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The challenges of infill in Denver's inner suburbs

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Title:
The challenges of infill in Denver's inner suburbs
Creator:
VerEecke, Catherine
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
iv, 128 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Infill housing -- Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( lcsh )
Suburbs -- Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( lcsh )
Infill housing ( fast )
Suburbs ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver Metropolitan Area ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 124-128).
Thesis:
Urban and regional planning
General Note:
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Statement of Responsibility:
by Cahterine VerEecke.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
47108144 ( OCLC )
ocm47108144
Classification:
LD1190.A78 2000m .V47 ( lcc )

Full Text
The Challenges of Infill in
Denvers Inner Suburbs
Catherine VerEecke
Master's Thesis
Urban and Regional Planning
Fall 2000
University of Colorado at Denver


The Challenges of Infill in
Denvers Inner Suburbs
A Thesis Presented to the School of Architecture and Plannin
University of Colorado at Denver
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
Masters of Urban and Regional Planning
Submitted by
Catherine VerEecke
Approved by:
Thomas A. Clark
Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
Chair, Masters Thesis Committee
Catherine VerEecke
Fall 2000


Table of Contents
Page
Acknowledgments
iv
Chapter 1
Introduction 1
Accommodating Growth in the Denver Region
The Study
Methodology
Chapter 2
The Challenges of Growth, with Infill as a Solution
Growth and its Consequences
The Need for Intervention: Towards Growth Management Paradigms
Relative Efficacy of Growth Management Programs
Infill
11
Chapter 3 48
Growth and Sprawl in the Denver Metropolitan Area
Introduction
Growth Patterns
Growth Rates
Communities in the Inner Ring and the Study Area
Projections
Changing Land Use
Chapter 4 68
Perspectives from the Local Governments
Introduction: Rationale
Incentives to Infill
Issues Regarding a Regional Infill PlanThe Challenges
i


82
Chapter 5
Development Alternatives: Vacant and Redevelopable Land
Introduction
Explanation of theVacantModel
Quantities ofVacantLand
Spatial Distributions within the Ring
General Metropolitan Area
Implications for Accommodation of Residential Growth
Lessons From Elsewhere
Chapter 6 111
Conclusion
Summary of the Findings
Analysis: Infill Prospectus in the Denver Metropolitan Area
Reasons for Optimism
Implications of Results for Broader Issues
Bibliography
123
u


Figures
1. Population Change for Region
2. Population Change for the Eight Counties
3. Share of Population
4. Growth Rates
5. Growth Rates Counties
6. Area of Municipalities in the Study (Acres)
7. Population Growth in Inner Ring Suburbs
8. Population Growth in Fringe Suburbs and Free-Standing Comunities
9. Projections for the Eight-County Region
10. Projections for the Eight Counties
11. Changing Areas and Densities
12. Vacant Land (Acres)
13. Distribution of Values of Vacant Land
14. Inner Ring Characteristics by County
15 a. One Zone with Two Density Alternatives
15b. Two Density Zones
15c. Varying Growth Rates
15d. Varying Percentages of Available Land
15e. Varying Uses/Development Strategies
Maps
1. Map of the Study Area
2. The Eight County Area
3. Location Map Municipalities
4. Population Density in the Inner Ring Area
5. Acres Vacant Residential Land in the Inner Ring Area (Natural Break
Classification)
6. Acres Employment-Oriented Vacant Land Inner Ring Area (Equal Area
Classification)
7. Vacant Residential Land (Equal Area Classification)
8. Employment-Oriented Vacant Land Inner Ring Area (Equal Area
Classification)
9. Vacant Residential Land Mean and Median Acres
10. Acreage Vacant Residential Land Eight County Area (Natural Breaks)
11. Vacant Residential Land Eight County (Normalized by Acres)
12. Vacant Employment-Oriented Land (Normalized by Acres)
13. Redevelopment Potentials for Denver
14. Areas of Opportunity
in


Acknowledgments
The following individuals contributed in various ways to the development and
completion of this project. I am most grateful for their assistance. However, I assume
responsibility for the ideas presented in this thesis.
Masters Committee
Thomas A. Clark, Chair and Professor, Urban and Regional Planning
Larry Mugler, Development Services Denver Regional Council of Governments
Brian Muller, Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning
Ken Brink, Denver Regional Council of Governments
Ken Glover, Mesa County (Colorado) GIS
Officials of Local Governments of the Denver Metropolitan Area
Mustapha Girei
IV


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
ACCOMMODATING GROWTH IN THE DENVER REGION
For more than 30 years, the Denver metropolitan area1 has been experiencing
unprecedented growth. Its population increased from about 1.6 million in 1980 to more
than 2.2 million in 1998, with initial projections of nearly 3 million in the year 2020
(DRCOG 1997). The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and the U.S.
Census Bureau recently stated that population growth may actually surpass these
projections by about 200,000, with most of the growth to occur within an urbanized area
of about 700 square miles (DRCOG 2000).2 Between 1990 and 1995, the Denver
metropolitan area ranked sixth in the nation in population growth, with its population
increasing by nearly 13 percent (Mildner 1998).
Despite the many benefits associated with sustained growth, questions have
emerged about the regions ability to manage or contain such growth and its associated
changes within a relatively short span of time. Housing is already in short supply in
some locales, sprawl is increasingly evident in outlying areas, traffic and congestion are
problematic along highways and local routes, while pressures are mounting on the areas
1 According to the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Denver Metropolitan Region includes the
1990 Census Denver-Boulder Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA), plus Gilpin and Clear
Creek counties.
' While the entire eight county CMSA includes about 5000 square miles. For the year 2000, population is
estimated at 2.4 million.
1


natural resources. If the most recent projections are correct, the pressures will be even
greater. Some of the areas jurisdictions have thus considered various measures to reduce
the actual levels or rates of growth by adopting, for example, service and growth
boundaries, open space programs, or growth moratoria or caps on building permits,
despite possible negative repercussions for economic development. Other communities
have espoused sustained, smart growth, with more careful attention to techniques of
accommodation. Under this perspective, new growth is steered towards those locales
identified as more able to contain growth without causing sprawl. The latter would
require elaborate planning efforts, design standards, and relative consistency between
existing zoning ordinances, master or comprehensive plans, and regional plans (DRCOG
1997). Such concern in the region is also evidenced by recent attempts to develop and
implement smart growth measures in the legislature and as a public initiative, as well as
by the Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG).
One possible strategy for effectively accommodating the new growth is to attempt
to direct new developments into Denvers suburban core area, or inner ring, by
identifying appropriate locales and proposing strategies that would steer growth to the
locales. This inner ring is the sector of the urbanized area that has ostensibly ceased to
grow, associated largely with the communities build-out, the aging of the housing stock
within these locales, and the evolution of the newer suburbs and the migration of people
and jobs to new developments within them. Some of the older housing, existing vacant
lands, or old manufacturing areas might be redeveloped, but at a higher density than was
2


previously the case or envisioned for the locales, in a manner that recaptures some of the
lost population, vitality, and activities of the locales. Previously by-passed or
undeveloped land could also be developed with similar results. This strategy of increased
density through infill development, coupled with other growth management techniques,
might help accommodate at least some of the new growth that is likely to occur in the
next few decades in the Denver area. Moreover, conditions in the area might now be
conducive to infill in the inner ring, more so than in the past. Downtown areas have
experienced economic revitalization and have become attractive for residential
development. Some suburban communities have reached their spatial limits and are
built out. Finally, many citizens and officials of the Denver area support the goal of
curbing sprawl and its negative impacts on the metropolitan area. The main question
addressed during this research has thus been-just how much new growth could be
accommodated by infill activities in Denvers inner suburbs?
THE STUDY
Within the context of the projected sustained growth in the Denver Metropolitan
Area, this study has considered the general prospects for infill development and how it
might contain the growth. The study has aimed to obtain information on relative
quantities of land in the counties and municipalities within the inner ring of the Denver
Metropolitan Area that might be developed or redeveloped in the quest for higher density,
such as vacant land, brownfields, historical properties, underused land, or re-developable
3


land. More than 20 jurisdictions (counties and cities) of varying sizes and densities have
been involved in the study.
Map 1 Map of the Study Area
4


The idea for this study came from DRCOG. As the Council has explored a
variety of growth management techniques to accommodate growth in the eight-county
area, infill has seemed worth investigating. In addition, as recent projections for
population growth up to 2020 suggested greater increases than originally expected,
DRCOG has been considering possible scenarios for accommodating the population
growth. One area of interest has been vacant (undeveloped and re-developable) land
collected from county assessors and from the jurisdictions. With this, the question could
be asked, Is there enough vacant land imthe area to accommodate a significant portion
of the projected growth?"
Initially, the researcher hoped that many of the jurisdictions would already have
relatively current, available data on land use, including vacant and re-developable land
within their domains, either in data base form or in maps depicting land use using GIS
technologies. With this, it might be possible to estimate in a broad sense the quantity and
location of land that could be available to accommodate some of the projected growth
over the next 20 years. However, during the research it became apparent that some of
the counties, cities, and towns in the study area do not have such information. Also, it
was determined that county assessors information would likely be too general to analyze
for development potential.
Thus, based on the variation, availability, and nature of data, the study partially
shifted its focus. It first attempted to gather general information on the jurisdictions
systems of collecting, maintaining and analyzing data on land use and their general
5


estimates and assessments of land with potential for development in the future. It also
sought to determine how they approach the concept of infill. The second objective was
to compile and analyze the available data on the existing uses and spatial distribution of
the land in light of development possibilities. As it became apparent that relatively little
quantitative information exists on re-developable land, the study focused on relative
quantities of vacant land in the area, for which there is some numerical data.
More specifically, the project has sought to accomplish the following:
1) determine the relative quantities of vacant land by jurisdiction and by use and
assess the lands development potentials;
2) gain a general sense of potentially re-developable land in the area;
3) examine the issues associated with infill efforts as experienced by the
jurisdictions, based upon their perceptions of the issues;
4) propose mechanisms through which a regional plan, model, or framework, might,
if appropriate, be formulated and adopted that would encompass the jurisdictions
partly or wholly in the inner ring area of Denver; and
5) predict the impact that such development would have upon the issues associated
with the rapid growth of the region and its population.
This study has also sought to throw light on several topics and issues that have
been of concern in the planning profession in recent years. These include the following:
1) the problems and issues associated with seemingly unmanaged growth in
American cities;
2) the nature of infill and high density development;
6


3) the benefits and merits of revitalization of core or inner ring locales of urban
areas;
4) the coordination of infill or redevelopment programs, especially where the issues
transcend existing political boundaries;
5) the conceptual and categorical issues associated with initiating infill projects;
6) social and ethical questions that may arise in the context of infill development;
and
7) strategies for undertaking infill programs at both local and regional levels.
These issues are introduced in the literature review in Chapter Two. We will see that
there is agreement about the importance of infill development for revitalizing
neighborhoods and downtown areas. However, some authors question the ability of such
developments to contain growth and they stress the high costs of infill projects in relation
to their benefits. Moreover, despite growing interest and political support, infill
development continues to represent a negligible percentage of construction in the U.S.
(Sargent 1994).
This study has therefore sought to throw light on infill-related issues, and more
broadly on the issues associated with sprawl and with smart growth or growth
management strategies as they attempt to confront the issues. Denver may be a useful
case in point, due to its rapid growth in recent years in which growth in land area has
exceeded that of population and the projections of sustained growth and expansion of the
7


urbanized area into rural locations. Moreover, as citizens of Colorado are becoming
increasingly concerned about the need for mechanisms to curb sprawl and its impact, and
as communities also are thinking about growth alternatives, such a study of infill may be
timely. In addition, the discussion will relate the experience of the Denver area to other
locales in the United States. In short, as Marcuse (1988:10) has stated, the realities of
past abandonment and present stagnation make infill today the cutting edge of progress.
METHODOLOGY
The research adopted several methods to accomplish its goals. First, the relevant
literature on infill development and more broadly on issues of growth and growth
management techniques were surveyed. Second, demographic and socio-economic data
were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, Denver Regional Council of Governments
(DRCOG), from the State Demographers Office, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This data is used in Chapter Three to demonstrate the high levels of growth now taking
place in the Metropolitan Area that could warrant more explicit attention to the regions
infill potentials. In addition, first-hand research and analysis of the data took place
regarding the jurisdictions in the inner ring and their infill potentials. Preliminary
discussions were held with several local governments to assess the general issues with
infill development within their jurisdictions. Based on these, questionnaires were
administered to the jurisdictions within the inner ring study area. A majority of these
were done in person to allow for comment beyond the specified questions. Several
8


potential respondents who were unavailable for interview filled in the questionnaires.
The representatives ranged from directors of planning departments or planning managers
to senior planners, and some GIS specialists joined the discussions. For the smaller
jurisdictions with no planners, assistant town administrators answered the questions.
Because a majority of the questions were open-ended and produced qualitative answers,
responses are discussed below in Chapter Four in a general manner. Moreover, given the
sensitivity of growth issues and approaches today in the Denver area, references to
specific jurisdictions are limited. Finally, the research used GIS (Geographic Information
Systems) to analyze the quantities and spatial distribution of vacant land in the study
area, primarily to determine, in abroad sense, the areas potential to accommodate the
growth that is projected to take place between now and the year 2020. We will examine
several possible scenarios of how much growth could be contained by different densities
(cf. Downs 1994), including such variables as population growth rate and density.
Accordingly, the propositions that have guided the research and analysis of data have
included the following:
1) Jurisdictions in the inner ring area would recognize the potentials of infill to
help accommodate growth in the region and therefore would support a
regional approach to infill;
2] A reasonable amount of vacant land is or will be available for infill within
the inner ring that it would help make an impact on the growth (e.g. 900,000
between 2000 and 2020) that is expected to occur. Given the percent of
9


population and land area in the ring3 in relation to adjacent and outlying areas,
it might be reasonable to expect that 25% of the new growth will be in the
form of infill in the inner ring area.
These propositions will be investigated in Chapters 5 and 6.
In addition, the study has also examined the possibility that in addition to vacant
land, some of the growth may be contained through redevelopment efforts. Although
most jurisdictions and DRCOG do not readily have this kind of information, the work by
the City and County of Denver on re-developable land will be useful in helping to
develop a model that other local governments might wish to apply in some manner in
their jurisdictions.
Finally, in conclusion, this study will make policy recommendations based on the
findings of the research. It will address the questions and propositions posed earlier in
this chapter, in particular regarding the kind of impact infill programs could have on the
metropolitan area, given the various incentives and constraints. It will discuss other
possible outcomes of infill development. The conclusion also includes the range of
possible strategies that the jurisdictions and DRCOG could adopt to increase and
coordinate infill activities in the region.
3 The inner ring, at 223 square miles, constitutes about 4% of the land area of the entire metropolitan area
which itself has about 5100 squares, including vast quantities of relatively undeveloped land. Incorporated
areas are now approaching 600 square miles, including the free-standing communities outside the inner ring
area, such as Boulder and Castle Rock. The inner ring thus now has about 30% of the developed land area
of the region and more than 50% of the population (see Chapter 3, below, for population projections.), at
more than 1.5 million people.
10


