This week marks the 2-year anniversary of Denver’s zoning code. The modern, form- and context-based zoning code is among the first of its kind in the United States, and implements the all-encompassing citywide plan set forth in Blueprint Denver. The code ensures a predictable public realm by regulating the physical shape, mass and façade of buildings.
The former zoning code was inconsistent with the city’s vision, and created obstacles to sustainable, responsible development. After extensive public input over five years — including focus groups, hundreds of community meetings, community feedback on drafts of the code, and over 35,000 individual citizen participants — Denver City Council approved the code’s text and map on June 25, 2010.
Denver’s zoning code takes into account Denver’s past, present and future. It preserves historic districts and structures, promotes maintaining the character of established neighborhoods (areas of stability), and channels growth to areas that could benefit from revitalization (areas of change), such as transit station areas.
The economic downturn of recent years slowed the pace of building projects in Denver, but the Community Planning and Development Department has seen permitting on the rebound of late.
“Denver is poised for economic recovery because we have a zoning code that’s clear, predictable and easy to use,” said Molly Urbina, interim manager of Denver Community Planning and Development. “As development picks up again, we’re ready.”
One effect of the new zoning code map has been a drastic reduction in rezoning requests. In 2008, for example, 52 properties in Denver were rezoned at property owners’ request. In 2011, only 21 rezonings occurred; 11 of those were properties that were not included in the 2010 citywide rezoning.
The code has helped to transform some communities, notably East Colfax, where it has played a role in creating a real “main street.” Current and planned buildings under the new “main street” zoning on Colfax include Phoenix on the Fax (7171 E. Colfax), 7-11 (7675 E. Colfax), Argonaut Liquors (760 E. Colfax) and Sunflower Market (Colfax at Garfield). Each building meets the code’s form guidelines that ensure ground-floor activation to promote a safe, active, and pedestrian-scaled commercial street. According to the Fax Partnership association, there is an estimated $434 million in new development and building renovations in the pipeline for Colfax.
Proactive rezoning also removed barriers to redevelopment of transit station areas throughout the city. Development is progressing at station sites like Alameda, Evans, 38th & Walnut, and 10th & Sheridan. The Urban Land Conservancy estimates that the Evans station alone will generate more than $5.6 million in local income and at least 67 local jobs.
Learn more about the zoning code or look up your zoning at denvergov.org/zoning, or visit the Denver Community Planning and Development homepage at denvergov.org/cpd.