Redevelopment processes of North American downtowns and consequences in the public realm

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Redevelopment processes of North American downtowns and consequences in the public realm a case study of downtown Denver, Colorado
Yilmaz-Saygin, Nicel
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229 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Central business districts -- Case studies -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
City planning -- Case studies -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Equality -- Case studies -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Economic conditions -- Denver (Colo.) ( lcsh )
Commons Park (Denver, Colo.) ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 218-229).
General Note:
College of Architecture and Planning
Statement of Responsibility:
by Nicel Yilmaz-Saygin.

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Source Institution:
|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:
50710312 ( OCLC )
LD1190.A72 2002d .Y54 ( lcc )

Full Text
Nicel Yilmaz-Saygin
B.A., Dokuz Eylul University, 1991
M.S., Clemson University, 1996
M.S., University of Pennsylvania, 1997
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Design and Planning

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Nicel Yilmaz-Saygin
has been approved
Thomas A. Clark
Lynn A. Staeheli

Yilmaz-Saygin, Nicel (Ph.D., Design and Planning)
Redevelopment Processes of North American Downtowns and Consequences in
the Public Realm: A Case Study of Downtown Denver, Colorado
Thesis directed by Professor Fahriye Sancar
This study investigates the politics of urban development and the role of
decision-making processes behind the attributes of commodification,
themetization and privatization, which characterize todays downtown built
environment and its public realm. A conceptual model of the dynamics of the
downtown redevelopment process based on a review of existing literature is
used to interpret the evolution of downtown development in Denver (Colorado).
Due to increasing suburban competition and declining levels of federal
support, local governments have been using downtown revitalization as the
main strategy for economic development. In their quest for growth, local
governments partner with the business interests and allocate major public
subsidies to downtown projects. When the political and economic motives of
elected politicians and local business leaders shape the built environment, the
actions of such coalitions lead to the creation of a commodified and privatized
downtown that serves a privileged population rather than the general public
who ought to have access to a publicly-subsidized downtown.
An analysis of the regimes of mayors since 1950 leads to the conclusion
that downtown redevelopment in Denver has followed a trajectory similar to
that of other cities that experienced an urban renaissance. These findings

show that business interests significantly direct downtown redevelopment. The
last two minority mayors with democratic backgrounds, who strengthened the
city halls leadership position, still had to partner with the private sector for
economic development.
To better understand Denvers planning culture, I studied the
development process of a public park (Commons Park) adjacent to downtown.
I conducted in-depth interviews with the major actors including planning
officials, the land-owner, developer, city council members, and neighborhood
representatives who were involved in the development of the park. Commons
Park is the crown jewel of the Central Platte Valley development, which the
current Mayor has promoted as his legacy. As an African-American, Mayor
Webb has emphasized the provision of urban amenities to minority and poor
neighborhoods in this area. Nevertheless, the development of Commons Park
illustrates a current movement nationwide where traditional goals of serving the
general public and creating a true public realm have become subservient to
stimulating real estate development.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
Fahriye Sancar

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those who were
instrumental in the completion of this dissertation. I am grateful to my
committee members Thomas Clark, Joan Draper, Korkut Onaran, Lynn
Staeheli, and Raymond Studer. My sincere thanks go particularly to my
advisor Fahriye Sancar for her resourcefulness, insightful critiques, and
continuous guidance. I am grateful to all interview participants. This work
could not have been accomplished without the contributions of the interview
participants, particularly Mark Johnson, Dick Farley, and Marilee Utter.
I would also like to extend my gratitude to my family from across the
miles. My soulmate Omur Saygin, my parents and my sister have sent
immense love and support across the miles and have given me the courage to be
strong and determined to complete this task. My thanks also go to my sponsor,
Izmir Institute of Technology (Izmir, Turkiye), for providing me with the
opportunity to get a graduate education in the United States. I acknowledge our
Ph.D. Program director Willem Van Vliet for his support and help with
administrative work. Last but definitely not the least, I must mention my
friends in the Ph.D. program who have also been great support with their
sincere friendship. I feel very lucky to have met such a diverse group from all
over the world and across disciplines.

1. INTRODUCTION...........................................1
PUBLIC REALM............................................8
Downtown Redevelopment Process and Dynamics ........8
Postmodern Urban Form and Function.................17
Life in the Postmodern City........................22
Conceptual Model of Downtown Redevelopment.........25
Broader Effects..............................26
Local Political Culture......................26
Urban Character: Land Use, Economy, and
The Public and the Public Realm..............28
Case Study: Commons Park Development Process.......30
Early Influences: Mayor Speer (1904-1912 and 1916-1918)
and the City Beautiful.............................35

Postwar Years (Late 1940s and 1950s): Reform
Urban Renewal (1960s)..................................40
Skyline Urban Renewal Plan.......................43
Larimer Street...................................47
Corporate Downtown (1970s).............................48
Laissez Faire: Mayor William H. McNichols
Skyline Project, Phase I: 1968-1977 .............48
16th Street Mall.................................50
1976 Winter Olympics.............................51
Skyline Project, Phase II: 1977-1984 ............51
Towards a Great City (1980s).........................52
1986 Downtown Plan...............................53
Historic District Designation....................54
Central Platte Valley and Convention Center......57
Postmodern Downtown (1990s)............................63
Race Between Shopping Malls......................64
Downtown Housing.................................67
Central Platte Valley and
Webbs Legacy for Denver Citizens................69
4. CASE STUDY: COMMONS PARK..................................82
Method of Approach.....................................82

Chronological Development
Land Acquisition....................................90
Plan Development....................................93
Plan Implementation.................................96
Analysis of Commons Park Development.......................97
Vision Development:
Alternatives and Reasons for Selecting the Vision...97
The Politics of Adopting a Vision:
The Public Process..................................99
Detailing the Vision:
Planning and Design of the Commons Park............105
Commons Neighborhood PUD Process.............108
The Mechanics of Implementing the Vision: ........113
Financing Strategies.........................113
Zoning and Regulations.......................115
Research Findings.........................................117
Major Actors and Interactions......................118
Urban Character....................................123
Land Use and Morphology......................123
Public and Public Realm......................128

Broader Influences.....................................136
Local Political Culture................................139
Major Actors....................................140
Mayor and City Council....................140
Urban Land Institute......................142
Denver Urban Renewal Authority............144
Planning Office and Planning Board........148
Downtown Denver Partnership and
Downtown Business Community...............151
Financial Institutions....................153
The Press.................................154
The Public................................157
Urban Character: Postmodern Downtown...................159
Land Use........................................164
The New Public and Public Realm in Downtown............169
6. THEORETICAL IMPLICATIONS..................................182
Local Political Culture and Growth Machine.............182
What Kind of Growth: A Unique Vision...................192

What are the Consequences and Who Benefits from
Downtown Redevelopment?................................197
Implications for the Public Realm in Downtown..........202
Changing Role of Planning Profession: Equity Planning
versus Economy Planning................................208
Rethinking the Conceptual Model of Downtown
Redevelopment in Denver................................212
Future Research Suggestions............................216

2.1 Spatial Changes in Redeveloped CBDs........................18
2.2 A Conceptual Model of the Downtown
Redevelopment Process........................................29
3.1 Skyline Urban Renewal Project...............................45
3.2 1986 Central Platte Valley Plan.............................62
3.3 South Platte River Parks....................................74
3.4 Downtown Denver Attractions.................................79
4.1 Central Platte Valley Context...............................85
4.2 Commons Park and Civic Center Connection....................89
4.3 Commons Park Concept Plan...................................90
4.4 Land Ownership in the Central Platte Valley.................91
4.5 Commons Park, Final Plan.................................. 94
4.6 Commons Park, Natural and Landscaped Areas..................94
4.7 Commons Neighborhood Bridge Connections.....................95
4.8 Commons Neighborhood PUD Plan..............................109
4.9 Housing Projects in the Central Platte Valley..............124
4.10 Light Rail Extension into the Central Platte Valley.......125
5.1 Organizational Structure of Denver City Government.........147

5.2 Downtown Sales Tax Trends 1991-2000...................167
5.3 Downtown Denver Map...................................177
6.1 Conceptual Model of Downtown Redevelopment
in Denver..............................................213

3.1 Mayors South Platte River Initiative Founding Commissioners.71
3.2 Parks System along the South Platte River....................76
3.3 Major Decisions in Downtown Denver Redevelopment.............78
3.4 Major Downtown Projects in Denver since Urban Renewal........80
4.1 Interview Participants.......................................84
5.1 Downtown Denver Visitor Profile..............................173
6.1 Regime Trends in Denver since the Second World War...........192
6.2 Consequences of Downtown Redevelopment in Denver.............199

In recent years considerable academic research across disciplines has focused
on the transformation of the nature of public realm in downtowns. A major
shift in the economic base of American cities from industrial to services
resulted in the decline of cities nationwide as both population and employment
moved to the suburbs. Downtowns became run down and blighted with major
concentrations of poor and minority populations during three decades of
suburbanization in the nation following WWH. Retail and employment also
followed residential population to the suburbs. Cities lost their political power
against suburbs as well as tax revenues, which were their main economic
resource. Federal cutbacks of financial aid to local governments further
impoverished cities to the degree that they were hardly able to provide essential
services to their residents.
As the new economy began to take shape, various factors contributed to
a renaissance of downtowns in the 1980s and 1990s. Downtown revitalization
strategy was adopted for economic development and to achieve competitiveness
in the regional, national, and global markets. In order to promote economic
growth, local governments partnered with the private sector, became
entrepreneurs and transformed their responsibilities from provisioning of
services to facilitating real estate development. To draw people, businesses,
and investment new retail and entertainment venues were built in downtown by
private investment and major public-subsidies. Cities developed marketing
strategies to promote a safe and vibrant downtown image that would draw
investment, tourists, and residents. Developers in collaboration with city

governments capitalized on affordable land in downtowns by building sports
arenas, performance centers, entertainment venues, convention facilities, and
themed retail stores as well as themed restaurants. The nature of retail was also
transformed from basic needs (e.g. drug stores, dry cleaners, convenience
stores, grocery stores) to specialty goods and restaurants. Downtown public
realm became a place to visit rather than a place for collective rituals of the
local population.
This type of development attracts employers and serves the employees
of the new economy and convinces them to be residents in downtowns.
Therefore, emerging lifestyle and consumerist society of post-Fordist and post-
modern times resulted in the development of a new public realm in downtown.
The public realm is described as all parts of the city that is not exclusively
under private ownership or privately controlled and open to the general public.
The public realm has both spatial and non-spatial aspects. Recently, the public
realm has been used as an essential component of urban regeneration activities
since the image of a city can be promoted and advertised through public spaces.
Being constructed and managed by public and private partnerships or solely by
the private sector, the public realm has become more and more privatized,
commodified and packaged to market the city.
The end product of this development process is a built environment that
is usually interior-oriented, where accessibility is privately controlled, and
commodified for consumers replacing the once collective and political
character of the public realm. This renewed urban environment also redefines
the public who have access to a publicly-subsidized downtown, thus brings to
fore issues of social justice, civil rights and equity. As the land prices began to
rise due to such revitalization efforts and major investment, poor and minority
residents in the neighborhoods within and around downtown were displaced,
those who could not afford to live forced to move out and therefore

