14th Street Makeover

After years of planning, construction of the long-awaited 14th Street capital improvements will begin in the fall.

The plan to enhance the corridor has been in the works since 2005, when Denver (city and county), the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District and the Downtown Denver Partnership began discussions with area property owners.

High-profile construction and renovation projects, including the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences, the Spire Building and the Hilton Garden Inn, were a major catalyst for the streetscaping initiative, says John Desmond, vice president of urban planning and environment for the Downtown Denver Partnership.

“All of the activity pushed the public and private sectors to work together and assess the need for, and the value of, enhancing the 14th Street corridor,” Desmond adds.

With the design finalized, work is slated to begin in November with completion expected by early 2012. However, the start date may be pushed back until January to lessen the impact on holiday-related events and business.

Bidding for the streetscaping project will open this summer, with contractor notice-to-proceed due in early fall.

The overall cost of the project is $14 million, with area property owners contributing $4 million through a voter-approved levy and the remaining $10 million coming out of the Better Denver Bond Program, created in 2007.

The project covers the 12-block stretch along 14th Street between Market Street and Colfax Avenue, with a half-block on either side at the cross streets off 14th Street.

The goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly destination that encourages outdoor seating and ground-floor shopping, capitalizing on the flow of foot traffic from the Colorado Convention Center, Denver Performing Arts Center and hotels and condominium complexes in the area.

New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., a global planning and engineering firm, directed the design. It collaborated with a team of local consultants, including studioINSITE, a specialist in master planning, and CRL Associates Inc., a public policy firm.

“This is a place-making project, but unlike most transit-oriented projects, our focus is not on the automobile but rather on pedestrians and bicyclists,” says Mike Harmer, project manager and senior engineer with the city of Denver.

Work includes widening sidewalks and adding a dedicated bicycle lane while still retaining on-street parking on both sides. Traffic lanes will be reduced from three to two, with exceptions in where additional lanes are necessary for peak-hour traffic.

Approximately 150 new trees will be planted along both sides of the street, and, where possible, existing trees will be preserved. Flush-mounted accent lighting and banner light posts will illuminate new concrete sidewalks, which will feature a scoring pattern and sandblasted accents.

Other improvements include flower planters, new trash receptacles, better wayfinding signage, crosswalk bulb-outs, decorative street corner monuments and bike racks.

Construction is set to begin shortly after the grand opening of the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences. To minimize the disruption to the corridor and property owners, construction will be limited to no more than three blocks at any given time, Harmer says.