyle Harris / Denverite

Tourism, on the other hand, is returning, reported Denverite, and the mood downtown has improved.

Downtown crime and a recent police shooting -- in which cops hit at least six bystanders with bullets or shrapnel after a man allegedly pointed a gun at officers but did not fire -- have left many visitors unnerved.

A parking lot at 1901 Chestnut Place slated for development, August 1, 2022. (Kyle Harris / Denverite)
Kyle Harris / Denverite

The Union Station neighborhood still has a lot to figure out -- but neighbors report some things are getting better.

Arrests at the train and bus stations spiked and then dropped; new secure bike storage is coming to Union Station; big changes are happening at the bus terminal; and scooter-parking signage is popping up around the neighborhood.

Developers also continue to invest in building in the area and residents continue to fight for their vision of what the area should look like.

All that suggests there is still optimism about the neighborhood's future -- even as neighbors and the city work out their issues.

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