concentrated in segregated enclaves. Thus dual cities emerged where haves and
have-nots are completely segregated.
This major transformation of downtown became a topic of academic
research and its consequent literature. This literature and research mainly
covered two issues: (a) urban development process, (b) the various (social,
spatial and economic) implications of the downtown regeneration. There are
competing explanations in the urban development literature as to how local
governments could find a way to increase their financial resources and how
they identified economic development as a link to downtown revitalization. To
summarize, early analysts of urban development policy fall into two categories:
the structuralists and the pluralists. Structuralists (e.g. Harvey Molotch)
indicate that a coalition of city elites (business, real estate, construction sectors)
partner with local governments and play dominant roles in development. In
contrast to the structuralists, Pluralist scholars (e.g. John Mollenkopf) argue
that the bargaining among a multiplicity of groups who are interested in
development define the nature of decision making process. Later, regime
theory, is developed by Clarence Stone, which has focused on local elected
political leaders and their coalition formation. In Stones analysis, a regime is a
particular type of long-term stable relationship between governmental and
nongovernmental partners, and regime theory is a model of policy choice in the
urban setting (Stone, 1984).
Which of these theories comes closest to describe Denvers case?
According to the structuralist theory one would expect the local business elite
to be the dominant group in decision making, lead the political process and
initiate coalition building. On the other hand, the pluralist perspective would
predict local elected officials to be the leaders and initiate the coalition
buildings process. The main task here is to describe the redevelopment process

and the emergent public realm. These findings will then help refine the existing
In this study, I first explore policies, politics, and economics of the
downtown redevelopment process through review of existing literature as well
as exploring the development experience of downtown Denver (Colorado).
Additionally, I study in detail the development process of Commons Park and
the surrounding residential development, and the role they play in urban
Originally people came to Denver with the hopes of finding gold and
silver, then for oil and gas, and lately for high technology jobs. Boom and bust
cycles have affected the central city the most while its suburbs have been
growing since WWII. After its oil boom came to a bust in the 1980s, the
Denver Front Range Area renewed itself and became a high technology center,
a second Silicon Valley. It drew a significant amount of new population that
is well educated and highly skilled. Now, Denver and Colorado have serious
growth concerns. Los Angeles-like sprawl threatens Colorados and Denvers
quality of life which is associated with wide open spaces and a pristine
environment for many new residents. The city has been experiencing boom and
bust cycles throughout its history, yet the last decade has been a time of
economic growth. The last two mayors, Federico Pena (1983 1991) and
Wellington Webb (1991- present), set downtown revitalization as the top
priority on their agendas and drastically changed the face of downtown.
The nature of the redevelopment process determines the use of a
particular research methodology: qualitative research, and, particularly, the
grounded theory methodology. In this methodology, originally developed by
sociologists Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss, the theory is built inductively
through the use of qualitative analysis of data. Grounded theory methodology
explicitly involves generating theory and doing social research as two parts of

the same process (Strauss and Corbin 1990, p. 24). Extensive interrelated data
collection and theoretical analysis is done throughout the course of research,
and, therefore it results in the creation of hypotheses that are already verified
within the research. As a result, through analysis of the downtown
redevelopment process in Denver, I redevelop the theory on urban regeneration.
In short, this study is mainly composed of following activities:
1. Building a conceptual model of the downtown redevelopment
process based on existing literature.
2. Empirical study of the downtown redevelopment process in Denver,
3. Description of resultant spaces operation and functions.
4. Iterative revision of the conceptual model in light of the case study.
The findings of this study shows that the evolution of downtown Denver
development follows the general trajectory described by the structuralist theory
in which local business interests dominate the development process and lead the
development-related decisions. However, in strong-mayor types of local
governments such as Denvers, political leadership, mayoral background and
personality are critical factors that can make a difference in the nature and
dynamics of redevelopment process and can modify the outcome.
Nevertheless, even the strong mayors such as Pena or Webb, the direct
influence of the growth coalition is clear. For example, Mayor Webb
established a strong coalition and partnership with local business interests for
economic development and his choice of parks development as his legacy falls
short of achieving his original goal to integrate social equity and environmental
concerns in growth and economic development. The development of Commons
Park, a case that I focused on here, is an example of such a redefined public
realm in downtown Denver. Commons Park is the end product of this

development history, on its way to join its counterparts that serve only a
specific public targeted by the redevelopment strategies.
The chapters that follow are arranged according to the following
sequence. Chapter two reviews prior research on downtown redevelopment,
develops a model that conceptualizes the redevelopment process and introduces
the selected project (Commons Park) for empirical analysis. First, I start with
analyzing existing studies on downtown redevelopment, then, I use findings of
the existing studies to define common indicators -some of which are local
politics, prominent actors and their motivations, a power structure of the key
players, capital accumulation, a real estate market- that operates in the
redevelopment process, and develop a conceptual model. I then introduce the
case study.
Chapter three presents the development history of downtown Denver
since World War II. To analyze the downtown redevelopment experience in
Denver, I first explore broader effects on where it stands in the regional,
national, and global economic structure, and national economic and political
strategy regarding downtown Denvers development. Second, I explore the
local political culture. I define local political culture in terms of regime
character; major actors in real estate development decisions, their attitudes and
strategies towards growth and development, and power relations. Political
leadership is significant in understanding urban development patterns.
Typically mayors and their priorities leave significant legacies in most cities.
Therefore, I compare the policy platform of the succession of mayors in Denver
since the 1950s. To investigate the local political culture in Denver, I follow a
multi-method qualitative research approach: I have drawn the data from
archival research of published planning documents and statistical sources, a
content analysis of local newspaper and business journals, and in-depth

interviews with prominent actors who played key roles in downtown
In chapter four, I first introduce the method of approach and then
explore the development of Commons Park and surrounding residential
neighborhood in downtown Denver. Then I document the empirical findings of
my analysis of its development process. Chapter five presents a critical
analysis of the downtown redevelopment experience in Denver by discussing
prominent actors and power relations among them. Chapter six discusses the
theoretical implications of Denvers experience in downtown redevelopment,
whether the evolution of downtown Denver follows the trajectory described by
the literature and its consequences for downtown's public realm, and the
planning professions role in all this. To conclude, I introduce the revised
conceptual model of downtown redevelopment in the context of downtown
Denver and present suggestions for future research.

In this chapter, I first review prior research on downtown redevelopment and
the postmodern public realm to define common indicators. I then use these
indicators to develop a conceptual model that represents the development
process. Finally I introduce the case study.
Review of the existing literature focuses on (1) urban regeneration
theory: the redevelopment process and dynamics; (2) spatial aspects:
postmodern urban form and function; and, (3) social aspects of public life in the
postmodern city. Most of the scholarly literature originated from urban
planning, geography and sociology, with an increasing number of scholars who
have joined the discussion from political science, communications, architectural
history, and American studies. The popularity of the subject illustrates the
significance of the issues that engage scholars from several disciplines.
Downtown Redevelopment Process and Dynamics
Redevelopment practices of old industrial cities such as Pittsburgh, St. Louis,
Boston, Chicago, and Detroit through urban renewal programs post-WWII have
been welcomed as the pioneers of an Urban Renaissance in the US. More
recently, revitalization of the inner city through downtown redevelopment has
gained wide support, as part of the anti-sprawl movement. Examples of this can
be seen in books and articles that talk about Comeback Cities, Back to the
City, Cities back from the Edge and so on.

Within the literature, there are competing explanations on how the
transformation of the urban space occurs. In reviewing this literature, Carl
Abbott (1993) describes five successive themes and related policies in
downtown development as follows:
1945-55: The downtown as the unitary center of the American
metropolis required improved access through the highway
improvements and downtown ring roads.
1955-65: Downtown understood as a failing real estate market appeared
to require the land assembly and clearance associated with the urban
renewal program.
1965-75: Downtown as a federation of subdistricts called for
community conservation, historic preservation, and human scale
1975-85: Downtown as a set of individual experiences required
regulation of private design and public assistance for cultural facilities,
retail markets, open space, and other amenities.
1985-: Viewed as a command post in the global economy, downtown
had required planning for expanded office districts and supporting
These themes show that downtown is a constructed concept whose meaning
or understanding has undergone surprisingly rapid changes (Abbot 1993, p. 6).
Abbott also identifies three major approaches to describing downtown
planning and policy in the United States over the last half century.
1. Downtown policy as an expression of interest group or class politics.
2. A structure-driven model in which downtown development and
redevelopment programs are seen as rational responses to specific
socioeconomic circumstances and problems.

3. A teleological model that traces the roots of present successes
(mostly defined in economic terms) as in the example of Frieden and
Sagalyns study, Downtown, Inc.: How America Rebuilds Its
Cities, written as the story of progress.
While the first two approaches indicate analytical studies based on
theoretical premises, the third approach is largely a descriptive one, guided by
normative premises. Regarding the first two, analysts of city politics and urban
development policy fall into two categories: the structuralists and the
pluralists. For example, Harvey Molotch, in his now classic article Cities as
Growth Machines, represents the structuralist approach that explains local
decision making as dominated by entrenched elites. Coining the term growth
machine, Molotch states that cities are under the control of development
interests -builders, realtors, local financial institutions, and their supporting
professionals such as real estate attorneys and accountants- who use local
government as a tool for their growth goals (Molotch 1987). An important
aspect of the theory is the inevitability of coalitions among place-bound elites,
i.e., those who control and whose well-being is dependent on land or spatial
In contrast, pluralist scholars (such as John Mollenkopf) examine the
complex interests around actual policy decisions, and contend that there is no
evidence of direct control by a unified economic or status elite which could
easily explain the reality. They tend to see urban politics as an autonomous
realm that possessed real authority and commanded important resources. They
argue that the bargaining among a multiplicity of groups define the urban
power structure. In this view, coalition building is central to the definition of
power (Mollenkopf, J. 1992; Motte, M. and Weil, L. 2000).
In the early 1980s, Clarence Stone, a political scientist, pioneered the
study of regime theory, which is an approach to the study of urban political

power with a conceptual framework and a set of theoretical statements different
from earlier pluralist and structuralist writings. Stone studied how urban
regimes (political coalitions that govern cities) structure a particular set of
values from among both governmental (parties, local elected officials,
governmental bureaucracies) and nongovernmental groups (businesses, labor
unions, churches, neighborhood, ethnic, environmental and feminist
organizations) to obtain and exercise political power. In Stones analysis, a
regime is a particular type of long-term stable relationship between
governmental and nongovernmental partners, and regime theory is a model of
policy choice in the urban setting (Stone, 1984).
Regime theory focuses on the way in which interests achieve results
they desire through a combination of governmental and nongovernmental
means. It acknowledges the importance of private business in local
governance, but conflicts with more extreme structuralist theories that portray
business as all-powerful. Regime theory recognizes that urban decision making
is nonhierarchical and fragmented. It emphasizes the importance of politics and
rejects economic determinism. In general, Stone concentrates on politician
coalition-builders and why they gravitate toward the growth faction, while
Molotch focuses on the actions of growth entrepreneurs and how they link up
with political actors (among others) (Molotch 1993).
H.V. Savitch and J.C. Thomas (1991) developed a different approach to
regime theory and proposed a dynamic model for urban regimes, which is based
on the strength of political leadership and the cohesion of business elite, that
consists of four different models including 1. Corporatist Model (both strong
political leaders who set their own agenda, and a unified business elite that
knows what it wants), 2. Elitist Model (a cohesive business elite that lead the
agenda for the weak local politicians), 3. Pluralist Model (strong political
leaders that bring together diffused business interests), and 4. Hyperpluralist

