University of Denver, Denver, CO — Advisory Services Panel

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Date: June 12-17, 2016

Location: Denver, Colorado

Sponsor: The University of Denver

Subject Area: University and Neighborhood Development

Panel Chair: Glenda Hood, triSect LLC, Orlando, Florida

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Background and Panel Assignment

picture-21The University of Denver is the oldest and largest private institution of higher education in Colorado and the greater Rocky Mountain region. DU’s 125-acre campus overlooks the scenic Rocky Mountains and is located six miles from bustling downtown Denver, adjacent to the University Park neighborhood. DU’s campus is admired for its architectural and natural features, including an arboretum that is home to more than 2,000 trees and a pristinely kept campus green and gardens—all set within the fastest-growing large city in the United States.

In consultation with Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), the Office of Mayor Michael Hancock, and Councilman Paul Kashmann (whose district includes the panel’s study area), DU convened a ULI Advisory Services panel to answer a series of questions focusing on placemaking, mobility, development, and community engagement. The panel’s recommendations help provide the initial steps toward implementation of the long-term process to create a campus and community consensus about how DU and the surrounding areas of influence should evolve over the next 20 years—in other words, what DU “can be” in the future.

The University of Denver asked the panel to focus on the following key questions:

Placemaking

  • How can the campus be activated to make DU more interesting and exciting for students, faculty, and staff as well as more welcoming and attractive to the larger community?
  • How can DU improve the definition of entries to the campus? Should the entries vary in their character, such as “historic/formal,” “first-time visitor,” or “event patron,” etc.?
  • Should there be a DU “Main Street”?
  • How can links be improved with Washington Park, South High School, Porter Hospital, Old South Gaylord, and other neighborhood activity centers?

Mobility

  • How should the city, the RTD, and DU work together to redesign and/or relocate the light-rail station, parking facility, and related transit-oriented development adjacent to campus? How should this conversation be linked to the potential redevelopment of Colorado Station?

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  • How should the city, RTD, and DU address mobility and connectivity issues, such as
    • Avoiding gridlock on major thoroughfares such as University Boulevard and Evans Avenue;
    • Improving pedestrian safety in line with the city’s Vision Zero goals;
    • Expanding bike trails and bike usage;
    • Increasing shared vehicle usage;
    • Improving pedestrian and bike use across the I-25 barrier; and
    • Increasing links to greenways such as Harvard Gulch?

Economic Development

  • Should there be a “DU District”? How should it be structured?
  • What would the physical boundaries be?
  • What would the economic/social benefits be to retailers, developers, and neighbors?
  • What incentives would be needed for retailers and developers to participate?
  • What would the district feature?
  • What would be the most suitable and economically viable types of retail, commercial use, housing, etc.?
  • Should there be unique DU-related amenities such as an off-campus book store, a welcome center, a hotel, etc.?
  • What are the likely locations for workforce affordable housing? What are potential funding sources?

On-campus Development

  • How should DU update its land use planning process?
  • What should DU do with developable areas on campus, most particularly the six-acre parcel running along University Boulevard?
  • What joint development opportunities are most suited to the site that currently contains graduate student housing on the campus of the Iliff School of Theology
  • How should DU rethink its parking practices and facilities?

Summary of Recommendations

Pio-Palooza and Taste of DUThroughout the panel week—and through the panel’s interviews with community stakeholders, its research and study of background materials, and on-site visits to the DU campus and surrounding neighborhoods—the panel was overwhelmed with the possibilities for DU’s future. The panel’s overarching recommendations are summarized here and described throughout this report:

  • Be student and people focused. The panel heard throughout its time in Denver that DU should be student and people focused—physically, programmatically, and administratively.
  • Identify with Denver. DU should embrace its relationship, synergy, and opportunities with the larger Denver region.
  • Engage the community. Achieve “One DU” by cataloging current engagement approaches and ensuring that future engagement efforts align with DU’s values, strategic direction, and vision for its future. Make the community part of your story.
  • Create an innovation hub. The panel encourages DU to consider transforming the existing Driscoll Student Center into an innovation hub, where innovation platforms and programs are tested and further developed. DU should be a place where issues, challenges, and ideas come together.
  • Think differently. To be different, you must think differently. Change the DU mindset and culture to transform past thinking to future thinking.
  • Develop a campus gateway. Blur your campus edges into the city. Establish a new entry point to DU’s campus by relocating the University of Denver light-rail station, implementing street interventions, and building a mixed-use development at the intersection of South University and Buchtel boulevards.
  • Repurpose the William K. Driscoll Center. Ignite a new vibrancy in your existing student union by easing programmatic congestion and implementing a series of design improvements to open up the space and bring it to life.
  • Enhance the Margery Reed Building. Create a campus welcome center in the Margery Reed Building. Embrace your sanctuary and make this a communal living room for a range of users by enhancing indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Create destinations. Through small- and large-scale placemaking interventions, create memorable places and green spaces throughout the campus. Take advantage of your investment in architecture by activating the spaces in between and among buildings.

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