By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
Readers' choice: Speer Boulevard (assorted locations)
Best Road Construction Project
Forget that traffic's still snarled a few blocks to the north while Denver attempts to build its own Chunnel where Speer once crossed Broadway. From 5th Avenue down to Ohio, it's now smooth sailing--love those synchronized lights!--along this major thoroughfare. In fact, the Broadway resurfacing project went so well that the American Concrete Paving Association honored it with this year's National Excellence in Paving Award, citing the city's "holistic" approach that maintained local business access along the street while at the same time keeping traffic and work crews moving--on budget and on schedule.
Readers' choice: Speer Boulevard/Sixth Avenue underpass
Best Construction Site
Baseball fans lucky enough to drive by Coors Field on a daily basis have been amazed by its gradual and majestic transformation. The rising shell inspires a mood of hope and innocence looming over the dusty streets of lower downtown. Its natural-grass diamond and old-time ambience will be ready for our local boys of summer by next spring--and it isn't much of a stretch to already hear the cheers.
16th Street Viaduct
The dilapidated 15th and 20th Street viaducts have both already come tumbling down, and this spring it was time for the 16th to follow suit. The change brought about by the demolition was amazing to watch--as the bridge slowly disappeared, everything else reappeared. It's sunny again in lower downtown.
Best Missing Link
RTD's Light Rail
It's had the downtown streets torn up for months, it travels a route nobody needs to travel, and critics say taxpayers have been hoodwinked about the ultimate scope of RTD's "demonstration project." But as it nears completion, we can hardly wait to climb aboard. If the big MAC works half as well as the streetcar system the city tore out in the Fifties, it'll be worth it.
Best Place to Watch Trains
The farming community high up in the state's northeastern corner is the only Colorado town on the main line of the fabled Union Pacific, still the busiest railroad in the country. From the town park, well equipped with playground equipment and conveniently located hard against a super-elevated curve, you can see everything from ballast-burning stack trains to grain drags and mixed freights--many of them equipped with the biggest, meanest locomotives on the UP roster. If you bring the kids, the engineers (the nice ones, anyway) will still toot the horn for them.
Best Place to Watch Trains From a Porta-Potty
Best New Old Neighborhood
The collection of family-owned businesses, modest homes and red-brick warehouses that rings the southern boundary of Coors Field in north downtown is in the midst of a mini-revival. Twenty-four blocks of streetscaping are going in, newly planted trees are popping up on sidewalks once notable mostly for their Ripple stains, and Rockies baseball threatens to replace transient hopscotch as the sport of choice. Thankfully, the heart of the neighborhood remains Larimer Street, where the spirit of urban renewal has left room for the Mexican groceries at Johnnie's Market and the locally famous chicken tacos--still available every Thursday--at the Mexico City Lounge.
Best Save by the Rockies
Union Pacific Headhouse
19th and Wynkoop streets
It's only right that the handsome "headhouse," nerve center of the giant railroad yard that once stood where Coors Field is being built, was spared to serve as a symbolic bookend to the ballpark. Developer Dana Crawford, who performed a similar rescue mission for the Icehouse across the street, plans to put office space, restaurants and retail shops into the old building--and perhaps even a railroad museum in the basement.
Best Reprieve From the Wrecking Ball
Rocky Mountain Consistory
1754 & 1770 Sherman St.
The fanciful Moorish building built in 1907 very nearly met destruction when the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association, which has been quietly trying to unload it, had trouble finding a buyer. But when Historic Denver got wind of the plan to topple the temple for a parking lot, there was a welcome uproar. In came the Eulipions, who are now negotiating to purchase the building--said to sport a dance hall adorned with stenciled Moorish patterns and a 550-seat auditorium--for a new cultural center.
Best Neon Sign
Benjamin Moore Paints
2500 Walnut St.
Grandfathered in when Denver's highly restrictive sign code went into effect, this bright-red beauty is one of the few rooftop giants left in the city. Originally erected in 1938, it blazed away in the evening sky until the energy crisis of 1973 forced the paint company to pull the plug. The galvanized metal relic gradually wasted away, propped up with occasional coats of automobile paint, until plant operations manager John Huss began a conservation campaign. Today the hottest new glow in NoDo stays on all night long, a comforting beacon to drivers on the 23rd Street Viaduct--and, hopes Huss, a king-size night-light for fans in the bleachers at Coors Field.
Readers' choice: The Cat Hospital, 2110 S. Holly St.