model (neither political leaders nor private actors are powerful enough to pull
together the strings of the urban political economy). The elitist model here is
very similar to Logan and Molotchs growth machine theory as both
emphasize the dominance of business elite in local decision-making.
Within the literature, several commentators discuss the financial
strategies (public-private partnerships) resulting from federal cutbacks in the
1970s that transformed the nature of city development practice as well as the
role of city planners (Frieden 1990; Fainstein 1991; Sagalyn 1992). Although
Bernard Frieden claims that the results so far have been good and he is
optimistic about the new style of negotiated development, he does point out
several potential weaknesses in this approach where city planners work as
entrepreneurs, deal-makers and negotiators. First, most public sector
development has occurred in places where developers hoped to make large
profits if successful. Second, he also mentions procedural and ethical pitfalls.
One issue is the effectiveness of city officials as negotiators who will not easily
trade away regulatory concessions to get profit sharing agreements. He cites
from a study done by the State of New York comptroller who found that in a
sample of 15 projects the value of public amenities totaled $5 million whereas
the bonus given was $108 million. Two other related issues are as follows:
public sector development becoming a career ladder for planners to move from
public to private employment; establishing clear ethical standards to avoid any
misconduct. He suggests monitoring and auditing the deals and making sure
that planners .. .use development projects strategically to guide the growth
and character of the community at large (Frieden 1990, p.427).
In partial agreement with Frieden, Susan Fainstein argues that due to
economic restructuring of the world system, the conservative national
administration, and a learning process resulting in a pro-active approach, the
focus of planning switched from regulating to promoting development within

the United States and Great Britain. However, she contends that the resulting
planning mode is primarily oriented toward the needs of the private capital
when contemporary planners are deal-makers, negotiators, or mediators. The
old justification for planning was comprehensiveness and the minimization of
negative externalities, whereas the new ones are competitiveness and market
rationality. Planning methods shifted from needs assessments, master planning,
and long-term capital budgeting to market analysis, negotiation, and project-
specific capital programming. She questions whether efforts to assist the
housing and welfare needs of low-income inhabitants are limited by the
competitive position of each city in the global capitalist contest for productive
investment. And alongside other commentators, she proposes linkage programs
that require developers to pay a price to the city to fund low-income housing
and social services in return for the privilege of building.
Within the urban regeneration theory literature, Susan and Norman
Fainsteins theoretical analysis of redevelopment politics in their concluding
essay in Restructuring the City (1983) and Susan Fainsteins work in City
Builders (1994) are substantial. In fact, Fainsteins theoretical model is the
only attempt in the literature in developing a model that explains the
regeneration phenomenon. Restructuring the City (1983) is a comparative
analysis of the political economy of urban development built on case studies of
five U.S. cities: New Haven, Detroit, New Orleans, Denver, and San Francisco.
Fainsteins provide a theoretical synthesis of empirical findings of the case
studies. Susan Fainsteins work in City Builders (1994) investigates the
conditions under which the property developers invest in a place and the role of
the public sector in providing these conditions in two global cities, New York
and London. It is not intended to delineate a general process but rather to
understand the mix of general and specific factors in the development process.
Her study determines that developers, politicians, and local activists are

important, but the urban regime is a key element in determining differences in
redevelopment efforts among cities. But, in stating that economic and spatial
structures, more than other structures, restrict choice in regard to strategies
intended to further economic well-being, she supports a structuralist framework
to explain development.
There are others who criticize the inequity resulting from growth
policies and propose Linkage programs to link downtown redevelopment to
neighborhood economic needs. Marc V. Levine discusses downtown
redevelopment as an urban growth strategy in the example of Baltimore. He
states that at least partially, downtown revitalization strategy was responsible
for the uneven urban growth and declining public services that led to
neighborhood distress. He states that current policies can be altered in three
ways to ensure that the benefits of redevelopment are more equitably shared.
First, cities can rethink the notion of competitive advantage in their efforts to
attract investment. Second, the redevelopment agenda-setting process needs to
be democratized by enhancing public participation, and an open and systematic
debate over policy alternatives. Finally, cities can adopt policies that better link
downtown redevelopment to neighborhood economic needs (Levine 1987).
Dennis Keating with Norman Krumholz (1991), examined whether
downtown planning in the US seriously addressed social equity issues in six
representative downtown plans of major American cities in the 1980s:
Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. As a
result of this analysis, they found that some cities addressed social equity
issues, but none did so seriously enough to link the development and well being
of the CBD to the economic and social problems confronting the rest of the
city. They propose policies for downtown planners to address larger social
problems in the context of downtown plans:

First, downtown planners should analyze the social costs and benefits
of major downtown development projects, including related public
infrastructure and services, to determine the appropriateness of public
subsidies, where requested, and the projects impact on the citys
residents. Second, where the requisite economic and political conditions
exist, linkage policies requiring downtown developers to assist in the
mitigation of social problems (e.g., through contributions to low income
housing, mass transit, job training, and daycare) can be adopted as a
component of the downtown plan. Third, whether or not the linkage is
relevant, cities can facilitate the employment of lower-income city
residents in the downtown through first source (city residents of
lower-income and minority groups) hiring policies.
(Keating and Krumholz 1991, p. 150)
Keating and Krumholz (1991) point to the 1991 Toronto City Plan that
updated the 1976 Central Area Plan as a model for downtown planning. In the
Toronto plan, social equity is identified as a guiding principle for all policy
discussions, recognizing five basic urban rights including affordable housing;
equal access to community services and facilities; secure, quality employment;
safety and freedom from discrimination; and community empowerment and
participation in policy making.
Another point of view, citizen actions in the redevelopment process, is
discussed and studied by Stephen J. McGovern who examined the dynamics of
political cultures in downtown development in San Francisco and Washington
D.C. (McGovern 1998). He focused particularly on downtown neighborhood
opposition against unpredicted results (e.g. displacement of low income groups)
of pro-growth policies. He examined how citizens sought to control their own
urban environments. This analysis reveals that grassroots opposition has been
effective in San Francisco whereas it was ineffective in Washington D.C. This
finding about San Francisco is also supported by Anastasia Loukatiou-Sideris
and Tridib Banerjees study, in which they documented the nature of the design
and development process in the creation of downtown open spaces and how this

process was affected by each citys political culture including the citizen
involvement (Loukatiou-Sideris, 1998).
From the above literature, it is clear that the issues of the change vehicle
and the change strategy are essential in each revitalization theory. An
appropriate vehicle for change is usually considered either the government or
the community, and strategies for change can be grouped according to their
economic and social focus. Two strategies for urban regeneration are economic
development and improved human services such as skills training (Ross, 2000).
Existing studies show that the former strategy has been by most local
governments more often adopted than the latter.
This brief survey of the literature shows that the authors agree that if
cities are left to their own economic resources, planners will engage in deal
making and negotiation and take a proactive role in real estate development in
downtowns, with their regulatory role taking a back seat. Whether the effects
of this approach to planning have been positive or negative clearly depends on
how one defines the public interest that planners are supposed to serve as well
as measuring the extent to which it has been met. Authors implicitly differ on
their emphases on various public interest goals such as efficiency, jobs,
revenues, design quality, social equity, meeting the basic needs of shelter for
the residents, and so on.
Regarding issues of social equity and impacts on neighborhood of pro-
growth downtown policies, research seems to tie successful cases to the
strength of neighborhood activism and citizen involvement which itself is
largely due to the cultural and political history of the particular cities that were
studied. Clearly, uniqueness of cities themselves should be taken into
consideration in evaluating the consequences of downtown plans, policies, and
politics. Of particular interest to planners is the range of venues open to them
in this era of public-private partnerships to adequately represent the public

interest while making deals. Who are likely partners for planners when
negotiating public amenities in an environment perceived to be risky for
developers and lenders? Under what circumstances do city-employed planners
feel obligated to resist the temptation of easy compromise to get the project in
the ground sooner than later? In the realm of downtown redevelopment, do the
actors in these partnerships represent a diversity of interests or are they limited
to the usual suspects as described in the growth machine theory? Researchers
found support for both cases: What are the conditions that encourage
collaborative coalitions versus growth machine politics to take hold in a
particular city? What types of citywide policies provide safeguards against
negative spill-over effects on neighborhoods? Scholars have been advocating
linkage policies for some time; how widely are they used and are the results
successful? Some of the answers lie in looking at the urban form and function
that evolved as a consequence of the dynamics described so far.
Postmodern Urban Form and Function
From the relevant literature, it is very clear that postmodern urban form is a
result of market-oriented urbanism and major private investment and
management of development, supported by public incentives and subsidies, that
result in a sanitized, themetized, commodified, and standardized environment.
John Hannigan (1995) adds a fourth characteristic, fragmentation, to the three
characteristics of the postmodern city identified by Michael Sorkin (1992),
which are despatialization, surveillance, and simulations.
One example in this literature is Robert Beauregards study. It
documents how economic and political changes in the property development
arena affected the spatial transformation of downtown areas in the examples of
Philadelphia (PA), White Plains (NY), and New Brunswick (NJ). He indicated

that specific spatial transformations were generally determined by economic
goals (to have a concrete and visual impact, and to create a pro-business
environment by offering a variety of tax incentives) and political goals (local
governments desire to stabilize the tax base and to solidify political power
through images of progress and economic growth) pursued by the city, and
were only tempered by social, cultural, and physical elements unique to the
city. As a consequence, redevelopment while subsidized by public funds was
to a large degree shaped by the private sector, which dictated the dominant land
uses and property configurations. He described the characteristics of the new
urban form shaped by these factors as large-scale developments that resulted in
homogenization and intensification of land uses.
The increase in scale is accompanied by new public spaces within the
buildings such as atriums, courts, or interior streets, but not public open spaces.
Outdoor plazas in front of office buildings were often privatized, isolated from
the street life, highly specialized, geared less to the spontaneity of unplanned
congregation than to serving a specific function for the adjacent or surrounding
buildings. New buildings seldom respected the urban fabric that they replaced,
using architectural styles that did not establish any historic continuity.
Figure 2.1 Spatial Changes in Redeveloped CBDs, Beauregard 1989, p. 159

