Elements of Urbanism: Denver

September 10, 2012 51 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville's Robert Mann goes a "Mile High" to visit a city that has made locating complementing uses within a compact pedestrian scale setting, complete with multimodal connectivity: Denver

Tale of the Tape:

Denver City Population 2011: 619,968 (City); 2,599,504 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1861)

Jacksonville Pop. 2011: 827,908 (City); 1,360,251 (Metro-2011) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Denver (415,786)

City Land Area

Denver: 153.3 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2011)

Denver: +2.20%
Jacksonville: +1.09%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Denver: 2,374,203 (ranked 18 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Denver: 3,554.4 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2011

Denver: +65,332
Jacksonville: +92,405

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Denver: Colorado Convention Center (1990) - 584,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Denver: Hyatt Regency (1,100 rooms), Embassy Suites (403 rooms), Hilton Garden Inn (221 rooms),  
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Denver: Republic Plaza - 714 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2009 (City limits only):

Denver: DaVita (359)
Denver's suburbs: Arrow Electronic (133), DISH Network (191), Liberty Interactive (230), Newmont Mining (257), Liberty Global (261), Ball (297), CH2M Hill (440), Western Union (445)
Jacksonville: CSX (226), Winn-Dixie Stores (363), Fidelity National Information Services (425), Fidelity National Financial (472)

Urban infill obstacles:

Denver: Rail yards, I-25 and the South Platte River cut off Downtown Denver from Highland, West Colfax and Jefferson Park.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Denver: LoDo
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Both cities have a large number of peripheral surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Denver: 96 out of 100, according to walkscore.com
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to walkscore.com

About Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver is the main financial, commercial, and entertainment district in Denver, Colorado. There is over 23,000,000 sq ft of office space in downtown Denver, with 130,000 workers. The downtown area can be divided into six or seven main districts: Union Station, LoDo (however, Union Station is often considered to be part of LoDo), Ball Park, Central Downtown, Civic Center, Upper Downtown, and Arapahoe Square. Within those districts are many smaller features, districts and squares. Some of the more popular features include the 16th Street pedestrian mall, built in 1982, Larimer Square, the re-emerging Theatre District near Curtis and 14th, and Civic Center Park. Surrounding neighborhoods include Capitol Hill and Uptown to the east, Highland to the west, Five Points to the north, and the Golden Triangle to the south.


Clustering Complementing Uses Within A Compact Setting

Denver has made a strong effort to centralize its commercial and entertainment interests in the Downtown area. Currently, it is home to both Coors Field and Pepsi Center, and roughly a mile from nearby Invesco Field. LoDo and the 16th Street mall are home to hundreds of bars, restaurants, and cafes, attracting many residents from the metro area and supporting the 10,000 plus residents living in the central business district. Additionally, Downtown Denver is home to the second largest Performing Arts Center in the United States.


Sights and scenes from a vibrant community that continues to invest in itself.

Colorado Convention Center

Looking towards the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

The spectacle of Denver Cruiser Rides was a show not to be missed.  Each year the Cruisers announce the zany costume themes for the bike cruises which take place on "Bike Ride Wednesday."

The themes for 2012 included some tried and true favorites — officially referred to as DCR Traditions — such as the Ship o’ Fools (a.k.a. pirates, sea men and nymphs, Sept. 19) and what a Denver Post writer likes to call the Ghetto Robots (bubble wrap, duct tape and cardboard, June 20). There are also some retreads of themes from previous years, like the footie-pajama-friendly Slumber Party (June 6) and rolling Super Diamond concert known as Disco night (May 30).

There, on the horizon, is a semi-coherent swarm of rainbow afro wigs, pirate hats, spandex and pink tutus. It smells of booze, legal cannabis, and bicycle grease, sweat and tears, and by the time the bike-riding blob has overtaken you, it’s too late: you’re part of a Denver Cruiser Ride.

The Cruiser Rides end up at Civic Center Park, seen here at about midnight. Down front a DJ or band has the music cranked up, a pall of thick musty smoke hovers above the crowd, and down there in the blur, in the middle of the photo is a rapidly spinning 'Denver Cruiser Riders Circle of Death'. An amazing feat of stoned femininity and drunken machismo, performed with the zeal and purpose of a fraternity pledge gone way wrong.

16th Street Mall

The 16th Street Mall opened in 1982.  16th Street is no longer a through street, cut at both ends with a fleet of circulator buses running every couple of minutes well into the night, it serves as a vital connector, linking across the grain of all transit and transportation in Denver. The resulting synergy is absolutely the pulse at the heart of the city.

The jovial party atmosphere in nighttime Denver was illustrated by this scene where 5 college age passengers boarded the bus and announced to everyone that it was their friends birthday, the entire bus then broke into singing 'Happy Birthday'. As it turned out, birthday girl was on a scavenger hunt sponsored by her friends, one of the 'items' she had to collect was a bus full of strangers singing happy birthday... mission accomplished.

Daniels & Fisher Tower

Denver's B Cyle bike share program features 53 stations and 530 bicycles, spread across urban Denver.

Mass Transit

FasTracks is Regional Transportation District's (RTD's) voter-approved transit expansion program to build 122 miles of commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, redevelop Denver Union Station and redirect bus service to better connect the eight-county District.

LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver)

LoDo (LowerDowntown)is known for its nightlif, containing a mix of uses and 21,145 residents.  It is the oldest section of Denver.  However, by the mid-20th century, the area had become a skid row.  In the 1960s and 1970s, 20% of its buildings were demolished.  After the 1988 opening of a brewpup called the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the neighborhood eventually become an urban destination. Today, major destinations in LoDo include Coors Field, Pepsi Center, Denver Union Station, Museum of Contemporary Art, Wynkoop Brewing Company and Elitch Gardens Amusement Park.

Coors Field, as seen from the 16Th Street Transit Mall.

Denver Union Station

The Beaux-Arts style Union Station building opened in 1914.  During its heyday, it was served by 80 daily trains.  Current passenger operations include Amtrak's California Zephyr and C Line and E Line light rail routes.  Currently, the complex and another surrounding 19.5 acres are being transformed into a transit oriented retail, office and residential complex.

Denver is clearly a destination and not a pass through.  Can you imagine what downtown Jacksonville can become if we focus on stimulating complementing uses within a compact pedestrian scale setting, complete with multimodal connectivity?

Article and images by Robert Mann.