The transformation of Denver’s once-forgotten Sun Valley neighborhood into an arts and entertainment center is a step closer to reality with the city’s announcement that it will start the master-planning for the south end of the Broncos’ stadium property.
A nonprofit created by the Metropolitan Football Stadium District, a political subdivision of the state, and the Broncos has been exploring the creation of a mixed-use neighborhood destination on the property, which is currently occupied by surface parking lots that are only used during games and special events.
Denver Community Planning and Development will gather community input to help guide potential development, and public meetings will begin later this spring.
“This is a unique opportunity for the district to become a year-round destination with places to live, eat, shop and enjoy,” said Mac Freeman, chief commercial officer for the Denver Broncos, in a statement. “Similar to what many other sports teams around the country have done, this is a great chance to turn empty lots into family-friendly spaces that draw visitors throughout the year.”
The Broncos and the stadium district, which owns the property slated for the plan, expect the development will create a long-term, consistent income stream to support maintaining and improving the taxpayer-owned stadium. They expect to replace any parking that is lost to development.
"Redeveloping the south end of the stadium property is an opportunity to realize the recommendations in the neighborhood plan, which include improving transportation connections between the site and nearby transit, downtown, the Sun Valley and west-side neighborhoods, the highway and the South Platte River,” says Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development.
“The Stadium District can transform its surface parking lots into a neighborhood asset, and we want to work with the community to guide that transformation and ensure it conforms to Denver’s values,” he adds.
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Five years ago, Sun Valley residents, businesses and property owners, including the Broncos, established a vision for the area in the Decatur-Federal Station Area Plan. They recommended creating a year-round, mixed-use retail, entertainment and cultural hub to complement the stadium and other local recreational opportunities, with Lower Colfax as a “main street.”
Already, other development has started to occur in Sun Valley. Among the first new developments in the neighborhood is Steam on the Platte, located on Zuni Street between 14th and Lower Colfax avenues. Art collective Meow Wolf recently announced its plans to open a 50,000-square-foot immersive-art exhibit in a new five-story building wedged into a tangle of viaducts at the juncture of Interstate 25, Auraria Parkway and Colfax. To the west of Steam, Adrianna Abarca has plans to redevelop four pastel-colored buildings owned by her family into the Latino Cultural Arts Center, which will display a collection of Mexican and Chicano art that she and her father spent decades accumulating.
The Denver Housing Authority plans to create up to 800 new housing units in a mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhood on 22 acres in the shadow of Mile High Stadium. Over the course of six phases of development, DHA’s $240 million project will replace both Sun Valley Homes and Sun Valley Annex’s 333 public-housing units with 202 moderate-income housing units and 215 market-rate units.
Although they’re not technically in Sun Valley, the parking lots for Elitch Gardens also are slated for redevelopment. Revesco Properties, which is part of the team that paid $140 million for Elitch’s in 2015, is planning the River Mile, an urban district that will put blocks of high-rise housing and parks along the South Platte River over the next 25 years.