The resulting large-scale developments also required centralized
property management, leading to additional uniformity in both the image of
office buildings and shopping malls and the arrangements of spaces. As these
retail spaces filled in with franchises and chain stores, sameness and uniformity
was reinforced as well as assuring the consumer that quality is invariant
(Beauregard 1989).
Sharon Zukin also points out that in postmodern urban form, there are
market-driven patterns of standardization (Zukin 1988). The widely-used
strategies for downtown redevelopment including pedestrianization of the main
street, building indoor shopping centers, historic preservation, waterfront
development, building special activity generators (convention centers, arenas,
stadiums, and so on), transportation enhancement, encouraging high-end
housing, hotels, entertainment (aquariums, casinos, theaters, restaurants,
nightlife), and cultural attractions (museums, libraries) described by Kent
Robertson (1995) contribute to this standardization. These repeated
development strategies in their effort to compete for discretionary spending of
the suburbanites and to capture a share of tourism revenues in each and every
metropolitan center across North America resulted in a ubiquitous uniformity
and standardization.
Search for identity to increase competitive advantage in the mass
tourism market also led to the invention of uniqueness via themes that
combined packages of retail and entertainment functions with design features.
Successful themes were quickly imitated across the nation, defeating the
original purpose of creating authenticity. Examples of themetization include
Rouses festival markets, Rodeo Drive and City Walk in Los Angeles, and
South Street Seaport in New York.
New forms of sociability of streets and shops, shopping malls,
department stores, theme parks, tourist sites and heritage centers offer various

blends and combinations of selling goods and experiences. They sell goods that
can be taken away, they sell experiential goods to be consumed on the site and
experiences, usually purchased with the general entrance ticket, in the form of
the aestheticised and designed environments a more general ambience, the
atria, fountains, mirrored walls, escalators and more elaborate disneyfication
effects (Featherstone, 1998).
Recently built public spaces are highly controlled. Control through
regulations, which maintain the urban pattern, often has the objective of
regulating not only the physical environment but also communication and
social conduct in public places. For example, zoning laws may restrict or
stimulate communicative activity, either explicitly or implicitly. Regulations
that are imposed on the use of property guide social behavior in that
environment (Gumpert and Drucker 1991). Examples of these are enforced
behavioral regulations such as strolling, dress codes, panhandling, alcohol
drinking laws, regulation of smoking, vagrancy laws and so on.
Surveillance cameras, private security forces and other management
features such as service hours are common modes of control in management of
the public realm. Several commentators discuss how private leadership
encourages private development, management and maintenance of downtown
developments (Reeve 1996, Boyer 1993). Reeve acknowledges that the private
development and management of downtown has accepted mall management as
a model and produced commodified and privatized customer spaces (Reeve
1996). Christine Boyer argues that the old style public space has been taken
over by promotional space in which the reputation of the sponsoring
corporation is visualized and its production of civic values promoted (Boyer
1993). Plazas fronting glamorous, high rise office towers are either controlled
by private security guards or marked as private property and only available
for patron use.

The public realm is also controlled by design. Urban designers and
architects emphasize the significance of the design of public spaces (Ali
Madanipour 1999, Hashim Sarkis 1998). Madanipour and Sarkis both question
pluralism and multiplicity in architecture and public space design. Madanipour
states that urban designers can design and produce public spaces to
accommodate a mixture of people and activities, which may be a positive step
towards more inclusionary urban space and in promoting tolerance. Sarkis
draws attention to the roles of architects and designers and their buildings and
spaces in affecting public life. He states that the present tendency to fragment
the public by design should be considered suspect for two reasons: First, the
public has become fragmented and the fragments hold no relational identity to
each other. Second, the aesthetic visions are removed from the procedural
issues involved in design. Who pays for what, what functions are included,
which groups are consulted, empowered (or disempowered) in the process?
Unfortunately, and when subjected to such scrutiny, pluralist architecture would
turn out to match private developers needs for marketing flexibility more than
it would support the concerns of disempowered groups (Sarkis, 1997, p. 156).
In short, he emphasizes that design practice should engage the politics of
recognition more effectively. One of the main projects of the politics of
recognition is to develop political frameworks that could include experiences
from all forms of life, architecture included (Sarkis, 1997, p. 156).
A special case in point is the construction of grade-separated pedestrian
systems such as in downtown Houston, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Toronto.
Skywalks and tunnel systems, as well as enclosed and semi-enclosed spaces
such as shopping malls and atriums contribute to spatial segregation and
fragmentation by isolating the activities from the public realm. The
construction of grade-separated systems is intrinsically tied to local property
markets and business pursuits. It is a strategy to safeguard and enhance the

economic investment in specific downtown properties. For property owners
and managers, control of the publicly used spaces within their jurisdiction is
crucial. Jack Byer (1998) has found that the construction of a grade-separated
system redefines the patterns of interaction between downtown activities and
between segments of the downtown population. According to Byers, growth of
skyways, tunnels, bridges and concourses encourages the erosion of public life
and increases social polarity in North American cities. Next, I will discuss the
type of public life that occurs within this built environment shaped by
indicators described above.
Life in the Postmodern City
Movement of production and essential consumption activities away from
downtown marginalized its once central role in urban life. Come-back cities
replaced these activities with entertainment and retail venues (e.g., sports
arenas, performing arts centers, art galleries, restaurants, themed corporate
franchises, etc.) for discretionary spending, becoming places for only those who
could afford those amenities, namely, the upper-middle classes. These new
environments are often publicly subsidized while serving a limited publics
limited needs or desires.
The new downtown is the result of deliberate planning to bring back the
elite (bourgeois) and keep out targeted segments of society including ethnic
minorities, homeless, street vendors, panhandlers, and so on. Downtown as the
playground of the well-to-do or haves, has to convey an image of a safe,
secure, and programmed environment. Rules and regulations for design and
management preclude or severely limit an informal economy from flourishing
and along with it, limits the chances of individual initiative and

entrepreneurship among the working classes and immigrants. The long-term
effects of the new sanitized downtown on the economy and culture of a nation
still drawing its working classes from immigrants remain to be seen. However,
one can make several observations regarding how the transformation of the
public realm creates new tensions and may indeed threaten the social order
that the come-back city is so desperate to maintain (Sancar 2000).
Commentators of contemporary urban life (including scholars and
media) have observed the decline of spontaneous exchanges, where the contact
is neither intimate nor anonymous, among strangers in the public realm, without
generating equivalent community and/or social interaction elsewhere (e.g. Ted
Kilian, Jane Jacobs, Richard Sennett). Sennett states that the civil life in the
eighteenth century allowed strangers to interact without intimacy and argues
that it is this ability to work together that is essential to social and political life.
Sennett further argues that the city must be a place where people can learn to
join with other people without compulsion to know them as persons.
However, contemporary urban spaces do not allow such impersonal contacts to
occur. Urban places are planned and packaged only for consumption.
Therefore, people using them are those who have the ability to buy and their
primary purpose to populate this space is to buy. Therefore, there is almost no
chance left for spontaneous encounters with anybody in the city except
shoppers. Therefore, the opportunity for collective learning to develop civility,
tolerance, and ultimately the makings of civil society and civic action have
As a result of increased control and surveillance, the role of the public
realm in political action is minimized. As public spaces are increasingly
privatized, possibilities for democratic action are minimized. Some courts have
ruled that the management of a shopping mall has the right to control access to

its public spaces, for example, by disallowing its use by political groups. Thus
the new community-gathering-place is depoliticized.
Homogenous pockets of Americans are emerging due to fear, tension
and conflict among different social groups. Private take over of the
development of the public realm has helped to create this segregation by
sanitizing spaces through controlled access, surveillance cameras, and security
guards to ensure a certain publics use. Fortification demonstrates itself in the
examples of walled and gated neighborhoods, secured high-rise apartments
with doormen, and fenced and locked neighborhood parks (Blakely 1997).
On the other hand some critics question whether a truly open and
democratic public space ever existed in human history. For example, women
and slaves were never allowed in Greek Agora and the Roman Forum, often
shown as examples of ideal public places. There were times that it was not
appropriate for women to be and seen alone in public spaces such as streets.
Some claim that multi-story-department-stores were designed to provide places
such as cafes and restaurants for women to socialize as well as shop, safely and
conveniently. Today, the existence of security guards may/do contribute to the
feeling of safety.
Approaching the subject from a feminist perspective, Kristen Days
thesis states that the experience in privatized public spaces is determined by
ones identity; that is, ones gender, race, and class. While many scholars
denounce privatized spaces as detrimental to society in general, Day concludes
through her research that for women the experience can be positive. Todays
functional superstores, such as Barnes and Noble with its childrens book
section and Starbucks Cafe, and grocery stores with food courts makes it
possible for women to actually spend leisure time while taking care of their
chores. Day states that this multi-functionality of these places, rather than
parks with single use (recreation), draws more women in.

In such a fragmented society, the public space is perceived as
dangerous, adult space where violent acts may occur. According to Margaret
Crawford (1995) violence and resistance occur as acts of vandalism or
vagrancy against private property. Crawford states that when counter publics
are included within the definition of public, a different public sphere is
established. This public sphere is based on contestation and created through
competing interests, violent demands, as well as reasoned debate. These public
expressions are demonstrations, strikes and riots, struggles over suffrage and
temperance. She describes the emergent places for public expression as streets,
sidewalks, parking lots, swap meets, and mini-malls, as they become sites of
protest and rage. In the literature it is repeated many times that the fabric of the
public realm is held together by public ownership and management, free access,
and common use. However, Margaret Crawford associates the new public
realm with notions of change rather than stability, multiplicity as opposed to
shared norms, and contestation as opposed to diversity of common uses.
Public space has always been a space for contention. It is clear that the
current development processes affecting the urban public realm have
unforeseen impacts. These impacts lead to problems such as social
fragmentation and marginalization of the selected publics through exclusion
and unequal access. The wisdom of using the collective power and resources of
local government and the private sector for making the unwanted section of the
society invisible needs to be questioned. To provide the basis for such
questioning, this study proposes a conceptual model that describes and helps to
explain how the new public realm is shaped.

Conceptual Model of Downtown Redevelopment
What roles do planners, policies, strategies, and regulations play in urban
development? What are the reasons behind selecting a certain strategy, but not
another? Did these strategies develop as a result of objective policy analysis?
To investigate these questions I develop a preliminary conceptual model
generated from the literature review that describes and explains the process of
downtown redevelopment, shown in Figure 2.2. Main components of the
conceptual model consist of (a) broader effects (National economic policies and
programs, global economic structure, and so on), (b) the local political culture
and redevelopment process (mayoral leadership, political power, and so on.),
(c) urban character (land use, economy, and morphology), and (d) the public
and public realm.
Broader Effects
Local governments, no matter how big or small they are, are not independent of
a broader system. In todays global economic structure, they are constrained by
national economic and political policy and where they stand in the global
market. Also competition with suburbs and other cities in the US as well as
cities worldwide are among broader effects. How these broader economic and
political forces affect the behavior of local governments and development of the
new public realm is already discussed in the literature review section.
Local Political Culture
In this study, I define local political culture in terms of regime character, major
actors in real estate development decisions and their attitudes and strategies,

and finally, regulations towards growth and development. The primary actors
in the urban development are as follows:
1. Local public sector: City government (mayor, city council, planning
office), urban renewal authority
2. Local private sector: Business community (partnerships, chamber of
commerce), developers, organizations and financial institutions
3. Local community: Neighborhood organizations, local activists
Political leadership is essential in determining urban development
patterns. Typically mayors and their priorities leave significant legacies in
most cities. In this study I compare and contrast the policy platform of the
succession of mayors in Denver since urban renewal times in the 1950s.
Planning regulations including changes in zoning, development incentives,
public amenity provisions, financing strategies, and strategies aiming at the
redistribution of economic benefits among citizens are among indicators of
local political culture.
Urban Character: Land Use, Economy, and Morphology
Changes in land use are essential to explore the types of new uses adopted and
rationale for promotion of particular uses and activities. By economy, I mean
economic consequences of the new development such as retail sales, property
tax, and employment rates. This factor is investigated by studying whether
there are new employment opportunities as a result of redevelopment, and if so,
for whom they are available, and by studying changes in land values and
property taxes and revenues. Changes in spatial form affect the experience of
place. Whether and how the urban fabric and character have been changed as a
result of the redevelopment are explored by examining changes in density, bulk,
right of way and amenities in the redeveloped area. Changes in the overall

form of downtown then can be studied by taking into account the number of
new buildings, renovated/restored or demolished structures in the area, their
image and styles, and the impact on urban character.
The Public and the Public Realm
The public of the renewed downtown consists of the people who are drawn to
downtown as a result of the redevelopment process. The nature of public
realm of the renewed downtown is also defined by operation and functions that
evolve as a result of the redevelopment process.
The dictionary definition of the term public is people in general, all
persons, and the people as a whole. Then, a public space, ideally, is accessible
or visible to all members of the community (i.e. all potential users). Public
spaces are open to the general public and where all persons are entitled to have
legal access (Madanipour, 1996; Lofland, 1985). Sidewalks, streets, alleys,
parks, train stations, subway stations are public spaces where people mingle and
spontaneous encounters happen.
The public of the renewed downtown are mainly the actual users of
downtown: residents, visitors/conventioneers, shoppers, employees and
workers. Their demographic profile in terms of ethnicity, age group, gender,
income and occupation define the characteristics of the new public.
The degree of publicness of the public realm in renewed downtown can
be measured by ownership (by public or private sectors), management (by the
city or other non-govemmental organization (NGO), private agencies (such as
partnerships and BIDs), and the degree of accessibility, as well as use
regulations. Another indicator has to do with the nature of public events
(spontaneous or programmed) and where they take place in downtown.


