When Denver’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) strategic plan was produced in 2006, the idea of having a more systematic approach to transit-oriented development was a new, uncharted, and unproven idea. Since 2006, many regions have embarked on their own strategic planning for development around stations. Denver’s strategic plan for transit-oriented development is different than many other TOD Strategic plans. This plan outlines the city’s approach to implement TOD over the next six years; it is not a vision setting document for station areas nor is it a region-wide policy document produced by a metropolitan planning organization to promote TOD.
The 2006 plan has proved invaluable for guiding TOD related policies in the city, fostering external partnerships, and setting a work program of TOD planning and investment. Over half of Denver’s stations have received neighborhood and stakeholder-led planning efforts (small area and general development plans), infrastructure analysis has occurred, and investment has taken place. The City transitioned to a form-based, context-sensitive zoning code in 2010 and many stations now have transit and TOD supportive zoning. And TOD has happened in Denver, whether it is the Denver Housing Authority’s Mariposa project at 10th and Osage or the booming development around Denver Union Station, development has often followed public investment at stations.
All of this has informed the City on what TOD is to Denver and what it can be in the future. Development around rail stations is part of Denver striving to become a world-class city. To be competitive with the best and brightest regions of the world, Denver needs an exceptional transit system with great stations that connect to walkable communities. The City needs to tackle affordable housing issues, broaden transportation choices, and meet the demands of changing demographics. With this in mind, The City of Denver has evolved the definition of TOD to an idea of developing transit communities that are walkable, livable places that provide citizens with access to most of their daily needs. Six TOD principles now outline what makes a great transit community, and the typology has been altered to better reflect what Denver knows about development around stations while meshing with the neighborhood context that has been established in the Denver Zoning Code. For Denver to succeed in establishing more walkable places through transit communities, the action items need to be prioritized and realistic funding strategies must be considered. This document lays out the foundation of an implementation action plan through research and analysis of the existing state of transit-oriented development, provides city-wide and station-specific recommendations, and establishes a system to track and monitor Denver’s success so the City can continue to refine and improve its strategic moves in the future.
The definition of transit-oriented development in Denver is more than just development in station areas; it is part of building transit communities around rail stations in order to more closely connect the suburban and urban neighborhoods to Denver’s urban centers and Downtown. Removing barriers to transit-oriented development and improving multi-modal first and last-mile connections around rail stations can fill in the missing urban fabric between Denver’s new rail transit system, established neighborhoods, and emerging areas. By doing so, Denver can grow into a more seamless, walkable community that provides its citizens with great access to daily needs, whether that is a place to work, to study, to shop or run in the park.
Denver’s transit communities are walkable places that provide destinations like shopping, dining, jobs, parks, and schools — most of one’s daily activities — easily accessed from home by foot, bicycle, and transit. These communities tend to have a variety of housing types, provide the opportunity for a healthy lifestyle, and are designed to maximize resident access to public transportation by focusing activities on a major transit stop.
Transit-oriented development in Denver generally describes development in an existing or planned transit community that adds to the walkable, vibrant, mixed-use environment and is oriented towards frequent, high-quality transit service that connects the community to the rest of the region.
The following TOD principles establish a baseline for Denver neighborhoods to envision and plan for great transit communities.