Last year, Rhys Duggan spent $10,000 to stock the South Platte River near Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park with 2,500 rainbow trout.
Duggan, an avid angler, plans to stock the river with more rainbows in April. He also is considering creating standing waves and boat chutes, and making the stretch of the South Platte in front of Elitch’s a destination for stand-up paddle-boarding.
President and chief executive of Revesco Properties, Duggan is part of the team that paid $140 million for Elitch’s in 2015; the site where a new building will house a Denver offshoot of Santa Fe's Meow Wolf was part of that deal.
Now that the city is wrapping up the process of amending its 2007 Downtown Area Plan, Duggan’s plans for the amusement park, dubbed the River Mile, are coming to light. Revesco plans to redevelop the area into a new urban district that will put blocks of high-rise housing and parks along the river. “What I’m excited about is bringing the city to the river in a way the city hasn’t seen,” Duggan says.
The project will be completed in phases over the next 25 years. The first phase will be a 1,400-space parking structure. Elitch Gardens will remain where it is for the foreseeable future...but moving the amusement park is part of the long-term plan.
Before Revesco can start work on any of the project, though, it has to implement a drainage master plan for the river because the property is in a floodplain. Duggan says the river bed can be improved through re-dredging, which will also create a sustainable trout spawning ground.
A key recommendation of the 2007 plan was to attract more housing, mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly development to the Central Platte Valley Auraria District, located between Interstate 25, Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway. More recently, the city has been working with stakeholders from the surrounding neighborhoods to identify opportunities and develop recommendations, which include promoting transit use, attracting family-oriented developments, providing new amenities such as schools and daycare centers, improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure across the site, and increasing access to the South Platte River.
“I think Denver has grown up as a city,” Duggan says. “Density is no longer a bad word like it was ten years ago. We can’t just keep adding more people to Parker. To get it right, you need density. You need critical mass.”
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After the amended downtown plan is adopted (there will be another discussion of the plan at 6:30 p.m. tonight, March 13, at a meeting of Jefferson Park United Neighbors at Riverside Baptist Church, 2401 Alcott Street), Revesco will seek zoning changes that will allow for more height and uses that are not currently allowed, such as a grocery store.
As envisioned, the River Mile will include a mile of improvements to the South Platte; affordable housing; three riverfront parks; 137,900 square feet of public space, including a recreation center, daycare and school; two bike and pedestrian crossings of the river; a new bridge crossing of the CML Rail at Seventh Street; a pedestrian tunnel under Speer Boulevard; two new pedestrian crossings over CML at light-rail stations; and horizontal improvements, including dedicated bike lanes.
“Denver has done a great job of building a city for millennials, but a less good job of building a city for every demographic,” Duggan says. “We need to build a complete neighborhood.”