7 \ 7


Land Use
Figure 2.2 A Conceptual Model of the Downtown Redevelopment Process

In the next section I introduce the project that I study in detail to explore
the redevelopment process in Denver and its outcomes.
Case Study: Commons Park Development Process
Public parks are quintessential types of public spaces. They present the true
public realm as they are open to anybody. Originally, commons were
unstructured playgrounds for common people to exercise, play, enjoy
themselves and at the same time participate in community life. In New
England, commons were spaces held by the community for shared utilitarian
purposes (Rosenweig, 1992). Olmsted in the late 1800s described the role of
parks as social mixing valves. According to Olmsted, parks are places where
vast numbers of persons [are] brought closely together, poor and rich, young
and old ... each individual adding by his mere presence to the pleasure of all
others (Garvin 1997, p. 24).
Although parks always had the potential to affect real estate
development adjacent to them, their primary function historically has been
provision of a public amenity to the residents, albeit in different styles. If the
nature of the public realm has changed, as the literature indicates, one would
expect parks to be changed as well. One would also expect parks to see
fundamental changes in purpose and function that go beyond stylistic
expressions. In the postmodern downtown, a public park would be more likely
to serve private interests and goals of economic development.
Galen Cranz, who had defined the evolution of parks in American cities
within four models [l.The pleasure ground (1850-1900), 2. The reform park
(1900-1930), 3.The Recreational Facility (1930-1965), and 4. The open space
system (mid-1960s)] has introduced a fifth model that is based on
sustainability. She says The fifth model, centers around the potential to use

parks to contribute to the effort of learning to live on the earth in a more
sustainable way. She gives examples from other cultures such as revenue
generating parks in China, and floating gardens in Mexico City. Commons
Park in Denver offers a context to investigate such claims.
According to the Trust for Public Land, several American cities are
creating parks as focal points for economic development and neighborhood
renewal ( Parks are not only places where people connect to
nature or relax and refresh but also they have become critical factors for
economic competition. Throughout the US, urban parks are being recognized
as a critical part of any revitalization strategy, and an impressive stimulus to
development (Hamik 2001, Garvin 1997). Hamik mentions Denvers
Commons and Atlantas Centennial Olympic Park, both of which are spurring
development booms in neglected parts of downtown (Garvin, et al. 1997;
Hamik 2001).
Use of parks as a neighborhood revitalization strategy is not a recent
concept. Throughout history, parks have been advocated as a way to revitalize
neighborhoods economically, and land speculators often were ardent park
advocates (Cranz 1989). Park developments have been associated with holding
and attracting wealthy residents to the cities and The economic benefits of
keeping wealthy people in the city were savored by park advocates (Cranz
1989, p. 209).
Beautiful parks make a city more attractive, which is to say, they
make a city more of an attraction. When what is attracted to the city
is money, in one form or another, the beauty of the parks can be argued
to be of particular social benefit, and anyone to whom this money
trickles down is likely to agree. (Cranz 1989, p. 208).
I have selected the development of Commons Park in downtown Denver
as a case study. A part of the downtown Denver regeneration effort was to
develop a park along the South Platte River in a formerly industrial area to spur

development and residential population growth in downtown. Now that the
park is completed and the surrounding area is under major development, I
investigate the nature of its development process and its implications in the
public realm. Mayor Webbs statement, Our wonderful parks, parkways and
trails are not only premier assets for our residents, but also critical factors in our
long term ability to compete economically for business development, tourism,
and new residents, in Inside City Parks shows how local government in
Denver approaches creating an open space adjacent to downtown (Hamik 2001,
p. 153).
In several cities worldwide, reclaiming waterways for recreational
purposes as public open space has stimulated private investment that has
completely altered land use patterns. That is also the case with Commons Park,
located along the South Platte River. Since it is located near downtown
Denver, Commons Park is also an urban space as much as it is an open space.
To understand Commons Park as a public space we need to relate it to
its city and its people: The Parks People (Rosenweig 1992). Parks people
constitute not only its users but also its makers. This park is very recently built
and still in the process of completion in terms of seeding and planting and park
furniture. Because it is a brand new park and still in the process of completion,
there are few people who bike, walk, or jog by or through it. There were people
who even trespassed and used the park during its construction, but its real users
are yet to come. Therefore, this research focuses mostly on its makers and
mentions expected users. Maybe in 10 or 20 years from now, other research
can be done to explore whose park it will have become, who its real users will
be, or, meanings its users will attach to Commons Park.
In short, this study tells the development story of Commons Park, the
role it plays in regeneration of downtown Denver, and its makers, the people
who made the Commons Park -some of them are already users, or were

trespassers. These people are not less essential than the people who will be
using the park, but even more essential since they are the ones who made
important decisions on what kind of a park it will become and what kind of uses
and/or facilities it will provide and what kind of people it will serve.
Before the study of Commons Park, in the next chapter I explore the
development history of downtown Denver following the Second World War to
understand the political culture of the city. Chapter three will provide the
context for the case study.

To construct the planning and development history of downtown Denver, I
gathered information through a content analysis of local newspapers and
business journals (e.g. Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Denver Business
Journal, LoDo News, and Downtown Denver Partnerships monthly newsletter)
covering the time period since the 1950s. The newspaper content analysis is
also complemented by scrutiny of the major planning documents and statistical
sources. Planning documents consist of plans, design guidelines, policies,
stated goals and visions, development agreements, financing strategies, and
planning regulations such as development incentives, changes in zoning codes,
and public amenity provisions. I have also analyzed the socio-demographics of
downtown Denver through statistical sources such as Census results and
Denver Neighborhood Facts by the Piton Foundation.
The following sections will mainly focus on Denvers downtown
redevelopment which started in the 1950s with Urban Land Institute Panel
recommendations and urban renewal efforts. However, prior to the 1950s,
essential decisions that shaped the face of downtown Denver were made
especially during Mayor Robert Speers administration. Here, I first summarize
the impacts of early decisions in downtown Denver, and then describe the more
recent history of downtown redevelopment in detail.

Early Influences: Mayor Speer (1904-1912 and 1916-1918)
and the City Beautiful
Prior to the 1950s, Mayor Speer administrations reform efforts and his strong
leadership had paramount impacts in Denver and its downtown. Before
becoming a mayor he was in the real estate business. During his term, he used
his skills as a real estate developer. One of Mayor Speer's main legacies was
Denvers parks and parkway system. Speer designed the Cherry Creek as a
tree-lined, landscaped median for Speer Boulevard. He had similar plans for a
South Platte River Drive and greenwaya dream realized 60 years later during
the Mayor William H. McNichols administration. He created a substantial
amount of parkland by doubling the citys park space from 578 to 1,184 acres
(Noel, 1997). He brought Frederick Law Olmsted to Denver to create the City
Park. Mayor Speer had toured in Europe and brought back the vision of "the
City Beautiful." The Civic Center was designed during his term reflecting the
City Beautiful Movements design principles. To boost Denver as a convention
city, Speer dedicated the municipal auditorium in 1908. To pay for such
improvements, he used a unique method. Speer chose not to raise taxes.
Instead, he started a "Give While You Live campaign, twisting the arms of
business leaders who had profited by their success in Denver
During the Speer administration, a height ordinance was passed to
prohibit the construction of buildings over twelve stories so that workers and
shoppers downtown would always have a view of the mountains. The absence
of high-rise buildings marked Denver as a unique and attractive city (Dorsett
and McCarthy 1986).
In 1913, voters decided to amend the City Charter to try a commission
form of government. Reformers, including Judge Benjamin Lindsey who

established one of the nation's first juvenile courts and Rocky Mountain News
editor Thomas M. Patterson, felt Mayor Speer and other City officials were too
lax about the red light district on Market Street. It featured gambling houses,
saloons and prostitutes. Although reformers installed the commission form of
city government and had some accomplishments such as cleaning out the red
light district, spreading the responsibility among six men did not help. In the
1916 elections, Denver voters abandoned the commission government tried
between 1912 and 1915, reelected Speer and restored the mayor system of
government. Speer was given extraordinary powers, more authority to
exercise at his discretion than that of any other mayor of an American city
(Johnson 1969, p. 207). Under the provision of this amendment, the Mayor was
given the power over all appointments, except for the auditor, the election and
civil service commissions. Over the years, there have been quite a number of
separate amendments added to the charter, and a Charter Revisions Committee
of City Council have slowly diminished the power of the mayor.
Postwar Years (Late 1940s and 1950s): Reform
Denver emerged from the war years with local decisions in the hands of three or
four businessmen. Claude Boettcher, John Evans, and Gerald Hughes led the
local business community with family businesses including sugar company,
banks, utilities, railroads and real estate since the 1920s. The general
impression about Denver was that it was immobile...Olympian, impassive,
and inert. It is probably the most self-sufficient, isolated, self-contained and
complacent city in the world (Abbot 1981, p. 124).
Reform efforts in Denver started again especially with arrival of a
Republican booster Palmer Hoyt who moved from the Portland Oregonian to
edit the Denver Post in 1946. He became the public voice for the new

entrepreneurs such as the real estate promoter Zeckendorf from New York. The
Chamber of Commerce and the US National Bank had also begun to produce
booster literature in the 1940s. Mayor Benjamin Stapleton was not happy about
newcomers and said that If those people would go back where they came from,
we wouldnt have any problem here (Kelly 1974). Stapleton became the target
of the reformers and Hoyt and Denver Post played an essential role in replacing
him with a young, promising mayor (Abbott 1981).
Mayor Quigg Newton (1947-1955), the youngest of Denvers Mayors,
replaced a strong, long time Mayor Ben Stapleton who was in his seventies.
Having inherited the endless power from Mayor Speer, the interminable
Ben served Denver from 1923 to 1947 with a four-year absence between 1931-
1935. The new young Mayor did several reforms, and modernized the city
government (Abbott 1981). Although a new city charter was rejected by the
voters, a new city constitution was developed to comply with the needs of the
mid-20th century. During Newtons administration, traffic engineering was
moved from the domain of the Police Department to the Department of
Improvement and Parks and consolidated with planning, construction and
maintenance of streets. Newton also set up a professional Planning
Redevelopment efforts in downtown Denver began with private
investment in the 1950s. Once marked as a unique and attractive city due to the
absence of high-rises -As a result of Mayor Speers height ordinance--, Denver
was ready to change its skyline. The inspiration for Denvers skyline came
from three outsiders, Zeckendorf from New York, and the Murchison brothers
from Texas. Zeckendorf built the May D&F and Hilton Hotel structures, which
are joined by an elevated pedestrian bridge on the property where the old
Arapahoe Court House was located. The Murchison brothers replaced the old
Denver Club building with a twenty-story structure, and later erected a new