CHAPTER 2
THE CHALLENGES OF GROWTH,
WITH INFILL AS A SOLUTION
GROWTH AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Historical Transformation of American Urban Areas
Since the middle of the 20th century, a demographic shift has been occurring in
the United States, related in part to Post-War transportation and housing initiatives, the
new mortgage insurance system, and increasing use of the automobile (Lincoln Land
Institute 1995). Characterized by a relative population explosion, such a demographic
shift has set in motion a host of other demographic, economic, and cultural phenomena
that continue, in the year 2000, to evolve further from the land use patterns of a century
ago (Diamond and Noonan 1996:1). As the population of the country has approached
300 million, such changes are inevitable, but they have been further impacted by the
dramatic social and cultural changes taking place since mid-century. A major socio-
economic change during 20th century America has been the recognition of the value of
the new suburbs. These were perceived early in the century as potentially catalyzing
economic development, as accommodating population growth, and as providing the most
desirable, beneficial, and perhaps moral, living arrangements in terms of relative
comfort, safety, and support of the family, namely in the conjugal form. Quite rapidly,
the American Dream that once centered on freedom and economic opportunity came to
11


encompass the achievement of a lifestyle found almost exclusively in the suburbs
(Calthorpe 1993). Moreover, combined with the notion of the American Frontier that
had espoused continued outward expansion into uncharted areas, such an ideology has
created an almost excessive and insatiable demand for land consumption and low density
housing in areas outside existing urban centers (Lincoln Land Institute 1995; Garreau
1991). It has also fueled the interests and desire for developers to capitalize on such
sentiments. Moreover, as economic benefits have accrued to established governments
from these developments or as new communities have arisen and have required the
formation of new governments, the new process of sub-urbanization has continued
relatively unmanaged and unchecked.
While some of the new settlements and communities have formed to
accommodate natural growth, many have also grown in association with the flight of
large numbers of people, retail enterprises, and jobs from central urban areas. For many
metropolitan areas, the majority of the population continues to live in the suburbs, rather
than in the city center, and a majority of jobs and businesses continue locate in the
suburbs (Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999). Activities are thus no longer centralized but
rather are fragmented over rather large, sprawling areas (Anderson and Tregoning 1998).
The expanding metropolitan areas have often developed in a fragmented manner, both in
terms of disparate jurisdictions and the encapsulation of poor in inner city areas (Lincoln
Land Institute 1995; Downs 1994; Rusk 1999; Zukin 1991). Thus, population growth,
coupled with the elaboration of the American Dream to include new forms of land use,
12


zoning regulations, economic activities, consumption, and social hierarchies, has initiated
major changes in the American landscape (Harris and Carman 1999). This ideology is
still strong, despite the contradictions that have emerged, particularly as more
undeveloped land is consumed as the fundamental vision of uncontrolled expansion into
new areas persists.
Over time, a number of other patterns have emerged. First, growth has been
occurring around metropolitan areas at the expense of rural areas that have been losing
their population and land; It has led to the expansion of existing, relatively urban or
suburban areas far outside the central, urban core areas. From 1960 to 1990, the amount
of developed land in metropolitan areas of the United States more than doubled, while the
population grew by less than half. Average population densities declined from more than
6000 per square mile in the early 20th century to less than 2000 per square mile for the
newer developments and communities of the 1990s (Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999).
Second, new communities in the southern, western, and southwestern United States have
gained popularity among the different sectors of the Post-War population. Some of the
older cities of the north and east have lost population to other regions or to their own
suburbs. The newer ones, particularly in the Sunbelt area, have struggled to
accommodate their new-found popularity and the associated dramatic influxes in
population and changing land use patterns (Diamond and Noonan 1996; Porter 1997).
For example, between 1970 and 1990 the population of Atlanta grew by 80 percent while
its urbanized area grew by 160 percent. Automobile travel and pollution increased to the
13


extent that the region recently did not meet Federal air quality standards, jeopardizing its
Federal funding needed to build more roads (Hollis 1995: 53; Logan 1999: 39). Finally,
as the country has prospered since the 1990s, patterns and values of consumption have
become more entrenched, and the desire for costly housing on the fringes of metropolitan
areas has escalated, contributing to the perpetuation of the phenomenon commonly
known as sprawl.4
Impact of the Transformation
While the economic benefits of suburbanization have been clear, the American
populace, members of the planning profession, and local governments have increasingly
become aware of the negative impact of the relatively uncontrolled growth that has taken
place in many American metropolitan areas. According to (Calthorpe 1993: 18), what
once began in mid-century as a new vision of the city and community has become
distorted, beyond retention, and out of sync with todays culture. Calthorpe (ibid.) refers
to all this as the Crisis of Place in America, that is signified, in particular, by sprawl.
As families now settle further from the central urban areas in order to acquire affordable
housing, numerous issues, hardships, and problems have arisen for them. Nevertheless,
4 Despite its common usage, definitions of the concept sprawl are vague or non-existent. Some refer to it
as the growth of population outside the city in the form of low density settlement at the far edges of the
settled area, spreading out into previously undeveloped area. Other definitions might add that sprawl is
poorly planned, land consumptive, automobile dependent, designed without regard to its surroundings.
(Lincoln Land Institute 1995). The meaning of sprawl varies from community to community. Similarly,
some issues have arisen regarding the meaning of smart growth. It could refer, for instance, to changing
patterns of low density development by mandating higher density, or a greater variety of choices that make
sensible use of land (Harris and Carman 1999; Growth/No Growth Alert 1999).
14


the Dream still exists, despite the obvious change in family structure and spatial
organization that characterizes it. Moreover, some people continue to buy a particular
type of house as an investment, not necessarily because it meets their needs. Finally,
such developments are supported and marketed by the building industry in which
developers, backed by corporate enterprises, gain profits by building large quantities of
large houses on large tracts of undeveloped land in open areas where citizens are less
likely to protest (Sargent 1994). Arguably, these ventures and trends reinforce and give
added meaning and impetus to the American dream of suburban living.
Some of the apparent issues and problems associated with sprawling
development are as follows:
Serious environmental stress. Despite the progress resulting from environmental
regulation over the last 30 years, many phenomena still threaten the land, including
sprawl. Some pollutants are not easily regulated, such as non-point source water
pollution from industries and air pollution due to ever-increasing use of the automobile.
Moreover, fragile environments, such as wetlands and shorelines, and endangered species
continue to be threatened by contradictory land uses, bureaucracy, and arguably by
property rights adherents (Diamond and Noonan 1996:76).
15


Intractable traffic congestion. The growth of the suburbs, combined with the shift in
orientation of work from blue-collar, often urban-based, manufacturing-related jobs to the
broad profession of services, has contributed to the decentralization of the workplace
and suburban communities. Sprawling, low-rise office parks have come to dominate the
landscape in many locales away from city centers and have necessitated the increased use
of the automobile. Whereas people once commuted to downtown areas, many now drive
between and within suburbs, so that traffic has mounted throughout metropolitan areas.
Overall, Vehicle Miles Traveled have increased in the country as have per capita miles
traveled (Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999). The resulting congestion, in turn, can affect
worker productivity, the cost of business, and air quality standards. Moreover, a kind of
culture of automobile use has emerged in which people may prefer to drive and endure
traffic despite other transit options. In many cases, densities are so low that mass transit
would not be feasible or effective.
Costs of sprawl and development. As low density, sprawling development increases,
relative costs to both government and citizens may escalate. Studies (e.g., RERC 1971)
have suggested that sprawl development costs more to neighborhoods, communities and
regions than compact development, while costs may also escalate in highly dense urban
areas (Ewing 1997). These costs may be borne in part by local governments as well as
developers without regard to differences in cost. Although there is no agreement on
exactly how significant the costs are, the studies argue that such developments often do
16


not generate sufficient tax revenue or impact fees to cover the costs of infrastructure,
electricity, roads, schools, sewer, and provision of water. They also do not cover the
consumption of natural resources, such as water and land, as well as energy sources, such
as petroleum. The costs may be highest when new settlements or subdivisions extend far
out into rural areas yet require infrastructure from local governments. Sprawl may also
result in the under-utilization of existing services in urban areas or the duplication of
services between the urban and suburban areas. Finally, these costs are often passed on
to the consumer, in the form of housing costs or taxes, which creates financial hardships
and may, perhaps ironically, contribute to sprawling development even further outside
urban areas. Studies (e.g., Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999: 115) suggest that by directing
development into areas with existing infrastructure, savings can be as much as 60% for
roads and sewer lines.
Decline in urban centers. The emergence of new suburban areas also negatively affects
city centers. These locations face job flight and economic decline, which in turn gives
rise to isolation, decay, abandoned structures and industrial lands, vacant or underutilized
land, and enclaves of the poor. Brownfields emerge as industries depart and leave their
contaminants. These phenomena are exacerbated when government monies are invested
to enhance the developing suburbs, rather than revive brownfield or other blighted
locations in the urban core. Also, the more recent economic shift towards service-based
or technologically supported jobs away from those of industrial and urban areas has
17


further contributed to this decentralization (Diamond and Noonan 1996:94). Such a
vicious cycle is not easily broken, and the poor are increasingly isolated and left without
the means and support to improve their livelihoods. Suburban communities become
homogeneous and may lack the family values that propelled their development in mid-
century (Lincoln Land Institute 1995). Thus, the urban-suburban dichotomy becomes
greater while the general sense of placelessness and lack of history of communities
continues to grow (cf. Calthorpe 1993).
Suburban Decay. Over time, as cities continue to expand outward, urban issues can
extend beyond the core area into the older suburbs. Poverty and social instability do not
stop in the central core but move out to the inner ring of working class suburbs. Lacking
a strong tax base and established social and governmental infrastructure, these areas are
faced with the flight of the middle class to the outer suburbs (Lincoln Land Institute
1995). The decay, abandonment, and under-investment that has plagued central cities
thus increasingly affects inner-suburban or inner ring communities (Anderson and
Tregoning 1998: 9). For example Orfield (1997: 162) found that in 1991, nine Chicago
suburbs had higher crime rates than that of Chicago proper, and 40 of the suburbs had
higher rates than the national average. Increased poverty further de-stablizes these
communities and the resources needed for education and infrastructure, and it therefore
helps generate additional middle class flight. Redevelopment can be an issue as
18


individual communities in these suburbs may lack the economic means for change and
their issues may receive less attention from funding sources than the inner cities.
Lost of irreplaceable open space and agricultural land. As development expands outward
into rural areas, pressures and incentives for owners to sell their land become greater. In
the process, quality agricultural lands may be lost, environmentally sensitive lands may
be damaged, and areas with potential for open space or recreational uses may be
developed before alternatives can be formulated. To be sure, since the 1950s, more than
1 billion acres of farmland in the United States have been lost to 'development' (Diamond
and Noonan 1996:66). Agricultural land is now being lost at an estimated one million
acres a year (Bragado 1995). Once developed, these areas cannot be retrieved for more
optimal use or preservation, and they continue to be targeted for development as they
may form important links in a chain of sprawling developments into once-rural areas.
Lifestyles that burden family members. Today there appears to be a lack of congruence
between existing family structures and settlement patterns. Household size has declined
steadily since the 1970s and single-parent or non-family households have increased in
frequency (Diamond and Noonan 1976). As more women enter the workforce, retaining
the apparently cohesive and harmonious lifestyle of the conjugal family may become
illusive or problematic for spouses as they commute longer distances to work and attempt
to care for their children. Moreover, despite the fact that houses with a single household
19


