Two Downtown Streets Could Be Transformed Into an Urban Trail

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 11.12.41 AM
The thick orange line represents the route of the proposed urban trail. The 21st Street section would span from Benedict Park to Coors Field. The Wynkoop section would connect Coors Field with the Cherry Creek Trail Image: Aecom

The super successful Indianapolis Cultural Trail has already inspired one project in northeast Denver, and now planners want to create something similar downtown.

Denver’s Community Planning and Development Department is leading a project that would turn 11 blocks of 21st Street and five blocks of Wynkoop Street into a place tailored for people to walk, bike, and linger in the city center. The Downtown Denver Partnership and the Colorado Rockies are also major players on the project.

The idea is to weave the route through parks (old and new), local businesses, and major destinations like Coors Field and Union Station, while adding public amenities like sidewalk seating. The trail would connect with existing bike lanes and the Cherry Creek Trail, too, to create a loop.

“What this study is, is really an opportunity to take a look at what is essentially some of the largest chunks of property that the city owns in a different way — to think about the streets in a different way,” said Steven Chester, a senior city planner with CPD who kicked off last night’s open house at Coors Field. “In the past streets have been primarily places for cars and parking… but the reality is, with streets in our downtown, they’re so much more than that.”

downtown loop
The blue portion represents the trail. Designers said that 21st Street has a lot of “leftover spaces,” that a redesign would turn into usable places. Image: Aecom with orange text from Streetsblog

The conceptual plan calls for repurposing parking spaces on one side of 21st to make room for the trail, and adding some slight curves to the street to slow vehicle speeds. While the current design still shows 11-foot motor vehicle lanes, a width that tends to induce fast driving, reps from Aecom, the consultant on the project, said that detail is subject to change.

The trail itself would be more than a walking and biking route, with plantings and gathering places interspersed along the way.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.19.33 AM
Image: Aecom

“This is a place to pass through, but also to pause, to enjoy all of these places along the way,” said Nate Comier, a landscape designer with Aecom. “Yes we want to give people a chance to pass around each other, but it isn’t meant to be overly segregated. We expect everybody to kind of be paying attention to each other, and some of that friction and interaction is what’s gonna make this such a special place to be.”

According to other city plans, 21st Street is intended to become a “neighborhood bikeway,” a street designed to prioritize people on bikes.

As for Wynkoop Street, planners envision a pretty remarkable transformation. Between the Cherry Creek Trail and Coors field, Wynkoop could become a woonerf — a street shared by people and motor vehicles that sends cues to drivers to proceed very slowly.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.20.11 AM
A rendering of what the area around Union Station could become. Image: Aecom

“We’re suggesting — these are big ideas we want to throw out there today and get some feedback on — that you could really think of this as a grand piazza for Denver,” Comier said. “That you could take the qualities that you love about the [Union Station] plaza, and stretch them all the way across.”

About 100 people came to the meeting, and feedback was positive overall, save for the occasional concern over eliminating parking spaces. Next, planners will synthesize the public’s comments and begin to look at costs and an implementation strategy.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 10.22.59 AM
A look at some of the destinations along the urban trail. Image: Aecom
  • Chris

    This is great. Although I really believe that 16th Street to 18th Street on Wynkoop should be closed down and become a completely pedestrian area with a bike path only through it.

    • mckillio

      While I agree, good luck convincing the parking garage on Wynkoop between 16th and 17th that.

    • HumanInDenver

      Cars don’t always = bad. When the street is designed the right way, where cars are not king, it can become a shared street where everyone can enjoy. The crazy thing is the studies show that shared streets where there are no traffic control devices are actually safer, because drivers have to actually pay attention to their surroundings

    • Walter Crunch

      You have to have a massive ped demand from 7am to 8pm for that to work. Or the area becomes a magnet for crime. Hence 16th St mall

      • Walter Crunch

        By the way…restriction in bikes….is short sighted.

  • rorojo

    Drop the parallel parking and bump those intersection curbs out more.

  • JZ71

    Cities are defined by hard, urban streets, NOT by soft, grassy trails. This would be far more appropriate outside of the CBD, in the Highlands, RiNo or even Capitol Hill. Denver already has the 16th Street Mall, Skyline Park, Cherry Creek, the Platte and Auraria. If you want a real CITY, you can’t “make everything a park”!

  • cowtoys

    Good idea and better that it ‘isn’t’ a major street battling with traffic or pedestrians forcing tense drivers in thick traffic to yield into a bottlenecking love with recreating pedestrains. They would be slow to learn how to be extra cautious for that cohesion. I’ve heard pros and cons from both sides and unity won’t happen over night and not without some idiots not paying enough attention and causing harm to people. Turning Broadway into a bicycle mainline for the probable sake of a ‘look’ in urban cosmetics with pedestrian appeal which realistically will apply gridlock pressure to an already pressured regional/local transit arterial. That pedestrian north/south mainline would function better on Sherman or Bannock, just like this 21st st. would.