twenty-eight story-First National Bank tower. The Denver Club Building,
which was turned into the First National Bank Building, the Mile High Center
office tower, a merged May Company, and Daniels and Fisher department
store, and the Denver Hilton are such examples (Abbott 1981; Kelly 1974;
Dorsett and McCarthy 1986).
The purchase of the old Court House Square where the May D&F
building was constructed happened during Mayor Stapletons administration.
This one-block square had emerged as a result of demolishing the old Arapahoe
County Court House. It had become a popular relaxation haven for the
downtown crowd of office employees, downtown visitors and people generally.
It was a peoples park as Kelly states (1974). First, in 1940, the Chamber of
Commerce proposed the square to be converted into a parking lot due to
increasing automobile ownership in Denver. But the idea died because of the
opposition of the brown-bag lunch crowd, the park people and the pre-war
ecologists. Later, when the war was over, Mayor Stapleton announced that the
City was considering offers for the site. And, having made the highest offer,
Zeckendorf from New York purchased the property and turned it into first a
parking lot, which is what the Chamber of Commerce wanted, and then a
department store in the mid-1950s.
At the same time, suburbanization started to become a challenge for the
city of Denver. Conflicts over services emerged between the suburbs and
Denver. Water service was a problem because of the independent Water Board
composed of downtown business leaders who were protective of Denver and
rejected annexing outlying areas and providing water for the suburbs. These
conflicts over services made the suburbs dislike the central city and its power,
which later caused Denver to pass the Poundstone Amendment of 1970 that
landlocked the city.

Increasing suburbanization also caused a changing political balance
between the city of Denver and its suburbs. During the 1960s, Denvers
margin over its suburbs in the state House of Representatives dropped from
nine votes to two and in the Senate from four votes to two, with further losses
after the 1970 census (Abbott 1981, p. 189). Later, the share of the
metropolitan area population in the central city of Denver fell from 53 to 36
percent from 1960 to 1975. Reapportionment simultaneously reduced the
relative weight of Denver legislators (Abbott 1981).
One of the early reactions to suburbanization was the adoption of a
model housing code to stem outward migration by preserving Denvers
attractiveness. Denver also annexed five square miles between 1941 and 1946.
In addition, Denver undertook metropolitan planning efforts aimed at bringing
the new suburbs under unified urban control. For instance, the Upper Platte
River Regional Planning Commission was organized in 1939 to assist outlying
communities and to devise regional plans for physical facilities (Abbott 1981).
Quigg Newton also helped organize the Intercounty Regional Planning
Commission (IRPC) in 1955, which later became the Denver Regional Council
of Governments (DRCOG).
An eleven-member Urban Land Institute (ULI) Panel, composed of
authorities in the fields of real estate, traffic, mass transportation, market
analysis and finance, was invited to Denver in 1954 for recommendations on
downtown planning. Watson A. Bowes, a realtor, who served as chairman of
the Program Committee for the Central City Council meeting in Denver, and
had been identified with the downtown Denver improvement program, explains
the ULI panel recommendations as follows: (1) establishment of a private
organization to generate support for the physical improvement of downtown by
financial backing and participation of top Denver businesses and industrial
leaders; (2) a reassessment program to achieve valuation bases closer to market

value in downtown; (3) concentration of downtown functions rather than
dispersal, renewal of lower downtown with the use of federal assistance, and
code enforcement, structural renovations, and street improvements; (4) and, a
metropolitan transportation study leading a highway network with a downtown
loop, and a major street access system including one-way streets (Bowes 1966).
As a result of ULI recommendations, a private downtown association
was established. During Mayor William Nicholsons term (1955-1959), the
business community -seventy-five local businessmen- in downtown Denver
came together to venture on a coordinated effort to revitalize the core area and
established the Downtown Denver Incorporated (DDI) in 1955, which later
became the Downtown Improvement Association in 1956 (Abbott 1981).
Following the recommendation of the ULI panel of a coordinated development
involving public authority and private funds, the city council created an Urban
Renewal Authority (DURA) as an independent local agency with the power of
eminent domain in 1958. DURA identified a 27-block area, bounded by
Larimer Street, Speer Boulevard, and Curtis Street as the Skyline Urban
Redevelopment Area (Figure 3.1 Skyline Urban Renewal Project).
Meanwhile the Eisenhower highway network was being planned across
United States and Governor Ed Johnson and Mayor Nicholson made sure that I-
70 was going to come to Denver and then extended west into Utah. These
expressways encouraged the postwar economic and population explosion in
Denver (Kelly 1974; Dorsett and McCarthy 1986).
Urban Renewal (1960s)
Downtown businessmen were convinced of the need for comprehensive
downtown planning. They believed that a new organization endowed with
public and private support could best accomplish this job. They asked Mayor

Richard Batterton (1959-1963) to form a committee to work on the downtown
planning (Koch 1965). The Mayor responded by creating the Downtown
Denver Master Plan Committee (DDMPC) in March of 1961, and set forth the
committees duty as to prepare plans for the future development of downtown
or central business area of the municipality (DDMPC 1963). In effect, the
Committees duty was to write the urban renewal plan. Mayor-appointed
members represented both the private and public sectors on this committee and
commissioned economic and market studies to construct a downtown Denver
Based on DDMPCs analyses, transportation and design subcommittees
were established. The City Planning Office took the responsibility for a
transportation study, and the American Institute of Architects Colorado
Chapter undertook design studies. The proposals of both subcommittees
established the base of DDMPCs report, which was reviewed by all concerned
agencies. Later, in August 1963 a final report was presented to the Mayor, City
Council and Planning Board.
The resulting Development Guide for Downtown Denver argued for
public investment in buildings and transportation to support the Denver
economy. According to DDMPC report recommendations, Core Action Plans
main objective was maintaining the compactness of the core, which was mainly
the 16th street area. To prevent dispersion of uses to the north, their plan
proposed parking and open space use between Larimer and Lawrence Streets.
A federal complex, a Convention Center, and a Civic Center were also
proposed as immediate actions to serve as anchors on the northeast, and
southwest, and south. Urban Renewal was introduced as an inevitable tool to
provide sites for these proposed facilities. Construction of a convention center
was essential to compete successfully in the national convention and trade-
show market.

According to Watson A. Bowes, There are two main triggering
mechanisms for private investment in the Development Guide: (1) the
exhibition hall, and (2) the land bank which would be created by the Skyline
Urban Renewal Project. It was found out that potential Denver investors were
being discouraged by lack of available sites. They wanted full blocks in
Denver. Therefore, these two targets were decided upon as critical (Bowes
1965, p. 17)
These were immediate actions that the public sector could take
responsibility for. The report also recommended private enterprise participation
and support in public urban renewal, through organizations such as the
Downtown Denver Improvement Association, the Denver Chamber of
Commerce and the Denver Retail Merchants Association to support planning
activity for consistent and sound implementation of the action program for
Core Center development. One of the guidelines for the private enterprise
was to improve pedestrian circulation in the core center through the provision
of second level connections between adjoining buildings across streets. The
report also suggested building of a downtown freeway system and parking
terminals and removal of traffic from inner Core Area streets.
As we see, in thel960s, the number of decision makers had expanded.
Downtown Denver, once in the hands of a few businessmen until the end of
WWII, now had several organizations and agencies to shape its development
including the Downtown Improvement Association, the Chamber of
Commerce, Downtown Denver Master Planning Committee, Denver Urban
Renewal Authority, Forward Metro Denver, Governors Council of Economic
Development, and Planning Board. Carl Abbot, in his book The New Urban
America, explains that Although the number of decision makers expanded,
the dominant voices in the early sixties remained the incumbent mayor, the

newspapers, and businessman working through the chamber of commerce and
downtown organizations (Abbott 1981, p. 126).
Among these organizations, the Forward Metro Denver, a child of
Chamber of Commerce, was founded to attract new industry and encourage
expansion of existing enterprise in the whole Denver metro area. And, the
Governors Council of Economic Development, organized by the Governor
John A. Love, had statewide economic development concerns and goals.
Skyline Urban Renewal Plan
At first Denver voters reacted negatively to the ballot composed of urban
renewal projects in 1964 while approving the exhibition hall. Councilman
Gibson had also strongly opposed the Skyline Project. Mayor Currigan (1963-
1968) was concerned that a second negative vote for Skyline Project could
harm the citys request for model city approval from the Federal Government.
Currigan was stating that voters did not want bond funds used for the citys
share of the cost, but favored some other method. Thus, the mayor and city
council majority decided that no further public vote was necessary to proceed
with Skyline, because no local bond money was required for the citys share of
the projects expenses as a result of the city enlarging the Skyline area from 29
to 37 blocks to include the nearby convention hall (Currigan Hall) area. As a
result of the lobbying of a Denver Post editor in Washington and Washingtons
desire to help Denver after the 1965 flood, Congress accepted Denvers
previously authorized $11-million expenditure for its convention center as the
citys matching funds for the project. After years of public debate and heavy
lobbying, the voters finally approved the Skyline Plan in 1967 calling for
demolition of a 30-block area beginning at the alley between Market and
Larimer Street to Curtis Street and 20th Street to Speer Boulevard. After

purchasing land from numerous owners, DURA offered the cleared blocks for
sale to potential developers who had to meet the requirements that were
documented in the redevelopment plan.
The second major renewal project in Denver was to build the Auraria
Higher Education Center, which included twenty-two blocks of nineteenth-
century housing west of Cherry Creek near downtown. Although the Auraria
project caused a greater debate than Skyline because it required the dislocation
of Chicano residents and the demolition of old houses, Denver voters approved
the project in 1969.
The South Platte River, which runs through the city and northwest of
downtown, had flooded on June 16, 1965. Therefore, some immediate actions
had to be taken. Mayor Thomas Currigan proposed that the city take the lead in
developing the Platte Valley to prevent future disasters. Immediately following
the flood, Mr. Blessing, the Planning Director of Detroit and the previous
President of the American Institute of Planners, was asked to visit Denver and
to consult on urban design concepts for the redevelopment of the Platte River
What Mayor Currigan envisioned for Central Platte Valley was a
vibrant city center with office, residential and commercial uses, hotels
restaurants and shops for tourists and fine homes on the west bank of the river,
a vibrant urban college in the old Auraria neighborhood, a sports complex to
the west of the college campus, modem industrial parks, and cultural facilities
such as a transportation museum and a cultural historical center in the old
Forney Transportation Museum area, and recreational parks and green river
banks as a natural channel with recreational features that would also act as a
flood plain (Goff Corporation 1984; Dorsett and McCarthy 1986). But the plan
failed because the developers refused to build in the pathway of the