head are now almost as numerous as those with conjugal families, large houses are still
the ideological norm and continue to grow in size (Sargent 1994). But they are
increasingly difficult for some people and families to manage under current economic
conditions. Moreover, relatively few provisions are made for the elderly as they move
further through the domestic cycle.
Dearth of affordable housing. Even as more households have two incomes, the cost of
housing makes home owning prohibitive for some families and individuals. Incomes
have not kept pace with the cost of housing (Diamond and Noonan 1996:72). Some
families are forced to find housing in relatively remote locations, thereby increasing other
problems, such as lengthy commute time to work and traffic congestion. Moreover,
suburban developments have become exclusionary and homogeneous, ostensibly catering
to those with moderate to high incomes (Porter 1996: 175). As we will see below, some
recent urban redevelopments have tended to favor those with moderate to high income,
thereby exacerbating the dilemmas of relatively low-income people.
Poorly conceptualized planning. Despite the fact that planning has taken place in local
governments for decades, the negative results of inadequate or poor planning have only
become apparent in recent years. Zoning has reportedly encouraged decentralization and
isolation of activities, sprawling and monotonous low-density residential developments,
and strip malls, to name a few. Design standards and attention to existing environmental
20


features have been minimal (Bamett 1995). Despite the recent proliferation of more
flexible zoning techniques and higher design standards in recent years, developers may
still choose to persuade local governments to continue to approve mundane developments
that contribute to sprawl.
THE NEED FOR INTERVENTION: TOWARDS GROWTH MANAGEMENT
PARADIGMS
Besides the physical changes and inconveniences associated with growth and the
changing landscapes of American communities, other more intangible phenomena are
also apparent. These include a growing sense of frustration and placelessness among
residents in communities, and the overall appearance of monotony and lack of character
throughout the communities (Calthorpe 1993). With these various issues, some argue
that the time is right for a change in both the physical and cultural patterns that have
evolved during the last 50 years. At a minimum, governments may recognize that it is
economically inefficient or perhaps detrimental to try to stop growth but that they can
steer growth into particular locations and influence the rate and quality of future
development (Hollis 1995; Sargent 1994). They can seek to anticipate and accommodate
community development in ways that balance competing land use goals (e.g., between
environmentalists and property rights advocates) and coordinate local with regional
interests (Porter 1997:10). They can also set a goal of making more efficient use of land
within their own and other jurisdictions, and they can play an important role in common
21


sense land use management (Diamond and Noonan 1996:13). Porter (1997) also refers to
this as a kind of positive management, where governments recognized that growth is
both necessary and inevitable, and where they anticipate, accommodate, and guide
development in a manner that helps meet community-wide goals. This contrasts with
growth controls that try to stop growth, such as growth moratoria. Moreover, growth
management activities can operate at different levels, ranging from local efforts to those
regulated in a formal sense by regional or state growth management legislation and
programs.
Some growth management proposals
Techniques to help manage growth are numerous and are often case-specific
catering to issues and conditions within local governments. They may operate within a
system of strategies to confront or mitigate the impact of growth. Following Porter
(1997: 43), they may be subsumed under the following interrelated areas:
1. Managing location and character of community expansion urban growth
boundaries, development policy areas, promotion of infill and redevelopment,
extra-jurisdictional controls, growth limits
2. Preserving natural resources and environmental qualities land acquisition,
conservation planning/zoning, delineation of critical areas, mitigation of
development impacts, transfer of development rights, agricultural land
protection, watershed planning, environmental threshold standards
3. Efficient provision of infrastructure functional plans, adequate public
facility requirements, exactions, impact fees, and special districts,
transportation demand and congestion management, project point or rating
systems
22


4. Maintaining desirable quality of community life design reviews, flexible
planning and design, incentive and performance zoning, historic and
architectural preservation, landscape ordinances, neighborhood conservation
and revitalization, landscape ordinances, tree or plant conservation
requirements
5. Improving economic opportunities and social equity economic development
incentives, economic opportunity programs, affordable housing programs
6. Regional and state guidance coordination of local planning, reviews of
developments of regional impact, growth legislation.
In short, there are a great variety of techniques available to communities and
regions for practicing growth management. These techniques may help address the
issues of growth that have arisen in recent years and mitigate the impacts of sprawl.
Case examples of states and locales that have implemented comprehensive growth
management plans suggest that it is possible to influence the form that new growth
assumes, the direction it takes, and its relative impacts. For instance, during the 1970s
the State of Oregon adopted a system of statewide land use planning. Thus far, this has
resulted in the containment of new growth within designated growth areas at prescribed
densities. In Portland, an urban growth boundary was drawn far outside the city to
designate areas of future growth and no growth (Mildner 1998). The designated area has,
with only a small increase in size, been able to accommodate a 50 percent increase in
population, and the density of the area has increased by nearly 10 percent! (Benfield,
Raimi, Chen 1999: 152). Despite the constraints, Portlands economy has continued to
23


grow and new industries have continued to locate in the city. It has become a model for
many other cities to emulate.
In contrast, the State of Maryland adopted Smart Growth legislation that
emphasizes various incentives to counter the negative impacts of extreme growth and
sprawl. It calls for promoting concentrations of development in and around existing
communities, and the conservation of farmland, forests, and open space. State funds are
channeled to local governments that designate and fund priority areas. These include
high-density housing, enterprise areas, certified heritage areas, and preservation of rural
areas and farmlands. Projects that stimulate new development, such as highways, are
given low priority. In short, Marylands Smart Growth Program attempts to integrate a
number of programs under one framework, particularly those providing rewards for
"Smart Growth" (Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999: 55; Porter 1999).
This research has focused on one techniqueinfill and its potentials to help
accommodate growth in the Denver area over the next 20 years. As will become clear in
the discussion to follow, such a practice can be complicated, both politically and
technically (Porter 1997: 53). Although infill may be useful, it might best be undertaken
in conjunction with some of the other growth management techniques listed above, as
relevant to the conditions in the specific jurisdictions (cf. Sargent 1994). In the following
section we examine the some of the critiques of growth management or smart growth
planning, particularly as it may relate to infill.
24


RELATIVE EFFICACY OF GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
Despite the obvious need for intervention, some authors argue against the general
philosophy and efficacy of pursuing growth management activities. As noted above, the
benefits of more compact development may include: reduction in the cost of
infrastructure, reduced vehicle miles traveled and traffic, and the preservation of the
environment and open space. As we will see below, some authors question the relative
merits of growth management strategies and express concerns about just how beneficial
they really are, how they should be managed, and if other types of strategies should be
pursued. Some also question the overall effects of the strategies on sprawl. More
specifically they ask whether increasing
compact communities will make any di
densities of communities or creating more
Terence and whether the mixed results justify the
enormous costs expended, including soc :al costs. In an even broader sense, questions
have emerged about the relative usefulness of growth management. The general
argument, again, is that the outcomes arQ too uncertain, the obstacles are overwhelming,
and the costs exceed the benefits. Some of the arguments have arisen among critics of
the anti-sprawl movement who insist on the primacy of free-market economics and
consumerism, together with property rights, as driving behavior and settlement patterns
in the United States (Conte 2000), with the potential to mitigate some aspects of sprawl.
We now elaborate on the major tenets of the criticisms.
25


Preferences for low density vs. higher density housing. Many studies and consumer
surveys argue that a majority of people in the United States prefer low density, suburban,
car-centered settlement over high-density living (Downs 1994; Conte 2000). Others add
that this development has been facilitated largely by the growing affluence of some
Americans and the radical changes that are taking place in their livelihoods (Hayward
1998). Regardless of its roots, this preference for low-density development has
contributed to increasingly dispersed, decentralized spatial organization around the
countrys metropolitan areas. Even though some people elect to live in central areas, the
overall tendency is much more towards dispersal. Highways and roads continue to be
built to facilitate travel and the expansion of metropolitan areas and new urban centers.
Factories and offices move to places where people want to live, and large campuses are
proliferating throughout suburban landscapes. A majority of new jobs are being created
in the suburbs rather than in inner cities (MRSC 1997). Numerous new technological
innovations, such as those in telecommunication also facilitate increasingly decentralized
patterns. Some refer to this as the development of edge cities, or satellite cities, or
polycentricity (cf. Garreau 1991; Marcuse 1997; Gordon and Richardson 1997; Scheer
and Petkov 1998), where new urban forms arise largely associated with new
commercial and office developments in fringe areas. Others argue that it is simply
dispersion without any real pattern. If this is the case, infill efforts within central cities or
inner ring areas may not be as successful as developments in suburban fringe areas. In
addition, attempting to design systems that appear to be at odds with peoples property
26


rights, cultural preferences, and market behavior, may not be realistic or legitimate
(Conte 2000). Thus, it might be futile to develop explicit mechanisms to slow land
consumption given the current, entrenched patterns of sprawling land development.
Abundance of Open Space and Agricultural land. Studies also argue that there is, in fact,
an abundance of undeveloped land in the country so that stringent growth management
activities are not necessary. While agricultural acreage has fallen, they point out,
production has risen by more than 105 percent and food shortage is therefore not a threat.
The apparent decline in agricultural land may be due to other factors than consumption
by urban areas or suburbanization, such as re-forestation, and designation of land as open
space (Hayward 1998; Cox 1999; Conte 2000). Moreover, some of the decline in
agricultural lands is a manifestation of economic changes in the United States away from
rural enterprises, which cannot be halted by growth management adherents.
Regulations and bureaucracy. Some studies (e.g., MRSC 1997) point out that despite
their advocacy of compact development many jurisdictions continue to approve low
density or dispersed settlements. Faced with neighborhood opposition and pressures
from developers, they more readily approve developments in fringe areas, while urban
projects in more urban areas face delays and scrutiny. Moreover stricter regulations or
higher fees or exactions for infrastructure development may also cause difficulties for
projects in urban areas.
27


Uncertain Benefits of Transit Orientation. There is also some debate about whether the
more concentrated settlements proposed by supporters of transit-oriented development
will actually reduce travel and thus traffic within metropolitan areas. Gordon and
Richardson (1997) argue that dispersed development away from central cities actually
diffuses traffic to multiple locations rather than in a single direction. Moreover, even
with high-density development, people still continue to drive to various locations. Cox
(1999) similarly states that higher concentrations of urban residential and employment
will produce higher concentrations of automobile traffic and air pollution in cities. For
example, he states points out that traffic congestion in Portland is already approaching
that of New York City which is 15 times larger, and Portland projections indicate that
even after building five additional light rail lines, traffic volumes will rise by more than
50 percent by 2015.
Cost-effectiveness of Growth Management. Some authors question if sprawl is as costly
as originally thought. As noted above, the seminal work Costs of Sprawl (RERC
1971) argued that there is decisive evidence that sprawl-type development is far more
costly than planned, compact development. Since that work, however, other studies (e.g.
Peiser 1984, 1989; Altshuler 1977) have argued that the costs of sprawl are much less
than originally estimated, while others insist that the higher infrastructure and service
costs of sprawl have never been demonstrated (Gordon and Richardson 1997). Others
(e.g., Cox 1999) state that while sprawl may be costly, the alternatives to it such as rigid
28


growth management programs are even more expensive in the long run. For instance,
such policies in Portland Metro area are associated with higher housing prices, reduced
housing output. To be sure, as Portland is now getting close to filling the urban growth
boundary established more than 20 years ago, vacant land is scarce and prices of houses
and land have skyrocketed to among the highest in the country. This has also resulted
from population growth rates that are now higher than in the past when the growth
management program appeared to be successful, as well as to the high costs of
maintaining the urban growth boundary (Mildner 1998). Such spiraling costs and
inflation may make the American dream of home ownership in such locales even more
elusive than without such growth management measures.
Equity issues. For many authors, including advocates of high density and infill, the social
costs of the various urban renewal activities, including infill, are high and contradictory.
In the course of such activities, poor people are invariably ignored and ultimately are
forced out of their neighborhoods in the processes of gentrification, separation, and
exclusion (Marcuse 1988, Van Kempen and Marcuse 1997). In that sense the activities
can be regarded as a modem form of slum clearance. In other scenarios, the poor are
increasingly isolated in the remaining ghettos of inner cities. Provisions for affordable
housing become more inadequate to accommodate the vast numbers of individuals and
families that are displaced or encapsulated. Downs (1994) argues that the exclusion of
the poor is in fact a major component of the Dominant Vision of Metropolitan
29


