The entity that owns Coors Field is pursuing a view-plane ordinance that would prevent the construction of buildings that might block the view of the mountains from stadium seats -- and not for the first time. A similar proposal in 2007 was dropped after controversy arose over property rights.
Ray Baker, director of the Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District, says such legislation has been "a long time coming. The landmark of Coors Field is the mountains. We learned that during the games, when the TV cameras always pan west to get shots of the mountains."
Last week, Baker submitted an application to Denver's Planning Department for a zoning law that would set height restrictions on any new structures in an area west of Coors Field. "The idea for it goes back ten years," says Planning manager Tyler Gibbs. "The recognition is that the view out over left field is pretty spectacular. You can see all the way out over North Denver, Highland, to the mountains. It's part of what makes Coors Field unique."
While the idea may have been on the table for a long time, the timing does seem a little odd, considering that the District recently bought the property that started the original push for this ordinance back in 2007.
A quick rehash: Bill and Paula Leake wanted to rezone their land to allow for a tall building. The Stadium District said it would block views. A view-plane ordinance went before City Council. Possible developers of the Leake's land got scared off. The ordinance was dropped. Two years later, in April, the Stadium District bought the land for a new parking lot.
Problem solved, right?
At the time, Baker told me that the purchase was prompted by the Stadium District's need for more parking lots, since RTD will soon be snatching 900 current spots to make way for a new light rail line. He said that they were also looking at other land parcels west of the stadium for future parking.
But the notion of swapping good, developable land for more parking lots seriously peeved local urban planning consultant Ken Schroeppel, who wrote a lengthy response on his popular blog, DenverInfill.com. As an advocate for greater density in Denver's downtown, Schroeppel thinks the stadium should embrace the idea of fewer parking lots.
"The whole idea that Coors Field is about the view of the mountains is baloney," says Schroeppel. "Coors Field is about being in the heart of the city. That's why they located it where it is. It's two blocks away from one of the biggest future transit sites at Union Station. For Coors Field to surround itself with parking lots and view-planes is not consistent with the city's mission to add density to its urban core and make it a more interesting place."
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"I think he's right to a degree," says Baker, who notes that it is still unclear the amount of compensation they'll receive from RTD. "Do we need to replace all 900 parking places? No. But it would be naïve to think we could live without some replacement for those."
There are two major undeveloped properties in the burgeoning, new urbanist Prospect neighborhood that would be affected by this proposal. The first, located right next to the Leake's old property, is owned by a company called 2000 Delgany LLC. And there's also a big, empty swath near the railroad tracks that's owned by a group called MS 120 Prospect Senior that traces back to Trammel Crow Residential. A proposal for the property at 2905 Inca Street filed last year with the city suggested that developers hoped to build up to 400 units on the site.
As land speculators like to say, zoning is money. If the owners of these properties were to suddenly find that the value of their investment had been chopped down by height limitations, would they be more likely to sell to the Stadium District for a lower price?
Baker says there's no inside baseball between the parking push and the proposed view plane, which would still allow building heights of up to 72 feet. "Almost all that has been developed has already been developed," he says. "We've been communicating with property owners for eighteen to twelve months. We have not met with any strong resistance."