Figure 3.1 Skyline Urban Renewal Project. Noel, 1981.
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nnpredictable river. Many of these ideas were to be taken up later in the 1990s
as part of the Central Platte Valley Plan of Mayor Webb.
The Planning Office had formulated a continuing planning program for
Downtown Denver to be based on many of the recommendations of the
Development Guide for Downtown Denver prepared by the DDMPC.
Numerous activities were already under way in the late 1960s including
construction of convention-exhibition hall, Skyline Urban Renewal Project, and
preparation of a Central Area Transportation Plan. The 1967 Comprehensive
Plan stated the need for the completion of a more specific Downtown Plan
(Denver Planning Office 1967).
Under the Currigan administration, Denver accomplished being one of
the cities that received a grant from federal government for the Model Cities
Program, which was established in 1966 when Congress passed the
Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act. Between 1969 and
1974, the Denver Model Cities moved towards the goals of revitalizing large
slums and blighted areas, fighting diseases, and improving educational facilities
and programs in order to reduce the incidence of crime and delinquency in
certain neighborhoods, mainly the central city and an area southwest of the city
center. City Hall, at the request of the Community Development Agency
(CDA) staff in Denver, the administrative branch of Model Cities Program,
supported development of a strong Model Cities Resident Participation Group
that was not established in some of the other first round model cities program
nationwide (Kaplan, Gans, Kahn, 1970). The resident group in Denver, called
Resident Participation of Denver, Inc. (RPDI), shared responsibilities with the
staff and prepared the major portion of the problem statement. Initially, they
were in control of the federal grant

Larimer Street
Larimer Streets development pioneered the redevelopment of the historic
Lower Downtown area. Larimer Street, named after Denvers founder William
Larimer, had been the Main Street for many decades. A fire in 1863 had
destroyed the area and cleared the district of its wooden structures. The
replacements were built in warm orange-red brick, characterized by repetitive
round, arched windows and bays, with simple brick cornices and arched brick
facades, as Denver preservationist Barbara Gibson described them (Wilkie
1997, p. 184). In the 1880s, Victorian storefront buildings replaced the old
structures demolished by the fire. By the turn of the century, Larimer Street
had become Denvers Skid Row, characterized by gambling houses and
saloons. The Denver Urban Renewal Authority designated the area as
blighted in the mid 1960s.
At the time land acquisition and demolitions for Skyline Urban Renewal
Plan started in 1968, a developer and preservationist Dana Crawford saw the
potential in renovating and reusing the historical Victorian downtown buildings
and started buying property on Larimer Street. Crawford focused on the 1400
block and both sides of Larimer Street that were scheduled for demolition. By
the mid-70s, all but the two blocks of Larimer Street between 14th and 15th had
been tom down. In her revitalization efforts, Crawford earned Mayor Thomas
Currigans support (Wilkie 1997). Renamed as Larimer Square, it became the
first district in the city added to the National Register of Historic Places. This
awakened the City to notice a much larger historic district north of Larimer
Square, Lower Downtown, well known as LoDo, coined by Denver Post
columnist Dick Kreck.

Corporate Downtown (1970s)
Laissez Faire:
Mayor William H. McNichols (1968-1983)
After Mayor Currigans resignation in 1968, Bill McNichols, then Manager of
Public Works, automatically became the Mayor and later got re-elected twice.
McNichols administration is known for conservative, old-style politics. His
administration has been criticized for having relinquished its responsibilities
and leaving downtown development to the developers (Foster 1983; and
Personal interview with William Lamont, Tom Gaugeon, Gerold Glick, and
Ronald Straka). Many thought there was no design consciousness as new
buildings lacked architectural design qualities, and the resulting Denver
downtown looked as if it could be anywhere (Foster 1983; Personal interview
with Ronald Straka).
Having little belief in planning, McNichols cut the Planning Offices
budget from $1.2 million to $700, 000 and therefore forced a layoff of 16 of the
citys 39 planners (Foster 1983; Personal interview with William Lamont).
While remaining planners were working on daily business and answering
routine questions, annual funds for community development were being spent
on piecemeal projects without planners input. Long-range planning had been
eliminated. Critics say that lack of planning during McNichols administration
had given downtown Denver a split personality- bustling during the day but
empty, even dangerous after five. With the exception of the restored Larimer
Square, nightlife was in suburbs, where most of the affluent lived (Foster 1983).
Skyline Project. Phase I: 1968-1977
As a result of the lack of leadership by the city government, Denver Partnership
took over the role of the City in downtown development and became the

strongest player. Although the Partnership accomplished positive outcomes
such as building the 16th Street Mall, their actions were limited only to
downtown. Meanwhile neighborhoods suffered from the decline of public
planning. Neighborhood planning became largely a student endeavor at the
University of Colorado and a private group, the Pi ton Foundation (Foster 1983).
The current director of the partnership at the time, Richard Fleming, a
former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) deputy assistant secretary, had
reorganized the Partnership and ...carried out a large-scale privatization of the
planning function in downtown Denver (Foster 1983, p. 20). The Partnership
had the same amount in their budget that the City Planning Office had, which
was raised from membership dues. The Partnership had a three-person civic
team, planning projects were contracted out to private consultants. Planning
by the partnership was client-participatory and target-specific. An example is
the development of a new zoning ordinance for a 50-block area around the new
16th Street Transit Mall which won approval from the city council. Richard
Fleming and the Partnership also designed a sunlight ordinance for the 16th
Street Mall, which gave height bonuses to builders who develop plazas,
setbacks, and ground-level retail space in their buildings (Foster 1983).
The Skyline Redevelopment Plan gave density bonuses of up to 5
additional square foot of building for every square foot of public plaza (Denver
Planning Office 1969). The plan also featured a system of skyways to connect
the buildings above grade level and to encourage this concept the developers
could count second floor intersections between the skyways as public open
space. Nine skyways were actually built, with four more planned in the mid-
1980s. These second-floor plazas were designated public spaces in the original
deed restrictions. However, the building owners were not enthused to have the
public inside the building. Some second floor plazas still exist today including
one at Writers Square and and another at Park Central. In 1987, DURA

approved removing three skywalks, thus making the left over plazas altogether
inaccessible to the public (Sancar 2000).
16th Street Mall
In the mid-1970s Downtown Denver Inc. (DDI), the Regional Transportation
District (RTD), and the City officials began to look into the feasibility of an
integrated pedestrian public transit mall in downtown, to be funded by the
Federal Mass Transportation Grants. Although the City Planning Department
was initially involved in the 16th Street Mall development, later planning was
taken over by RTD and then the Partnership. I.M.Pei Associates of New York,
an architectural firm hired by RTD, prepared the plan for a 13-block pedestrian
mall connected by light rail with two suburban rapid transit stations at either
end (Greer 1983).
From the beginning, transit was a crucial factor in the 16th Street Malls
evolution, as evidenced by the fact that the Urban Mass Transit Administration
(UMTA) funded 80% of the Malis construction costs. The impetus for
establishing the mall was a declining downtown retail sector combined with a
need to improve downtown and an area-wide transit service. A free RTD
Shuttle started operation in 1982 with a grand opening day. The cost for the
13-block-long 16th Street Mall approximately 1 milewas $76 million
including the RTD stations, shuttles and administrative offices (Dorsett and
McCarthy 1986, p. 325).
In the meantime, the 1974 Colorado state legislature passed the so-
called Poundstone Amendment, authored by Freda Poundstone, an advocate
of suburban rights against Denver growth. It prohibited Denver from annexing
more land for expansion. According to Dorsett and McCarthy (1986), the
suburbs fought for the amendment ostensibly to increase their own landscape

and tax bases; in reality, however, they fought for it primarily to keep school
busing at bay. In any case, Denver was forced to grow vertically rather than
horizontally from 1974 on. Pushed by the energy boom, skyscraper after
skyscraper were built in downtown, as Denvers defiant answer to the
Poundstone Amendment.
1976 Winter Olympics
Mayor McNichols wanted to bring in the 1976 Winter Olympics to Denver,
which pitted the boosters against the controlled-growth groups. Partisans for
growth had ruled Denver since the time it was founded. Starting with early
1970s, opponents of uncontrolled growth became increasingly vocal. In 1972,
metro area voters opposed bringing the 1976 Olympics to Colorado even
though the Chamber of Commerce, Governor John Love, and Mayor
McNichols urged bringing the international sports event to Colorado. The
Citizens for Colorados Future (CCF), an organized citizens group, led the
opposition. In 1974 Richard Lamm was elected governor. He was an anti-
growth partisan and one of the leaders in organizing opposition to the Olympics
since the event would encourage unnecessary growth, and increase the tax
payers burden (Dorsett and McCarthy 1986, p. 269; Judd 1983).
Skyline Project. Phase II: 1977-1984
The bulldozed and cleaned blocks of Skyline Renewal Plan were vacant and
served as parking lots until the energy boom in late 1970s. The oil boom
accelerated the pace of growth in Denver and downtown grew vertically, which
gave it the appearance of other American corporate cities. Several tall
buildings were built including the Arco and Anaconda towers, which were

financed by the same real estate interests that built several skyscrapers in New
York and Chicago (Foster 1983).
During the early 1980s, Denver Civic Ventures (DCV), Downtown
Denver Inc.s sister organization, initiated a campaign to have the 16th Street
Mall rezoned to ensure mixed commercial use. The director of the DCV
realized that having plaza after plaza all the way down the Mall would really
dilute the effect we were looking for. The public plazas were not attracting
people. The Denver Civic Venture proposed a two-thronged approach: the
developers would be allowed to increase density if they built retail space
instead of plazas on the first floor and/or if they had enough set back to let
sunshine into the Mall. This rezoning proposal was unanimously approved by
the Denver City Council (Sancar 2000).
Towards a Great City (1980s)
Denver was transformed from an industrial into a corporate center at the
beginning of the 1980s. The boom in the early 1980s was followed by a bust in
the mid-1980s. Those were the times of deep economic recession. In the late
1980s Denver had its share of the nationwide savings and loans crisis. Office
space in downtown Denver had grown to 27 million square feet in 1986, but by
1988 almost one-third was vacant (Economist, 1988). Between 1986 and 1988,
the region lost 29,000 jobs, and for the first time in two decades more people
were moving out than moving in (Reiff, 1988). Denvers share of the growing
regional market was also declining and new market-rate housing built as part of
the downtown Skyline Project was not selling (Deison 1988).
The 1983 mayoral election was a big deal politically. Federico Penas
election was one of the most significant and unusual events in Denvers

political history. Not since Quigg Newton beat Benjamin Stapleton nearly
forty years earlier had the new so brutally ousted the old from City Hall
(Dorsett and McCarthy 1986, p.322). The victory of Federico Pena, a young
minority leader, represented an emergence of grassroots takeover of the city
government from wealthy white people in Denver (Personal interview with
Tom Gougeon, Dorsett and McCarthy 1986). Determined to change and renew
the central city of Denver, the Pena administration used a theme, Imagine a
Great City and used this slogan in the making of the new City.
1986 Downtown Plan
Penas administration (1983-1991) started by enlarging the workforce of the
Planning Department, which was minimized during Mayor McNichols term.
Partnership of public and private sectors was again important in the history of
making downtown Denver. The bust in the mid-1980s resulted in a joint effort
of downtown business leaders and city officials to develop a plan to revive
downtowns economy. Between 1984 and 1986 a collaborative planning
process was initiated by Mayor Pena to develop a long-range vision for
Denvers future downtown development (Delson 1986). Pena appointed 28
civic, business and government leaders to a steering committee to prepare a
Downtown Area Plan. The Denver Partnership played a key role throughout
the project, and pushed for private sector involvement.
Mayor Pena and other city officials decided that their strategy for
economic development was to revitalize downtown Denver. Dependent on the
sales taxes, the city had no other choice but to build a lively, and attractive
downtown to draw people and investment back into the city (Personal
interviews with William Lamont and Thomas Gougeon). It was financial
planning rendering the physical planning, and doing it with players(Personal