America, in which low density, costly suburban housing free of poverty and sub-
standard housing are most desirable, despite their adverse effects.
Historical tendencies. In criticizing growth management projects, some authors cite the
fact that over the years, many urban renewal efforts have failed or have had negative or
uncertain results (Landis 1992). In some instances, they have had opposite, negative
effects, for instance, simply moving growth from one community to another or driving up
housing costs. Despite the recent success of growth management projects in several
major urban areas, they are still outnumbered by those that have been unsuccessful or
have had unclear benefits. Even the recent success stories, such as Portland and
Maryland, have had shortcomings (Staley 1999; Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999). For
example, the projects have consumed substantial funds, with unintended consequences,
such as escalating costs of housing. The success of such programs may also decline
when particular leaders or officials who have supported them leave office and new
agendas and priorities and strategies for achieving them are established.
Coordination of Growth Management Activities. Even when communities in a region
recognize the benefits of compact development, issues or disagreements may arise over
the coordination or control of the activities. Decisions regarding types of land use (e.g.,
commercial vs. residential), relative densities and emphasis on particular types of infill
development (e.g., vacant land vs. redevelopment), and housing types and prices can all
30


be difficult. Moreover, questions may arise about whether specific research strategies or
inventories that lead to policy development should be pursued, or if the projects should
take place based on demand. If there are relatively cohesive policies, differences of
opinion may arise between sectors of community governments (e.g., between planning
and economic development departments), and also between the government and the
citizenry. One possible way to circumvent these local problems is to develop broader
plans and more obligatory policies or mandates. For example, regional or state
governments could undertake and coordinate such activities, with the benefit of being
able to view metropolitan areas across the various constituencies and boundaries.
Increasingly, in some states, leaders are concluding that the trend of decay and
abandonment are not in the best interest of the metropolitan area. In some cases, such as
in Portland and Minneapolis, these problems are being addressed through new coalitions
or regional governance or both (Anderson and Tregoning 1998:9). Regional-based
growth management efforts may be more effective than local controls, and at a minimum,
smart growth programs make more sense when neighboring jurisdictions co-operate
(Hollis 1995: 36; Baldassassare 1996).
Nearly half the states now have some form of growth management plans that
facilitate this (Porter 1995). However, for the majority that do not have mandatory
planning and formal legislation in support of their efforts to manage growth, invariably
differences among the constituents of regions are not easily overcome. As we will see
below, in Colorado, despite the obvious benefits, broad, regional approaches to growth
31


are met with some concern or skepticism by different local governments, and cannot be
enforced in the absence of legislation. The governments may view infill or growth
management efforts as a local affair, or may cite the problems or obstacles associated
with it. Without effective legislation, regional organizations like DRCOG face extreme
difficulties in implementing their plans for managing growth. Such has been the case in
Atlanta area, which has 64 municipalities, and 10 counties that give only marginal
recognition of the Atlanta Regional Council. Georgias constitution gives city and
county governments virtually autonomous control over land use. This plus the fact that
the major source of local revenue comes from growth has created a competitive
environment within the region that works against the intergovernmental cooperation that
could attempt to address the regional growth issues (Logan 1999:40)
Authors also point out that many metropolitan areas have indeed polarized into
increasingly impoverished central cities, inner rings suburbs, and affluent edge cities, and
that their constituent cities have become increasingly competitive. Because of the
fragmentation into these areas, and the rigidity of the boundaries of the constituent
jurisdictions, social and economic problems are exacerbated, even in suburban areas.
Some (e.g., Orfield 1996; Rusk 1993) have argued that development of elastic cities
with flexible boundaries and participation in regional coalitions could help minimize the
conflicts and competition and could help direct suburban revenues to impoverished areas.
This would replace the common tendency to shift emphasis from one suburb to the next
as decay starts to occur. Orfield (1966) also calls for the acceptance of the fact that the
32


health of all jurisdictions is dependent on the health of the entire metropolitan area (cf.,
Benfield, Raimi, Chen 1999: 127). In this view, existing cities should keep expanding
through annexation, rather than allowing for the establishment of new cities and enclaves.
Such an elastic arrangement could help in the quest for urban and suburban renewal and
unification and thereby reduce the impacts of sprawl.
Other discussions of regional approaches argue that problems of fragmentation
are inherent in regional governance because local governments have the greatest contact
with citizens and are more efficient in providing public services. Local governments,
particularly, those with home rule charters can therefore be expected to limit or terminate
regionalism whenever it efforts are made to establish regional programs. They may also
try to resist efforts to create a more centralized political organization, for instance by the
state (cf. Clark 1994). There are also economic reasons for continued fragmentation.
Competition among jurisdictions help keep taxes down and regional approaches may be
less efficient and more costly for the jurisdictions to follow (Hayward 1998, cf., Jacobs
1961). Moreover, for some communities, engaging in such activities is simply not a
priority (Baldassare 1996).
33


INFILL
Issues: Defining Infill
The meaning of infill
Infill has, for some time, been a frequently used and increasingly fashionable
concept in the planning profession and the government, and to some extent among
citizens. There are issues, however, with a precise definition. In a broad sense, it can
'refer to underutilized land or parcels, that is, any land within a developed area that could
be developed more efficiently at a higher density. Such land is by-passed or overlooked
during the course of development efforts. New development, if appropriate, could thus
fill-in this by-passed land to accommodate growth, increase relative density, or to make
the parcels more attractive or compatible or consistent with surrounding land (MRSC
1997). Some studies (RERC 1982: 1) restrict the definition of infill development to
vacant land in built-up areas that may result from lack of access to public services,
physical/environmental limitations, or general unattractiveness to the market. Others
would define it more broadly to include underused, developed sites (Porter 1997:44;
Smart 1985:1). Thus, a more inclusive definition would include both underdeveloped
land as well as vacant land (Drake-Holtzhauer 1985: 5). Others further add that it should
occur with residential densities that may be high enough to support transit and a wider
variety of services and amenities (MRSC 1997: 3). When it is associated with
redevelopment infill does correspond closely with urban renewal activities. However,
here we distinguish infill from other urban development activities by its efforts to fill in
34


by-passed parcels or sites and in the process to increase their relative density. Urban
renewal does not necessarily accomplish this.
Infill Classification
Infill need not pertain exclusively to vacant land or decayed housing. Summarily,
it can take place on the following:
Vacant land broadly speaking, any land that is not developed but
has development potential
greenfields undeveloped sites normally in the outer ring
(Anderson and Tregoning 1998)
redevelopment scraping off of existing, deteriorated structures
and replacing them with new ones to accommodate higher density
intensification increasing density through adding new structures,
or adding on, for instance, popping off tops of existing buildings in a
manner that allows for higher density
brownfields abandoned industrial areas that have re-development
potential (Anderson and Tregoning 1998)
historic preservation areas areas of historical significance that
may be redeveloped at higher density
transit corridors areas around major roads or transit stations that
can be redeveloped in a manner that diversifies uses and increases overall
density. The assumption is that some people would prefer the
convenience of such locations, as opposed to more dispersed settlements,
despite the higher density.


Infill as a growth management technique
Given the increasing severity of the problems and patterns of growth in urban and
suburban areas, at least some governments see infill as one possible way to better utilize
lands in their jurisdictions. It could serve as means of increasing density and efficient use
of land in the more central locations, rather than lower density land use on the suburban
fringe. In that sense, it can be considered a growth management technique, whereby
deliberate efforts are made to accommodate growth in designated areas at higher
densities. It therefore may have potential to reduce sprawl. Other functions of infill
include efforts to revitalize declining neighborhoods or locations, to transform the
character of existing neighborhoods, to promote economic development, and to provide
new, improved, or affordable housing (Drake-Holtzhauer 1985; Bragado 1995). It also
helps to recreate the urban and community fabric (MRSC 1997).
Infill development, therefore, is not merely a growth management technique.
While few would disagree that infill development is desirable in particular locations, e.g.,
those with uneven development, vacant parcels, aging housing stock, or with a potential
for higher density, there is discussion in the planning literature about the primary role of
infill and its potentials. Infill may be a good thing or objective, but it may also have
limitations. Generally, the literature suggests that there are both costs and benefits
associated with infill development.
36


Issues: Usefulness of Infill
Why infill?
For some (Bragado 1995; RERC 1982; Drake-Holtzhauer 1985), there are
numerous benefits associated with infill, many of which address the above-listed issues
of growth and sprawl and of urban decline. The potential benefits mirror those of other
growth management techniques. With central cities as hubs of economic and cultural
activity, particularly when linked with strong inner residential neighborhoods, the need to
drive long distances and claim new greenfields for development can be significantly
reduced with infill (Banfield, Raimi, and Chen 1999: 138). Moreover, while such
notions have been present among both academic and professional planners for some time,
certain social, economic, and political conditions now favor infill, more so in the past.
Conditions and benefits favoring infill
Efficient use of existing infrastructure, land, and previous developments rather
than extending or duplicating infrastructure for new developments in fringe areas,
infill developments may utilize existing systems. Some may also take advantage
of lower costs of rehabilitation of existing housing stock, rather than developing
entirely new housing or subdivisions. They may also be built at higher densities.
This may help offset some other costs of development in urban locales that may
be higher. Travel time and transportation costs decrease, particularly in areas


where public transportation is available. This, in turn, may offset the higher cost
of housing (MRSC 1997).
Protecting, enhancing, revitalizing older neighborhoods infill housing is a
primary way of improving the quality of blighted, decayed neighborhoods or
structures. It may help increase the value of properties. In some cases it may
stem middle class migration from inner cities and may help the poor with their
livelihoods through jobs and improved, affordable housing (MRSC 1997).
Preservation of agricultural land and open space a greater focus on infill could
slow the pace of developments in rural areas, thereby helping to save prime
agricultural land or other valuable lands. This could also contribute to developing
natural growth boundaries or buffers between developed areas.
Reduction of use and costs of excessive automobile use and sprawl this could
lead to fiscal savings and conservation of energy. Infill in urban areas could
contribute to less dependence on the automobile and thus could lead to the
reduction in government subsidies and hidden costs, such as air pollution, police
service, noise and congestion. Some of these savings could be invested in the
development or improvement of transit systems. Moreover, more transit funds
could become available if densities are higher (Bragado 1995: 2).
38


Accommodation of the changing needs of today's families (e.g., single parents,
the elderly) despite the desire of many to live in low-density suburbs, infill
development at higher density could be more convenient and conducive to the
new family forms. For example, smaller families and the elderly could be
accommodated in such developments, particularly if they have more access to
knowledge about the benefits to them of such living arrangements (MRSC 1997).
Improving the availability of financing and other incentives incentives include
tax exemptions, subsidized land cost, and support from community organizations.
More than ever, lenders and some jurisdictions are recognizing the importance of
smart growth measures, including infill activities. Developers may now have
more success than in the past at acquiring loans or other incentives or bonuses for
their projects (Bragado 1995). Moreover, some governments are trying to remove
the barriers to smart growth through legislation, encouraging growth in existing
communities, and speeding up the development process (Anderson and Tregoning
1998).
Emergence of less favorable conditions for development in suburban and fringe
areas this may include issues such as the decline in available land, congestion in
fringe areas, and the establishment of growth management policies including
urban growth boundaries. Whereas in the past, land appeared to be in greater
39


abundance, some communities now recognize the relative decline in vacant land
and others now recognize that continued, uncontrolled appropriation of new land
will have negative results for that land and for their communities. Studies suggest
that there is a growing desire for 'community', open space, and town-centered
living with less reliance on the automobile (Anderson and Tregoning 1998). As
infill may be new, higher quality development that includes some of the amenities
of suburban housing, some people may choose this over remote suburban
locations.
Growing attractiveness of Inner City Areas in recent years, at least some cities,
such as San Francisco, Boston, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, and
Detroit have begun to recover from the decline they experienced several decades
ago. Even cities in the Sunbelt, such as Dallas, are beginning to show evidence of
transit-oriented development centered around the downtown. There is also
evidence in many cities that homebuyers will accept higher residential densities
when combined with enhanced safety and urban design standards (Clark 1999).
Such cities have undergone revitalization, increased their physical attractiveness
and cultural activities, and they have even reclaimed lost jobs and industries
(Belluck 2000). Investments have increased as have economic activities (MRSC
1997), which themselves have adjusted to shifting societal and global demands.
Crime levels have declined while the quality of schools has improved. With these
40


successes, coupled with demographic shifts, infill activities in central cities are
gaining more support than was previously the case.
Successes communities' recognition of each or all of these benefits could set the
stage for the increase in infill activities in urban communities. The Phoenix area
is a case in point. Its infill program has used fee waivers and expedited permitting
to encourage single family detached housing to locate within the 120 square mile
area to locate within the citys core. Fee waivers include water and sewer
connection charges, development application fees, and expedited processing of
permit applications. It also includes subsidies for the costs of land assemblies, tax
abatements, infrastructure support, and cost of land reduction. The expectation
has been that over time it will help encourage and facilitate infill development and
reduce sprawl (Elam 1997).
Obstacles to Infill: Practical Issues
Despite the obvious benefits of infill development, few would disagree that there
are a host of problems associated with the adoption and implementation of infill
strategies. In some cases or for some properties, these logistical and financial problems
are so severe that it is impossible to undertake infill activities.
41


