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River North overlays aimed at making area more affordable, livable

Proposed zoning map, text amendments would implement vision set in 38th & Blake Station Area Plan

After months of working with residents and property owners, city planners will present a proposal at Wednesday's Planning Board meeting intended to encourage the creation of more affordable housing and more walkable, pedestrian-friendly design in the neighborhood surrounding the 38th and Blake RTD Station.

Led by City Council President Albus Brooks, the proposed Denver Zoning Code text and map amendments will implement the community vision laid out by the 38th and Blake Station Area Plan, as amended in 2016, through the creation of an incentive height overlay for the 38th and Blake Station area and a design overlay for the River North Arts District (RiNo). 

The text amendment to the Denver Zoning Code will create the overlays, one map amendment will establish where the overlays apply, and a second map amendment will rezone certain properties to achieve the appropriate base zoning for the height incentive overlay to be applied properly.

How do overlays work?

Overlay zone districts supplement zone district standards with additional design standards, allowances or other special requirements. 

River North Design Overlay

This overlay request would implement plan recommendations and a request by the RiNo Art District (PDF) by establishing regulations to achieve a vibrant pedestrian realm with building and site design that emphasizes walkability and access to daylight, minimizes the impact of parking and integrates appropriately with existing buildings in RiNo and portions of the 38th and Blake Station area that are just outside the district. The Design Overlay District proposal includes regulations for building setbacks, parking location and access, massing (the shape and form of a building as perceived by a viewer at street level), street-level active uses, pedestrian access and transparency. 

38th & Blake Incentive Height Overlay

This overlay would allow developers to build structures taller than what the underlying zoning would normally allow, if they include affordable housing units in the building, build them elsewhere in the neighborhood, pay additional fee into the city's affordable housing fund, or reserve space for a community-serving use in the building. The options available to take advantage of the overlay would depend on the type of building. For example, mixed-use or commercial buildings could  opt for any of the above. Residential developments would be required to build affordable housing either as part of the development or somewhere else within the station area. The number of units required, as well as any additional fees, would be determined from specific calculations (PDF) based on the proposed development's square footage.  

What's the purpose of these overlays?

The intention of the incentive height and design overlays is to help direct growth into areas of the city that are best equipped to handle change, while also ensuring that those areas become great places. Specifically, the overlays capture a portion of the increased property values that result from significant public investments, such as the train station, and use them to ensure that new development benefits the community.

For a detailed overview of the project, visit www.DenverGov.org/38Blake