The drawbacks include:
Costs of infill the overall costs associated with infill development per unit in
urban areas may be more than those of building on land in the suburban fringe.
These cover such costs as land, site preparation, construction, parking structures,
permits, planning and impact fees, and contingency fees. For instance, studies
have shown cost differences of as much as 60% between urban infill
developments and those in fringe areas (Bragado 1995: 6). Houses and lots in
infill developments tend to be smaller, while for the same price a developer might
be able to build a larger house for the same cost. Costs may also increase when
some landowners may hold on to or speculate their property while its assessed
value increases, and taxes may also be higher on these properties. All this may
make it too expensive and difficult for developers to purchase and/or assemble
sufficient land for a profitable development. Thus, in Phoenix, despite the various
incentives offered for infill development, many property owners have elected not
to sell their property while hoping the value of their property would appreciate
over time (Ellman 1997).
Lack of information about sites in some instances, developers interested in a
location may not have information about the existence of vacant land in the
location or they may not have the correct information about it (RERC 1982). In
42


some cases, there may simply be the perception that since the land is not
developed, there must be some issue with it and that it is undevelopable. In
addition, some developers might avoid projects in certain neighborhoods out of
fear of crime, poor schools, and poor maintenance. In short, investments in older,
blighted neighborhoods might seem risky.
Physical features of sites in at least some locations in inner suburban areas, land
may, in fact, be vacant for good reason (Smart 1985). Some parcels have issues
with drainage, slope, unusual or poor dimensions, or other natural hazards. While
some of these might be overcome, the costs may be prohibitive. Developers must
face the challenge and cost of determining effective ways of dealing with such
properties.
Inadequacy or poor coordination of infrastructure or facilities at least for some
older communities, infrastructure may be aging or in need of repair before infill
can take place. It may not accommodate new developments at higher density. In
some cases, infrastructure development may have by-passed some of the parcels
of land. This coupled with the relative higher-cost of development in urban areas
may make it difficult for developers to profit in such cases.
43


Stringent development requirements for infill sites, bureaucracy despite their
relative support of infill, some communities may have higher standards or
expectations for infill development. Because such developments assume higher
density than previously, there may be time-consuming debate on design
requirements or densities. If the prescribed standards are not met, communities
and their leaders may reject proposals for such developments, in favor of larger
developments in the fringe areas.
Issues of finance lenders might also perceive infill developments in certain
locations as risky. Since infill sites may be in poor or blighted neighborhoods,
demand may appear inadequate to cover costs, or the projects may indeed fail.
Efforts are most successful in urban areas or centers with a healthy growth rate
and a strong economy, which is not the case in poor neighborhoods (Smart 1985).
Moreover, at least for some locales, peoples preference for suburban living may
militate against urban renewal efforts.
Zoning in some cases, traditional zoning may be inappropriate for urban
developers intended uses. It may tend to favor distinct uses or low density and
large lots in some locations, while developers might favor new, flexible or mixed
uses and higher density in order to make a profit. Developers may elect not to go
44


through the lengthy, costly, or contentious process of re-zoning land in developed
areas.
Neighborhood opposition. Challenges from community members are probably
the greatest impediment to infill development (RERC 1982). Faced with
prospects of infill development in their neighborhood, people are highly vocal
about their concerns, and opposition. They fear that such developments may
change their neighborhood character and reduce property values. It may deprive
them of the little open space they have grown accustomed to (Drake-Holtzahuer
1985). With the increase in density they believe they will experience increased
congestion, traffic, pollution, and crime. In other instances, residents fear that
new housing may drive up property values, and transform their neighborhood to
one where they cannot afford to live. All are concerned about uncertain outcomes
and change. As residents invariably protest such developments, local
governments are hard pressed to dismiss their concerns, development processes
are delayed, and developers may transfer their attention to other, less contentious
developments. In the case of Phoenix, for example, in order to minimize
opposition to infill projects, most approved residential developments were of
single family type, so that overall density has not increased substantially as a
result of the infill program (Ellman 1997).
45


Contextualizing infill: when is it best conducted?
In various communities, infill developments may be billed as a possible solution
or remedy to sprawl. A supporting argument may be that infill developments may
substitute for new low-density developments in urban fringe areas. This could be
redevelopment in urban areas at higher density or greenfield (vacant land) development
possibly in the form of new urbanism or neo-traditional (higher density,.mixed use,
pedestrian or transit-oriented) development.
However, specialists caution that such activities or developments may only have
limited effects on sprawl and that some communities may overestimate the impact of
infill or the amount of land available. Studies of infill projects (e.g., REDC 1982) and
potentials suggest that infill can only accommodate a portion of future growth; existing
vacant land may only provide for a few years of projected growth. Therefore, other
methods must be adopted.
Similarly, studies point out that high density housing or compact development in
and of itself is not a solution to the problem of sprawl; it must be part of a comprehensive
and integrated land use plan or smart growth plan (Danielsen and Lang 1998). For infill
in particular, studies caution that it is not advisable, to force all future growth onto these
sites because there is also a market need for development at the urban fringe. Infill
development should not be viewed as a panacea that will accommodate all future growth
(RERC 1982: 5). In addition, infill efforts will be more successful if they are undertaken
in conjunction with growth management activities in the urban fringe (Barnett 1995).
46


Infill activities must also be undertaken in a systematic and comprehensive and
not a random manner. Effective infill policies and programs must be based on a sound
understanding of the quality of infill land, its key characteristics (location, size,
ownership, availability, market attractiveness, zoning and physical limitations), and
development economics (RERC 1982: 17). Successful programs must also ensure public
participation in the form of educational activities and a broad spectrum of housing that
meets community needs (Bragado 1995).
Nevertheless, despite the different perspectives on issues of growth, there appears
to be some agreement that growth needs to be managed through more efficient planning
than has previously been the case in a majority of American communities. We now turn
to issues of growth in the Denver Metropolitan Area.
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CHAPTER 3
GROWTH AND SPRAWL
IN THE DENVER METROPOLITAN AREA
(THE REGION & THE INNER RING)
INTRODUCTION
Throughout most of the 20th century the population of the Denver metropolitan
area has grown in a relatively steady manner. In conjunction with this growth, other
socio-economic features of the area have also changed, such as developed land acreage,
employment, and housing. Both the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the
Colorado State Demographers Office have analyzed these trends and have projected
future population growth, with relatively similar results. Here we utilize the data
provided by these agencies, and discuss these findings and their implications for future
land use planning. We will also utilize the regional framework adopted by DRCOG as
well as other state agencies, that includes the following counties:
Adams,
Arapahoe
Boulder
Clear Creek
Denver
Douglas
Gilpin
Jefferson
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The eight counties are shown in the following map.
Map 2 The Eight-County Area
GROWTH PATTERNS
Up to around 1950, the population of the Denver metropolitan area was less than
500,000. Around that time, growth began to accelerate, and between 1950 and 1999, the
49


population of the eight-county region reached more than 2.3 million people. This growth
in population is shown in the following chart.
Figure 1 Population Change for Region
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRCOG 1997, 1999)
Accordingly, the population of the counties and communities of the Denver Metro area
has also grown since mid-century, while the communities have varied in size and have
grown at different rates. In particular, significant and steady growth has occurred in the
counties close to Denver, while the net population growth of the more remote Gilpin and
Clear Creek Counties to the west has always been relatively small. These patterns are
shown in the following chart.
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Figure 2 Population Change for the 8 Counties
1960 1970 1980 1990 1998* 1999* Net increase
Adams 120,296 185,789 245,944 265,038 314,075 319,350 199,054
Arapahoe 113,426 162,142 293,292 391,511 473,550 488,275 374,849
Boulder 74,254 131,889 189,625 225,339 272,700 282,900 208,646
Clear Creek 2,793 4,819 7,308 7,619 8,750 8,725 5,932
Denver 493,887 514,678 492,694 467,610 501,700 506,250 12,363
Douglas 4,816 8,407 25,153 60,391 143,000 154,300 149,484
Gilpin 685 1,272 2,441 3,070 4,350 4,575 3,890
Jefferson 127,520 235,368 371,753 438,430 515,200 522,600 395,080
Region 937,677 1,244,364 1,628,210 1,859,008 2,233,325 2,286,975 1,349,298
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRCOG 1997, 1999); estimated
The figures also show the increasing numerical significance of Denvers suburban areas,
which have continued to extend further into relatively undeveloped lands. In the first 50
years of the century, Denver experienced the greatest growth from about 133,000 to over ,
415.000, and in 1950 it had more than two-thirds of the regions population. However,
since the 1960s, the population of the City and County of Denver has remained at around
500.000, while the population of all the surrounding counties has increased more than
tripling since 1960. As a result, by the late 1990s, Denver had less than one-fourth of the
regions population. This is shown below (Figure 3).
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Figure 3 Share of Population
Share of Regional Population -1999
(Counties)
Jefferson
22 9%
Adams
i 14 0%
Douglas /
6 7%
Gilpin
0.2%
Boulder
12 4%
Arapahoe
21 4%
Denver / s 1
22 1% Clear Creek
0 4%
(Source: DRCOG 1999)
By 1999, Jefferson County had overtaken Denver, and Arapahoe County had nearly done
In addition, with the significant growth and urbanization since the 1950s, the
Metropolitan area has begun to house more of Colorados population. In 1920, it
accommodated about 36% of the population. Since 1990, more than half the States
population has resided in the Denver metropolitan area. All of this illustrates the
expansion of the metropolitan area to include its suburbs, with an overall greater
concentration of population in the broader urbanized metropolitan area than was the case
earlier this century.
so.
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GROWTH RATES
While population growth has continued throughout the 20th century, rates of
growth have varied more widely, in accordance with historical trends and events. This is
shown in the following figure.
Figure 4 Growth Rates
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRCOG 1997, 1999)
The influx and growth of population during the 60s and 70s and the expansion of
Denvers suburbs with annual growth rates as high as 30 percent per decade was followed
by a sharp decline in the 1980s. This was associated largely with economic downturns
and social patterns of the times. At this time, growth rates averaged less than 1.5 percent
per year and housing starts also declined. However, with greatly improved economic
conditions and the recognition of the attractiveness of the region, annual growth rates in
the 1990s again reached more than 2.5 per cent per annum (average), with some counties
53


experiencing significantly higher rates, as shown in the following figure. Many of these
are found in the newer suburbs of Denver as described in the next section, which if
sustained can have a major, perhaps negative impact on the regions resources, including
land.
Figure 5 Growth Rates Counties
Estimated Growth Rates (1990-1999)
(Percentage*)
(Source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRC'OG 1997, 1999; State Demographer's Office)
According to these estimates, during the 1990s, Denver County grew the least in
percentage terms, while Douglas County grew the most, followed by Gilpin and Boulder
counties. Other count ies grew at rates of slightly over 2%.
According to DRCOCi (1997, 1998), the sources of growth have varied over time.
In the 1970s, migrations accounted for as much as 60% of the population growth. They
declined to negligible amounts in the early 1980s and were surpassed by out-migration in
the late 1980s. Since the mid-1990s in-migration has again accounted for over 60% of
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the growth in the region. As the region has become an economic leader among
comparable metropolitan areas, it is not clear when the current pattern of relatively high
economic and population growth will actually begin to subside. Key economic indicators
from 1999 and 2000, including unemployment rates, wages and salaries, demand for and
cost of new housing, and consumer spending all suggest that the economic success and
hence growth in the area may continue indefinitely (Gonzalez 1999).
COMMUNITIES OF THE INNER RING AND THE STUDY AREA
Following the classification developed by DRCOG, the Denver Metropolitan area
may be divided into five analysis areas based upon population growth and population
density. These include:
1) Central Business District high density urban core, economic center
2) Central (Inner Ring) lower density urban and suburban locations with
overall limited or no growth since 1980
3) Suburban low density areas with positive growth since 1980
4) Free-standing developing communities separated from suburban areas by
buffer zones
5) Rural very low density, low population areas
As depicted in Map 3 (below), the Metropolitan Area is comprised of a number of
jurisdictions.
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Map 3 Location Map Municipalities
As shown in the above map, some cities, such as Wheat Ridge, Englewood, and
several smaller communities are located entirely within the inner ring area. Most
others, including Arvada, Westminster, Thornton, Aurora, Lakewood, and even Denver,
have land within both the central and the suburban areas, reflecting significant new
growth in these communities over the last 20 years. Several of these communities are
still adding land to their jurisdiction through annexation, which furthers their growth
potential. Counties within this area are Denver, Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Adams. As
56


noted earlier, Denvers growth has been minimal in recent years, and a majority of its
land fails within the Central Business District and the Inner Ring Area.
In addition to obvious differences in size, the jurisdictions in the inner ring vary
considerably in their location relative to central Denver. Most are located immediately
adjacent to Denver, while several (Westminster, Thornton, Golden, Northglenn,
Lakewood, Arvada) are located close to the urban fringe. With the exception of
Thornton, Arvada, and Aurora, the communities are land locked in that they are now
unable to expand outward through annexation. A majority of their land is already
developed and they will reach build out very soon.
In addition, the municipalities vary in size. This is shown on the following chart:
Figure 6 Area of Municipalities in the Study (acres)
Jurisdiction Total acres*

Arvada 20,497
Aurora 92,842
Cherry Hills 4012
Commerce City 14,857
Edgewater 441
Englewood 4284
Federal Heights 1126
Glendale 361
Golden 5230
Lakeside 159
Lakewood 26,955
Mountain View 59
Northglenn 4840
Sheridan 1467
Thornton 16,970
Westminster 18,119
Wheat Ridge 5756
* acreage based on spatial data collected by DRCOG up to 1999
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Many of the communities have lengthy histories dating to their founding in the
late 19th century, with incorporation as towns or cities in the early 20th century. They
began as independent farming or satellite communities that at first were linked to Denver
through railroad and eventually became Denvers suburbs when connecting roads were
built. Some include old industrial, commercial, and residential areas. These
communities have witnessed the aging of their oldest sections. A few other communities
(e.g., Northglenn, Thornton, Federal Heights) were established laterbetween the 1940s
and 1960s to accommodate suburban growth, although some of their developments too
are beginning to age. As we will see below the relative age and composition of the
communities could affect the kinds of infill projects they choose.
Figure 7 Population Growth in Inner Ring Suburbs
(* includes area outside inner ring; Source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRCOG 1997, 1999)
Population Net Change Total Change
1970 1990 1998 1970-98 1990-98 1970-98 1990-98
Arvada' 49,844 89,235 96,443 46,599 7,208 93.5% 8.1%
Aurora* 74,974 222,103 249,987 175,013 27,884 233.4% 12.6%
Cherry Hills* 4,605 5,245 6,078 1,473 833 32.0% 15.9%
Commerce City* 17,407 16,466 18,824 1,417 2,358 8.1% 14.3%
Denver 514,678 467,610 501,700 -12,978 34,090 -2.5% 7.3%
Edgewater 4,910 4,613 4,642 -268 29 -5.5% 0.6%
Englewood 33,695 29,387 32,319 -1,376 2,932 -4.1% 10.0%
Federal Heights 1,502 9,342 9,846 8,344 504 555.5% 5.4%
Glendale 765 2,453 3,965 3,200 1,512 418.3% 61.6%
Golden* 9,817 13,116 15,015 5,198 1,899 52.9% 14.5%
Lakeside 17 11 12 -5 1 -29.4% 9.1%
Lakewood 92,743 126,481 138,826 46,083 12,345 49.7% 9.8%
Mountain View 706 550 573 -133 23 -18.8% 4.2%
Northglenn* 27,785 27,195 29,373 1,588 2,178 5.7% 8.0%
Sheridan 4,787 4,976 5,515 728 539 15.2% 10.8%
Thornton* 13,326 55,031 74,646 61,320 19,615 460.2% 35.6%
Westminster* 19,512 74,625 91,841 72,329 17,216 370.7% 23.1%
Wheat Ridge* 29,778 29,214 29,758 -20 544 -0.1% 1.9%
Total/average 900,851 1,177,653 1,309,363 408,512 131,710 45.3% 11.2%
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The figures show that growth has indeed occurred in most of the 18 jurisdictions
since the 1970s, with the total population increasing by nearly 50%. However, the
growth (1970-1998) has been uneven, with about a third of jurisdictions experiencing
limited cumulative growth (less than 10%) during the period. These are mainly the land-
locked communities, including Denver, Englewood, and Wheat Ridge, which have little
remaining undeveloped land. One-third of the communities had moderate growth of up
to 100% during that time period. This includes cities such as Golden, Lakewood,
Northglenn, and Sheridan, which have reached their physical limits and are filling in
remaining vacant land. Lastly, the final third had significant growth of close to 100% or
above. It includes Arvada, Thornton, and Aurora, which expanded their boundaries
through annexation during that time, and smaller communities, including Federal Heights
and Glendale, which have developed rapidly through high-density developments.
In the 1990s, the trends for low, moderate, and high growth continued, although
all communities experienced positive growth. Between 1990 and 1998, Denver and
Wheat Ridge, Arvada, Englewood, Northglenn, and Sheridan had growth rates of up to
10% during the time period. Several communities including Aurora, Thornton,
Westminster, Commerce City and Golden had growth rates higher than 10%. Thornton
had the highest rate at 35.6% during the eight-year period. However, more detailed
figures would show variation for neighborhoods or sections of the communities in the
inner ring as opposed to those in the fringe areas, which likely witnessed the greatest
growth.
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It is important to contextualize the trends in the inner ring area. A number of
communities located mainly outside the area experienced much greater growth in the
1980s and 1990s than in the older suburbs. These mainly include freestanding
communities, such as Boulder, Brighton, and Castle Rock, as well as those found entirely
within the new suburban area, such as Broomfield and Parker. As shown here, their
populations have doubled or tripled in some instances over the last 20 years.
Figure 8 Population Growth in Fringe Suburbs and
Free-Standing Communities
Population Net Change Rate Change
1970 1990 1998 1970-98 1990-98 1970-98 1990-98
Brighton 8309 14,186 19,423 11,114 5,237 133.8% 36.9%
Broomfield 7261 24,638 33,948 26,687 9,310 367.5% 37.8%
Castle Rock 1531 8708 15031 13,500 6,323 881.8% 72.6%
Greenwood Village 3095 7589 12132 9,037 4,543 292.0% 59.9%
Longmont 23209 51555 59241 36,032 7,686 155.3% 14.9%
Parker N/A 5450 17793 17,793 12,343 N/A 226.5%
Total 45,375 114,116 159,566 114,191 45,450 251.7% 39.8%
(source: U.S. Census Bureau; DRCOG 1997, 1999)
In many of these locales sprawl is becoming more apparent, characterized by continued,
expansive low-density development into previously undeveloped areas.
60


PROJECTIONS
Despite the substantial growth in the area since mid-century, DRCOG and the
Colorado State Demographers Office project that the annual growth rate in the region
will soon begin to decline to less than 2.5 percent per year as population stabilizes and
economic growth slows. Their projections also factor in the influence of growth
management strategies, such as the achievement of more compact rather than dispersed
development, as adopted in Metro Vision 2020. The projections for the 8 county are
included below.
Figure 9 Projections for the 8 county region
Nevertheless, the population of the region is still projected to increase by at least 700,000
between 2000 and 2020, exceeding 3 million (State Demographers Office 1999). Recent
projections by DRCOG and the State Demographer (based on U.S. Census Bureau
figures) suggest that such a figure may be conservative, and the population may increase
61


by more than 900,000 (DRCOG 2000) or perhaps higher. According to the projections,
growth will continue to be most pronounced in the fringe areas, with some communities
populations more than doubling between 1990 and 2005 and more than tripling by 2020.
This will likely happen even if the economy slows.
Figure 10 Projections for the 8 Counties (source: State Demographers Office)
Projections Population
1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 Net increase % increase
Adams 265,708 299,775 333,957 377,861 435,796 494,227 547,721 213,764 64.0%
Arapahoe 393,284 446,200 494,059 523,709 549,906 571,486 591,575 97,516 19.7%
Boulder 226,014 256,737 285,476 308,433 335,104 362,084 386,187 100,711 32.7%
Clear Creek 7,613 8,675 9,267 10,220 11,534 13,304 15,338 6,071 65.5%
Denver 467,854 500,541 540,566 555,501 575,805 601,741 633,706 93,140 17.2%
Douglas 61,559 104,623 172,634 221,774 271,967 318,688 356,716 184,082 106.6%
Gilpin 3,069 3,683 4,854 5,268 5,733 6,239 6,795 1,941 40.0%
Jefferson 439,885 491,089 524,391 547,178 569,366 590,457 611,736 87,345 16.7%
Total 1,864,986 2,111,323 2,365,204 2,549,944 2,755,211 2,958,226 3,149,774 784,570 33.2%
The older, interior areas of the Metropolitan area are found in Denver, Arapahoe, and
Jefferson Counties. These may not have significant growth in the future, yet they may
still experience population growth at a total rate of about 20% between the year 2000 and
2020 (State Demographer Projections). The counties that are likely to grow at a higher
rate include Adams (64%), Boulder (33%), Douglas (106%), Clear Creek (66%) and
Gilpin (39%). These notably are more on the peripheries of the central metropolitan area.
The population of the entire area would grow at a rate of 33% during the 20-year period,
or at an annual rate of 1.65.
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CHANGING LAND USE
Land area
The landscape of the Denver area has changed dramatically since mid-century.
Before that time, at least some of the communities were primarily agricultural while
urbanized areas were in a minority. As suburban locales proliferated following the
Second World War, low density developments outside the core area but within Denvers
sphere of influence became more common. By 1995, the developed urban land area
was approximately 535 square miles, although the local jurisdictions long range plans
have suggested that the build out of the area could encompass more than 1,100 square
miles by the year 2020 (DRCOG 1996: 11). (The goal is to contain growth within a 730
square mile area.) This would mean an annual growth rate of approximately 3.4 % in
developed land, nearly twice that projected for the future population growth rate. Other
estimates suggest that the regions urbanized land area may increase as much as 6 times
its population growth (Bragado 1995: 1). Thus, if current trends and land use practices
prevail, the already-troublesome problems of traffic, pollution, long commuting time,
stress on existing infrastructure and pressures to expand the infrastructure in a relatively
costly manner would become even more problematic. For instance, DRCOG estimates
that if the current trend of building in the outer ring area continues, it will cost $4 billion
in new roads, water, and sewer systems over the next 20 years (cited in Oulton 2000).
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Household size
The figures should also take into account household size, which has declined
steadily since the 1970s. At this time, households had an average of more than 3
individuals, and by 1990 they had less than 2.5 members. Although there is some
variation in the region (with higher density areas such as Denver having smaller units on
the average), overall through the 1990s, the average household size has continued to
decline. Between 1990 and 1998, the number of households in the region increased from
742,267 to 916,050, or nearly 24%. According to DRCOG, households are growing
slightly faster than population (1998:6). If this is the case, it is possible that in at least
some locales in the metropolitan area, relative population density is declining,
contributing to the phenomenon of sprawl. It suggests greater consumption of land by
families in conjunction with relatively consistent rates of population growth in the region
due both to natural increase and migration. The recent, revised projections by DRCOG in
1999 suggest that the number of households will grow by nearly 500,000 between the
year 2000 and 2020, at a rate of about 2.6%. The earlier projection (1996) was for less
than 350,000 households and an annual growth rate of less than 2%. If this is the case,
more substantial consumption of land than predicted in the late 1990s is highly possible.
Population Density
Changing population density can be an indicator of relative efficient use of land.
At first glance, it appears that land use has become somewhat more efficient as the
64


density of the 8 county region has increased~at least for the counties. However, this
change is inevitable as population has grown while the counties land area has remained
constant. As shown below, several municipalities continue to have the flexibility to
increase their land area through annexation, so that between 1990 and 1998 the
jurisdictions in the suburban area increased their land by about 7%, while their population
density increased by more than 3%. Even those in the outlying areas saw an increase in
population density during the 8-year period when their land area also increased.
Figure 11 Changing Areas and Densities
1990 1997/98 % change
Area (sq.mi.) Population Gross Pop.density Area(sq.mi.) Population Gross Pop. density Gross Pop. Density

Arvada 22.14 89,235 4030.5 31.92 96,443 3021.4 -25.04%
Aurora 132.53 222,103 1675.9 144.21 249,987 1733.5 3.44%
Cherry Hills 6.21 5,245 844.6 6.25 6,078 972.5 15.14%
Commerce City 19.98 16,466 824.1 23.28 18,824 808.6 -1.88%
Denver 155.98 467,610 2997.9 155.98 501,700 3216.4 7.29%
Edgewater 0.71 4,613 6497.2 0.71 4,642 6538.0 0.63%
Englewood 6.53 29,387 4500.3 6.59 32,319 4904.2 8.98%
Federal Heights 1.74 9,342 5369.0 1.74 9,846 5658.6 5.39%
Glendale 0.55 2,453 4460.0 0.55 3,965 7209.1 61.64%
Golden 7.51 13,116 1746.5 8.14 15,015 1844.6 5.62%
Lakeside 0.25 11 44.0 0.25 12 48.0 9.09%
Lakewood 40.8 126,481 3100.0 41.99 138,826 3306.2 6.65%
Mountain View 0.09 550 6111.1 0.09 573 6366.7 4.18%
Northglenn 6.98 27,195 3896.1 7.45 29,373 3942.7 1.19%
Sheridan 2.19 4,976 2272.1 2.23 5,515 2473.1 8.84%
Thornton 20.76 55,031 2650.8 26.43 74,646 2824.3 6.54%
Westminster 26.8 74,625 2784.5 28.65 91,841 3205.6 15.12%
Wheat Ridge 8.87 29,214 3293.6 8.9 29,758 3343.6 1.52%
460.62 1,177,653 2556.7 495.36 1,309,363 2643.3 3.39%
(Source: DRCOG 1997, 1998)
Gross population density (population/total acres) in 1990 is shown in the following map.
65


Map 4 Gross Population Density of Inner Ring Area
While gross population density may have increased in these locations, it has not changed
dramatically since 1990, with rates in communities at around 3500 per square mile in the
central area, and about 1500 for those in the fringe areas and freestanding communities.
According to Downs (1994), this is fairly typical of metropolitan areas whose average
densities are low to moderate, such as Phoenix. Some of the more rural developments in
the Denver area may now have higher densities than 30 years ago, but since they have
66


been incorporated into the metropolitan area and municipalities, their relative low density
could be viewed as an indicator of sprawl. We return to this issue later in the discussion.
Implications for the Region: Changing Land Use Patterns and Population
From the discussion thus far it is clear that the 8 county region has experienced
significant population growth during the latter part of the 20th century. Although the rates
vary, the counties in the region each have grown by a total rate of more than 150% since
1960. Likewise, a majority of the municipalities in the region have witnessed a major
demographic transformation coupled with spatial and land use changes. While the rates
have recently slowed in some locations, the overall trend in the 8 county region has been
for sustained growth, with growth rates being most pronounced in the suburban fringe
areas and in the freestanding communities. If such demographic and land use trends
continue, it is likely that stresses on existing resources could be even greater than
currently projected. In the following chapter, we summarize what the representatives of
the jurisdictions stated in interviews about such growth and the prospects for using infill
projects within their domain as a means of alleviating some of the stresses in the
suburban areas.
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CHAPTER 4
PERSPECTIVES FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
INTRODUCTION
Rationale
This chapter is devoted to information and perspectives provided by
representatives of municipal and county governments that have land within the inner
ring area as demarcated by DRCOG. As noted in Chapter 1, although the initial goal of
this research was to collect and analyze numerical data on vacant land, the discussions
revealed a great variety of resources and conditions within the local governmentsas
well as a diversity of perspectives on infill and related issues. Therefore, significantly
more time was spent in discussions than originally anticipated in order to obtain
perspectives from the jurisdictions. The information and insights have figured in the
collection and analysis of quantitative data and also on the models and policy
recommendations that appear in the latter two chapters.
Open-ended questionnaires served as the basis for the discussions. Interviews
were mainly conducted in person, in addition to a few on the phone. Two of the
jurisdictions filled the questionnaire rather than have an in-person interview. Invariably,
discussions included other items that were not on the questionnaire. One general
conclusion from the exercise is that it is indeed important to give each of the jurisdictions
a voice in discussions and planning for the region and to share this voice among the
68


jurisdictions and with the diverse peoples of the communities in the region. Another is
that each of the jurisdictions possesses a wealth of knowledge about infill that can help in
formulating a regional perspective and strategies for infill. All this will become clearer in
the discussion that follows.
As noted above, a total of 21 jurisdictions have land in the inner ring area. Four
of these are counties with unincorporated land and the rest are incorporated cities or
towns. During the research, discussions took place with representatives of 17 of the
jurisdictions. The smallest ones (populations less than 5000) were not included
Lakeside, Mountainview, Edgewater, and Glendale.
INCENTIVES TO INFILL
Efficient Use of Land
Despite the obvious physical variations among and between communities with
land in the inner ring area, representatives all indicated in the interviews and
questionnaires that their communities support infill activities and that infill leads to
increased density and more efficient use of land. They recognized that parcels have been
overlooked in the process of development and that efforts should be made to identify and
develop them. Moreover, some pointed out that there are now increased incentives and
pressures for jurisdictions to manage their growth and coordinate some of their activities.
This could encourage and facilitate efforts at infill.
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Areas of Opportunity
All representatives stated that their communities have land with some sort of infill
potential, particularly in the form of vacant land and in neighborhoods where the housing
stock is aging and existing densities could increase. Several stressed that their
communities are built out or almost built out, and that the main possible infill.course
was for redevelopment. For some communities in particular, most future development
would indeed be in the form of infill, rather than in new, greenfield development. A
few others still have land in fringe areas that will likely be developed. Some have
particular kinds of infill opportunities such as:
Junkyards
Recycling plants
Maintenance facilities
Brownfields
Old commercial areas and malls
Large lot horse properties with urban zoning
Old residential neighborhoods zoned for higher density
Need for Coordination
Respondents also recognized that there is a need for more coordinated infill
activities within their jurisdictions and perhaps at a broad regional level. Infill policies
are needed, but other development matters have thus far taken priority. However, as the
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communities move closer to their apparent spatial capacities, infill programs may be
more necessary. Some stated that at a minimum the jurisdictions should find avenues for
sharing information about their experiences with infill, strategies for overcoming the
obstacles, or on data obtained from vacant land studies. This might help them to gain
support for possible infill activities from their communities or governing bodies.
Economic and Market Factors
In addition, many of the local government representatives stated that economic
development is a priority in their jurisdiction. Infill must coincide with these activities.
Their jurisdictions plans or target locations for infill may center on commercial
developments in conjunction with or as a stimulus to residential development. Transit
corridors (major arterial roads, light rail) are now being studied with the goal of planning
for infill, higher density developments, economic development, and revitalization of
some older neighborhoods. In particular, the communities of Arvada, Lakewood, Aurora,
and Englewood are aggressively pursuing redevelopment projects. In these as well as
other communities projects, the orientation is towards mixed use. In addition, formal
infill plans may not be necessary, because the market tends to locate the opportunities. If
there are developable infill sites, realtors or developers will locate them and proceed as
appropriate. However, such work could be facilitated through incentives for developers
and by developing ways for dealing with neighborhood opposition. Thus, infill should
complement and not impede economic development activities.
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ISSUES REGARDING A REGIONAL INFILL PLANTHE CHALLENGES
Despite their overall support of infill, representatives all emphasized the
difficulties that could arise in undertaking formal infill activities, particularly at a level
that transcends their boundaries. Even community-centered programs could be difficult.
Quantifiable and qualitative information
The information on development potentials and the technologies to analyze it vary
considerably among the jurisdictions with land in the inner ring. At the onset of the
research, the expectation was that at least some of the jurisdictions would have
undertaken vacant land inventories as a component of formal infill or land development
projects. However, interviews revealed that only about one-fourth of the local
governments have conducted vacant land inventories at various points in time that have
resulted in databases according to spatial criteria such as parcels, census tracts, or grid
locations. One was completing an inventory that focused on land outside the inner ring
area. Several have conducted general surveys of vacant land at different points in time.
Of those with vacant land inventories, only one updates the data on a regular basis, while
the others had undertaken their studies as part of special projects, e.g., as parts of
comprehensive or land use plans. While they had information on relative quantities of
land or of large tracts of land, none had specific qualitative information on individual
parcels.
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Six of the jurisdictions stated they have the capability using Geographic
Information Systems (GIS) with coverages or themes on Land Use. With this they are
able to extrapolate information on vacant land, although again none had spatial data on
parcels of re-developable land. However, over the next few years, this will likely change
when several other jurisdictions implement GIS systems, as their programs are now being
developed.
The remainder of the jurisdictions stated that they manually keep general
tabulations on land data based either on parcel information or on acreage within zoning
classes but do not have the capabilities to analyze the data spatially. However, some are
in the process of implementing GIS, which might aid in the collection and analysis of
such data.
In addition to the variations in record keeping and technologies, the jurisdictions
that have GIS technologies have (at the time of the research) different coverages, such as
census tract boundaries, ownership information, assessed value, to name a few. While
these might be sufficient for generally analyzing the data within their domains, the
differences could make it more difficult to adopt a regional perspective for the analysis of
vacant land. Further, some lack coverages on potentially important features of land, such
as natural hazards, census tracts, and ownership and assessed value, to name a few
possible themes or coverages. To be sure, at the time of the research none of the
communities had attempted to analyze parcels for redevelopment using GIS overlays as
has been accomplished by GIS vacant land studies (e.g. Lesser, 1996, as discussed in
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Chapter 5, below). Moreover, as noted above, none as yet have GIS coverages of re-
developable land. We return to these issues in the next chapter.
Plans and Policies
None of the jurisdictions have adopted explicit infill plans or strategies, although
some mention infill in their Comprehensive Plans or area policies. Representatives all
stressed that infill activities are mainly individual, market-driven projects that have not
warranted elaborate planning processes for infill. Most activities are private, small
scale, individual projects undertaken by individual applicants. However, several
of the communities reported that they have conducted studies for corridor (major road,
light rail) developments and have embarked on a few projects to intensify use along the
corridors, and a few actually went out to verify features of parcels. One component of
these would be residential infill. Several have separate urban renewal or economic
development projects that were focused on commercial development but could have
implications for residential development. A few jurisdictions added that infill activities
would not be undertaken on a community-wide basis but could be an aspect of
neighborhood or area plans, especially as the communities reach build out.
Study area and Boundary
Several of the representatives questioned the appropriateness of the inner ring area
boundary that was developed for this study to encompass an area of limited or no growth.
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They pointed out that the communities within the area are highly diverse in terms of
population, density, and land use, so that they should not be grouped into one area. Some
questioned if there should not be sub-areas (e.g. fringe vs. core) or if some communities
should be included at all, e.g., Golden. Regional models should account for different
scales, characters, historical experience, administrative styles and priorities, internal and
external politics, extent of development, etc. All make it difficult to consider a uniform
approach, except in very broad, general terms.
In contrast, others argued for a more inclusive study area. They noted that some
developed areas were left out and should be added into the study area, which they felt
should include all built out locales within the metropolitan area. Moreover, they pointed
out, since the inner ring of this study reflects demographic trends between 1980 and
1990, the changes that have taken place since 1990 are not reflected in the current study
area. Since that time some locations within and outside the area have grown, while
others have ceased to grow. Nonetheless, some of jurisdictions representatives felt that
the boundary did in fact make a useful distinction between the older suburbs and the
newer ones, and that it is appropriate for the study, at least at this stage.
Time Frame
Some respondents also emphasized that quantities of available land keep changing in
the metropolitan area, almost on a daily basis. Proposals to develop new subdivisions or
individual parcels may arrive in planning departments with little or no prior notice. In
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conducting inventories, is hard to capture this phenomenon at a given time or predict the
outcome and impact of such new developments. Moreover, it is difficult to predict for
the more distant future, for instance in 10 or 20 years from now. As some representatives
pointed out, many current infill projects were not anticipated even a just a few years ago.
They have arisen based on demand and plans of developers that change frequently and
with short notice. Other kinds of development (e.g., commercial, open space) or policies
may also have unintended consequences on patterns of development.
Terminology and Criteria
Concerns were also raised about various concepts related to infill. It was pointed out
that even the concept of infill could refer to a variety of phenomena and that there is no
standard definition of it. Some jurisdictions use other concepts, such as more efficient
land use, densification, intensification of use, better utilization, etc. Some group
developable and vacant land together in their inventories, while some mainly look at truly
vacant land. Some representatives pointed out that even the concept of vacant land is
problematic and that jurisdictions do appear to use the concept in different ways. Some
use it to refer only to undeveloped land with no existing use, or to urban reserve areas;
some include agricultural land along with vacant land; and some others may classify it as
vacant if only a specified, small percentage is developed. As one representative stated:
It is very difficult to inventory vacant and re-developable land. Determining what
property is developable is very tricky, but even determining what is vacant is not
always so easy. One of the problems we ran into in our inventory is how do you
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categorize a parcel that appears to be only partially developed? If I remember
correctly, we counted the larger vacant areas as vacant, even if there was some
development on the parcel.
To be sure, the criteria for identifying development potentials of infill parcels vary
across the jurisdictions, depending upon the extent and scale of development. Some are
grappling with criteria for selecting among greenfield or agricultural locations for
increased density, while others are dealing with brownfields and ostensibly built out areas
as potential infill sites. At least one jurisdiction focused its efforts on infill in rural areas
with low-density development as the standard. As one respondent put it,
Depending on the criteria used for identifying infill parcels, some older communities
like Denver and Englewood would be almost 100 percent re-developable and others
would have hardly any potential for infill. It difficult to determine such criteria on
such a broad-scale with such a diverse metropolitan area.
Logistics
Related in part to the conceptual issues, the logistics for developing 'vacant5
parcels also vary and may be viewed as problematic. Most representatives agreed that
vacant land may be easier to identify visually and to develop, but it may not be available
in sufficient quantities. In the urbanized area, vacant land may not actually be
developableit is usually vacant for a reason, e.g., has drainage, grade issues. The more
developable vacant land is found outside the study area, with the exception of the several
obvious major projects within the ring, such as the former Stapleton Airport site.
Many of the communities representatives felt that while vacant, undeveloped land may
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be easier to develop than through redevelopment efforts, the quantities or scattered
distribution of parcels make it difficult or unattractive for developers. The politics of
working in developed areas also exacerbates the difficulties.
Another logistical issue is the division of responsibilities related to land
development. Some communities separate land use planning and urban renewal efforts,
with separate data sets and plans. For instance, economic development offices may have
their own databases with a focus on commercial development. Land use planners may
have more interest in residential or mixed-use development than the commercial
activities. Housing departments or authorities may have other concerns or cater to
different social sectors. In some other communities, long-range planning efforts may also
be distinct from current planning efforts and coordinating the efforts between them may
be difficult.
Another problem is the lack of readily available data. As noted above, most of
the jurisdictions do not have inventories of vacant land or developable land and many do
not have GIS capabilities to overlay maps of relevant information to identify potential
infill areas or parcels. Assessor departments information caters to their own needs, and
qualitative information on individual parcels invariably was often missing or
inappropriate for planning studies. With the exception of the smaller communities that
are aware of most of their parcels and their features, it would be difficult to compile
precise figures on infill potentials on a large scale. We return to this later.
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Decision-making
Given the sensitive nature of new development and redevelopment, questions arose in
the discussions about who makes the decisions about parcels chosen for infill, along with
the criteria for choosing them. The local governments that feel they have 'expertise' and
authority in their communities and express concern with wider entities attempting to plan
for them. In their view, outside agencies may lack the necessary understanding,
knowledge, and inroads into the community to the extent that such a work would be too
general. Local governments also have direct access to their citizens and public sentiment
and should therefore be charged with research on and plans for infill within their
domains. Some respondents stated they could not disclose information on specific
vacant land parcels and their prospects without first consulting with their citizenry, for
instance, in the public hearing process.
Neighborhood Opposition
All respondents agreed that probably the greatest challenge in infill activities is
neighborhood opposition. Regardless of the type of project, neighbors invariably
challenge the idea of new development for the negative impacts it may bring, the fear or
uncertainty associated with it, and to some extent their suspicion of government
activities. Because of this, infill projects are slow to develop, are costly, and very often
are replaced by projects in fringe areas, at least among those communities that have such
lands. As one representative stated, we have a few vacant areas that might be developed.
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But we know that residents would oppose any development. We therefore wont even
attempt to allow development of the area.
SUMMARY
In conclusion, during the research it became clear that only a few of the
jurisdictions have up-to-date information on land use at the level where accurate and
current estimates of available, developable residential land could be made and
disseminated. Some have made calculations based on zoning Or land use, but without
qualitative information necessary to identify individual developable parcels. The result is
only a general sense of what is available and a wide range of variation when developing
models for accommodating population growth. This issue will become clearer in the
following chapter, which discusses the components of vacant land analyses, as adopted in
other states.
The lack of such systematic information has not precluded most of the
jurisdictions from some kind of infill efforts, and their planners are fully aware of most
parcels in their jurisdictions that are available for development. In order for this
information to compiled and disseminated, a lengthy and costly process would be
required. Instead, the communities deal with infill opportunities on a case-by-case basis
and on demand. Given the extreme level of politics associated with such developments
and the intense and unrelenting level of and demand for development activities in nearly
all of the communities, the feeling is that such developments will occur when the time is
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right, and not through elaborate infill plans. It need not necessarily occur under the guise
of infill development, but rather as good planning. Nevertheless, few would argue
against the relative merits of infill and a few do have statements in broader plans that
support infill development.
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CHAPTER 5
DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVES: VACANT AND RE-
DEVELOPABLE LAND
INTRODUCTION
In this chapter we examine data on vacant land in the inner ring area. We first
consider approximate quantities of such land according to broad use categories, namely
'residential' and 'employment-oriented'. Second, we examine its spatial distribution in
terms of relative quantities among census tracts and its correlation with existing densities.
This may help determine if some locations within the area may be more able to contain
growth than others. We then present models of how these quantities could contain the
projected population. Finally, we consider case examples from other regions that show
how jurisdictions or the Denver area might embark on vacant land or redevelopment
studies and illustrate the benefits and limitations of using this kind of information on
vacant land.
EXPLANATION OF THE VACANT MODEL
Given the relative lack of substantive information on vacant land in the
Metropolitan Area and the amount of time that would be required to collect and encode it,
DRCOG provided some of its data on land use, which included vacant land. The
information collected was referred to as vacant land, although the study encompassed
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green-fields, brown-fields, and developable land, that is land that could be vacant
within the 20-year time frame. Here we use the same terminologyvacant land.
DRCOG had collected this data from the jurisdictions either in tabular form or as a land
use theme in GIS, based on land use maps, aerial photographs, planners knowledge, and
comprehensive plans. This was done as part of its transportation planning efforts (not
exclusively as a land use inventory), which examined the relative consistency between
existing and future land use and transportation systems. The data consists of acreage of
'vacant' land by census tract, classified into residential and employment-oriented
(commercial and industrial) categories. The classification reflects the projected future
land use. Mixed-use areas were disaggregated into separate use categories, and other
non-residential or non-employment uses, such as open space, were not included. Thus,
the figures show only the amounts that are likely to be developed in the future.
With this data it may be possible to accomplish the following:
Show the relative quantities of 'vacant' land (residential, employment-
oriented) by census tract for the inner ring and for entire Metropolitan Area in
relation to total land area
Show the spatial distributions of vacant land within the inner ring and
determine if the quantities are uniform or clustered
Distinguish between residential and occupational (employment-oriented)
uses
Attempt a general comparison of quantities of 'vacant' land in the individual
jurisdictions or at least the sub-areas of the inner ring
Estimate the population that could be accommodated in the study area, at
different densities for the area or sub-areas as appropriate.
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The limitations of the data include:
The figures are only estimates for the future (up to approximately 20 years).
They do not depict actual quantities for now or later on.
It cannot depict individual parcels or locations smaller than census tracts
It does not include parcels of less than one acre (smaller areas were not
tabulated by DRCOG)
Some bias may exist towards the larger census tracts that have a larger land
area and therefore more 'vacant' land
It does not distinguish specific types of uses (e.g., residential vs. multifamily;
commercial vs. industrial, and also mixed use)
It does not make a distinction between vacant land and re-developable land
and more specific types such as brown-fields, green-fields, historic sites, and
; underutilized land
It does not account for qualitative information on the land physical features,
political conditions, availability of land for sale, distribution of parcels in the
census tract, historic status, etc.
In short, this information may only provide a general picture of available 'vacant' land in
the metropolitan area, so that the margin of error in predicting what will be available
[ could be an issue. Nevertheless, as we will see, several different scenarios can be
presented to account for possible variations in conditions that affect the range of
possibilities.
i
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QUANTITIES OF VACANT LAND
The following chart gives the totals for the data provided by DRCOG for 'vacant'
land potentials in the Metropolitan Area. It distinguishes between data for the inner ring
area and data for the entire 8-county area, which includes the inner ring area.
Figure 12 Vacant Land (Acres)
Inner Ring__________________ _________8-Countv Area
Residential Employment Total land (acres)* Residential Commercial Total land (acres)*
Sum 9100 10,579 - 141,541 222,345.4 109,469.5 3,243.527
Count 225 225 466 466
Mean 40.4 47.02 477.1 234.9
Median 6.8 5.3 17.93 11.17
Maximum 1600 1245.3 16,816 2389.1
Minimum 0 0 0 0
St Deviation 126 133 1814,7 1313.9
* both developable and undevelopable
For the inner ring, these figures suggest that about 14% (around 20,000) of the
approximate 141,000 acre total land area in the inner ring currently is or will be vacant
and developable in the next 20 years. Of this, about 6.5% (9100 acres) could be
residential and about 7.5% (10,579 acres) could be employment-oriented. The inner
ring has about 6% (19,679 aces) of all the developable land (at about 330,000 acres) in
the 8 county area.
The figures also indicate a wide range of variation in quantities of 'vacant' land in
the area, at least among the census tracts, with a total range of 1600 acres in the
residential category and 1245 acres in employment-oriented uses. However, the mean
acreage of'vacant' land per census tract is 40.4 acres for residential and 47.2 acres for
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employment-oriented land, and the majority of values for the census tracts cluster
between about 25 and 100 acres, with only a few high values (e.g., near Lowry and
Stapleton sites). The median acreage per census tract is 6 for residential and 7 for
employment-oriented uses. The distribution of values is shown in the scatter plot below.
Figure 13 Distribution of Values of 'Vacant' Land
This information is also shown in the maps that follow that used the DRCOG data
and were generated in ArcView. The first map shows the acreage of vacant,
residential land based upon natural breaks3, by census tract. With this system, equal
5 In this system, class divisions correspond as closely as possible to actual breaks in the range of values in
the data.
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numbers of values appear in each class, and the values are evenly distributed between the
classes. In this case there are 5 classes.
Map 5- Acres Vacant Residential Land in the Inner Ring
(Natural Break Classification)
Under this classification, the distribution centers around the mean value of approximately
40 acres, where more than half of the census tracts have values of less than the mean.
Relatively few have values of more than 200 acres 'vacant' residential land.
A similar result is shown for the employment-oriented category (Map 6).
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Map 6 Acres Employment-Oriented Vacant1 Land (Natural breaks)
For the employment-oriented* 'vacant' land, a majority of the census tracts have values of
less than 47 acres (the mean), while only a few have more than 300 acres. For both
residential and employment-oriented lands, the largest amounts are found in the north and
northeast areas, and the lowest values are generally located in the central area of the map
around the downtown area. However, the two differ in that the western portion of the
inner ring area appears to have more 'vacant' residential land, while the north has more
'vacant', employment-oriented land. The latter, notably is along the major highway or
major arterial corridors.
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The second set of maps (Maps 7 and 8) is based on an equal area classification6.
With this system the values are situated in a scheme with equal numerical distance
between the 5 classes. This helps to show clustering of values, which occurs in the case
of'vacant' land in values of fewer than 100 acres.
Map 7 Vacant Residential Land (Equal area classification)
These two maps show patterns similar to those in the first set of maps that used the
natural breaks system of classification. Both illustrate that a majority of the values are
6 Equal area divides the range of values evenly into classes.
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under 40 acres per census tract and that a significant number, especially in the central
area, have less than 10 acres of either residential or employment oriented 'vacant' land.
Map 8 Employment-Oriented Vacant Land (Equal area)
This classification also helps to reveal more subtle differences for the tracts where
acreage falls below the mean and above the median. With this it is possible to determine
the areas that have very little 'vacant' land, or small amounts. The following illustration
compares the distribution of mean and median for residential land.
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Map 9 Vacant Residential Land Mean and Median Acres
Vacant Residential Land
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It shows, again, that a majority of census tracts have less than 40.3 acres 'vacant'
residential land or the mean, but most are higher than the median at 6.8.
Using these different classifications helps to depict important features and
patterns of the data on 'vacant' land. Like the tabular data, they suggest a wide range of
values or quantities according to census tract, but that the actual variation among the
tracts, with a few exceptions, is not exceptionally large. This could have significance for
the development of models for infill in the inner ring study area, as we will see below.
SPATIAL DISTRIBUTIONS WITHIN THE RING
Besides differences in vacant land between the Metropolitan Area and the Inner
Ring, there are obvious and also subtle differences within the ring itself. From looking
at the above maps, perhaps the most apparent difference is between the inner portion of
the inner ring, which includes the area east of Sheridan Blvd., west of Quebec Ave., south
of 1-70, and north of Bellview Ave. area, with a few exceptions, and the area surrounding
it. In this central area is most of Denver, and Englewood, and all of Sheridan, Glendale,
and a part of Aurora. Roughly speaking, most of the census tracts (about 180) in this
category have significantly less vacant residential land than the mean amount of about
40 acres of 'vacant' land. This area has about 40% of all the 'vacant' land of the inner ring
and an average gross population density of greater than 8 people per acre, with some
central locations approximating 30 per acre (see Map 4, page 67). Outside this area,
quantities of 'vacant' land are somewhat greater, although census tracts are larger. As
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shown in Map 4 (p.67), gross population density generally ranges between 5 and 10
people per acre and averages out at about 6 per acre. In addition, there is a more gradual
transition to higher quantities of vacant land and lower population densities in the
western suburbs and a more dramatic shift in the northeast portion of the inner ring. The
latter corresponds with the changing use of the Stapleton and Lowry areas, and also the
undeveloped portions of Commerce City and unincorporated Adams County. Thus, the
relative amounts of vacant land could also be a function of the distance from the central
city. The inner area extends to about 15 miles from the Central Business District and the
outer area is as far as 35 miles from the Central Business District.
These sub-area differences could be also explained by other factors. They could
relate to an emphasis during collection of data by DRCOG on the more obvious, larger
parcels of either undeveloped or vacated lands, as in Stapleton and Lowry sites or brown-
fields. At a glance, the data does not appear to give much weight to occupied areas with
redevelopment potential, such as in some Denver or Englewood neighborhoods or
industrial sites. They could also be in part a function of higher population densities in the
urban areas, which results in the creation of new, smaller census tracts and relatively
smaller quantities of 'vacant' land. Nevertheless, the distribution does suggest the need
for division of the ring into at least two sub-areasthe urban core and the outer area,,
or possibly a third, primarily industrial area, which notably appear to transcend the
boundaries of the individual jurisdictions. The distribution also suggests that the most
noticeable future developments could take place in a few areas in the north and west of
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Denver. The developments could be relatively limited within the City of Denver except
to the immediate north and west of the city, along the Platte Corridor, and in and nearby
the Five Points neighborhood to the immediate northeast of Denver. Corridor
developments along the new Southwest Light Rail, for instance in Englewood, are
depicted in the maps, though other potential locations are not shown. Factoring for
relative acreage can reveal other possible areas for more intensive development, as
suggested by Maps 11 and 12 (below). This would more clearly reveal other locations
that could become candidates for redevelopment, such as the Platte Corridor and South
Denver, in addition to several industrial areas. Otherwise developments will likely be
small and relatively even in the rest of the study area.
Distributions by County
It is also possible using GIS to gather approximate figures for vacant land
according to jurisdiction, in this case by county. The following table shows approximate
quantities of 'vacant' land in the inner ring by county along with other information for the
counties land that falls within the inner ring area.
Figure 14 Inner Ring Characteristics by County*
Acres in Ring Square miles Population 1990 Population Density" Vacant residential Vacant 'Employment'
Adams 32,189 50.3 137,496 7 per acre 2870 5219.5
Arapahoe 10,905 17 67,238 7 per acre 287.7 888.9
Denver 56,117 87.7 389,348 10 per acre 2,629 2735.1
Jefferson 42,303 66.1 224,433 6 per acre 3313.1 1736.5
141,514 221.1 818,515 9100.1 10580.0
'Includes both incorporated and unincorporated areas; figures are just for inner ring
portions
** Gross Population Density for total acres, not just residential acres_____________
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