Interview with Bill Lamont). To strengthen the core, the plan set specific goals
and identified five critical needs including a vital retail center, connection
between activity centers, improved access, enhancement of various districts,
and provision of more housing (Denver Partnership and Denver Planning
Office 1986). Therefore, the Pena administration prioritized improvement of
downtown access and infrastructure as well as building cultural facilities such
as a new Convention Center and building a new Public Library. It could not be
a single-pronged approach, but a mixture of residential, retail, and hotel
In light of modernization, development and being like other cities
downtowns with skyscrapers, Denver took no steps to halt development during
the McNichols administration. The result: most of downtown Denver appeared
as if it could be anywhere. The Pena administration valued urban design and
did act to ensure that what was built added value to the downtown.
Historic District Designation
The 1986 Downtown Area Plans vision was centered on the economic
revitalization of Lower Downtown (LoDo). The Pena administration thought
that Lower Downtowns special historic character, human scale and
architectural detail could become a market asset to downtown (Collins 1991,
p. 68). Thus, this plan included a comprehensive package of recommendations
for preserving and revitalizing Lower Downtown. One recommendation was a
historic district designation for the LoDo area. A task force was formed to
develop a plan for Lower Downtown. The 1986 Plan also contemplated an
unknown anchor to spur and support retail and entertainment uses in Lower
Downtown. Later, this anchor was identified as Coors Field after Penas
efforts brought a major baseball team into Denver.

Denvers downtown zoning, done in 1966, set no limit on density. The
only limit on the height was the Stapleton Airfield. No buildings could be
higher than approximately 600 feet because of flight patterns. That was the
only limitation on density. There was no off-street parking requirement.
Downtown office buildings did not have to provide parking. The property tax
in Colorado allowed people to have surface parking lots, and to make more
money off the parking lots than they would by developing the property in other
ways. The owners, of course, have to pay their taxes so there was no incentive
for them to develop their lands for other uses. Following the building boom in
downtown, land values went down. So it was very difficult to develop in the
downtown proper.
The director of the Planning Office, Bill Lamont, brought down-zoning
in Lower Downtown because there was a lot of speculation to redevelop in the
late 1970s and early 1980s. High-rise offices that were already built in the
central business district had enormous vacancy rates. So many developers went
bankrupt. During that time, confidence in building was moving down in the
direction of LoDo thinking in terms of very high density. But nobody was able
to start building because banks did not give loans. People were caught who had
spent considerable amounts of money on the land expecting to build tall
buildings on it. Having recognized that part of the problem was that zoning
allowed buildings to be too tall, Bill Lamont and other city officials decided to
down-zone which meant that the capacity of that land to accommodate
development was limited, which changed the value of the land. The value of
the land could now support projects that were more sympathetic to the historic
scale, more sympathetic to the idea of an entertainment district (Personal
Interview with Todd Johnson).
The Downtown Denver Partnership established a LoDo Business
Support Office that marketed and lobbied for developments. Most LoDo

investors and developers were from out of State. Perhaps as a result of heavy
representation of business interests, it was the preservation-minded public that
started a campaign for the designation of a Lower Downtown Historic District
in 1981. More than 60 percent of LoDo property owners were opposed to
proposed restrictions on demolition in the 1986 plan (Denver Business Journal,
July 12 1999). They had concerns over the economic impacts of the historic
district on their properties. Nevertheless, with the backing of Mayor Pena,
LoDo was designated as a historic district in 1988. With funds contributed by
the city, Historic Denver Inc., the Piton Foundation, and a $200,000 loan from
the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Denver put together around a $1
million revolving loan fund, which was managed by the DDPs LoDo Business
Support Office, to help property owners with the renovations and improvements
of their property. The fund, which provides gap financing, emergency
rehabilitation funds, interest guarantees and interim construction loans, helped
counter the argument that there was no public interest in these buildings
(Collins 1991). Tax incentives and grants attracted many investors to LoDo's
historic structures.
The Pena administration also prepared a Comprehensive Plan for the
whole city in 1989. Again, The predominant theme of the 1989
Comprehensive Plan was strengthening the economy. The Plan emphasized the
need for private and public partnerships between government and business to
shape a diversified economy less vulnerable to Denvers boom and bust cycles.
Civic and business leaders rallied around the 1989 Plan and its ambitious
agenda, which called for substantial public investment to fuel an economic
turnaround (City and County of Denver 2000).

Central Platte Valley and Convention Center
There was also enormous pressure from neighborhoods and downtown groups
for something to be done at the Central Platte Valley (CPV), a long-time
neglected area right next to downtown. The Pena administration saw CPVs
redevelopment to be directly related to the future of the whole city because that
was the only undeveloped land in such close proximity to downtown.
According to Mayor Federico Pena, CPV is critical to the survival of the city.
Denver is landlocked by the Poundstone Amendment and there are no other
major developable areas left. It is very important to solidify the central area of
the city. It is the administrations number one goal to see the CPV developed
(Platte Valley Development Committee (PVDC) 1984, p. 28).
The first improvement in the Central Platte Valley was increasing
access into the Valley. In 1989, Denver voters approved a $240 million general
obligation bond issue to improve roads and bridges into downtown and to make
flood plain improvements to allow for more developable land along the South
Platte River, at downtowns edge. Viaducts that passed over LoDo were
removed and two new major parkway links were built to connect downtown to
the interstate highway, greatly improving commuter and visitor access. These
new arterials effectively changed the front door of downtown, introducing
little known parts of downtown to the commuters. Other intersection
improvements were made to ease automobile access in and out of downtown
from all directions (Moulton 1999; Personal interview with Marilee Utter). The
money was also used to finance the development of a downtown zoo, an
amusement park, the ballpark, a new public library, and a convention center.
$2 million of this amount was also allocated to the big park (later called
Commons Park) in the Central Platte Valley.

The Convention Center became very controversial and caused a battle
between the Mayor and the city council (Dorsett and McCarthy 1986; Personal
interview with Thomas Gougeon). Pena supported the idea of building a new
convention center behind the old Union Station in the Central Platte Valley as
opposed to the city councils preference of expanding existing Currigan Hall
facilities. Pena was thinking that it would be the cheapest land for the city to
buy because the area was industrially-zoned, and redevelopment of Denvers
historic station would have triggered the similar renovation of the blighted area
around it (LoDo), and so would have connected the old downtown, the mall,
nearby residential neighborhoods, and the whole Platte Valley. The city
council allied with certain business interests on one side, supporting expansion
of Currigan Hall, and developer Daniel Crow, and Pena on the other side, allied
with other business interests, including the Miller/Klutznick/Davis/Gray
development group to support development behind Union Station. In the
winter of 1984 a task force (a second ULI panel according to Thomas Gougeon
and Todd Johnson) named by Pena recommended that the best convention site
solution would be the expansion of Currigan Hall. Pena refused to yield and
asked for delay before the final decision was made. Finally, in October 1985, a
citywide vote went against the Union Station site. The facility was built later
next to the Currigan Hall through issuance of revenue bonds (to be generated by
the convention activity), which did not need voter approval (Judd 1994).
Since Mayor Currigans term numerous public and private sector
proposals had come and gone for the Central Platte Valley. Burlington-
Northern Railroad Companys new town plan died in a controversy with the
city over questions of track siting and extension of the 23rd street viaduct in
1976. The development group of Miller/Klutznick/Davis/Gray was the most
prominent among potential developers (Dorsett and McCarthy 1986). Having
reversed the past city policy, instead of waiting for developers to come to it,

Penas administration had taken the lead in coordinating the planning process.
The 1989 Comprehensive Plan vision for the Central Platte Valley was for the
Valley to become a string of pearls with major new parks and river access
along the banks. Neighborhoods divided by the river could be knitted together
by new parkways and trails and by the redevelopment of older employment
areas (Denver Planning Office 1989).
In February of 1984 Pena formed a fifteen member Platte Valley
Development Committee (CPDC) composed of business, development,
neighborhood, and governmental interests, to formulate an official city policy
on the Platte Valley. A briefing for the CPV was conducted at the Auraria
Higher Education Center in March of 1984. Dozens of presentations were
made to represent a comprehensive overview of existing conditions, issues and
concerns regarding CPV redevelopment by a broad range of public and private
organizations with a stake in the Valleys future. A list of major participants
included the City of Denver; the Downtown Denver Partnership; the Platte
Valley Alliance of Neighbors (PLAN), composed of a coalition of ten North
Denver neighborhood organizations with two at-large members Mr. Cole and
Martin Salz of the North Denver Workshop; the Platte Valley Landowners
Association (PVLA), a nonprofit organization of 40 commercial property
owners along the 1-25 interstate corridor; Urban Design Forum, CPV Task
Force; AIA-Denver Chapter, Urban Design Committee, CPV Task Force;
Trizec Properties, Inc.; Union Terminal Railway Co.; and, Public Service
Company (Goff Corporation 1984).
Critics included the neighborhood organizations the Platte Valley
Alliance of Neighbors (PLAN), and the Platte Valley Landowners Association
(PVLA) as well as professional organizations such as Urban Design Forum, and
AIA Denver Chapter, Urban Design Committee. The lack of comprehensive

planning in Denver and the failure of the previous city administration to
provide leadership in CPV redevelopment was criticized in the briefing.
In the presentations and discussions, numerous participants with
different stakes stated a similar need and desire: creating open space along the
Central Platte Valley. Emphasizing that a great city could only be achieved
by a joint venture between the City and the Partnership, the Denver Partnership
also saw the opportunity in the CPV as a large urban park along the river. They
expressed the importance of consolidating and rationalizing the transportation
corridors within the Platte Valley so that land could be used in many different
ways and be minimally dedicated to intense transportation uses (Goff
Corporation 1984).
The Platte Valley Alliance of Neighbors (PLAN) was mobilized for
several years to fight big developers who they considered to be insensitive to
the neighborhoods needs. Led by Councilman Sal Carpio, it fought against
any plan that might increase density and traffic, destroy residential quality,
obscure the downtown skyline, or fail to provide for affordable housing
(Dorsett and McCarthy 1986, p. 335). While PLAN stated its perspective on
the redevelopment of CPV that open space should be the priority land use in the
area, the Platte Valley Landowners Association (PVLA) came up with a plan
called the PVLA Service Plan that envisioned dominant commercial use and
some housing in the area. PVLA also proposed establishing a Platte Valley
Improvement Association to privately finance the CPV development.
Having been actively involved in central city planning issues, the AIA
Urban Design Committee had formed a CPV Task Force in 1980. Its stated
goals for CPV were 24-hour liveability through a mixed-use development in
which downtowns grid would continue in the valley and connect to the west,
with open spaces, pedestrian ways and bikeways.

As a result of these consortiums, the City development plan for the
Platte River Valley was prepared in 1986, and Platte River Valley Zone District
was established in 1987. In the 1986 Central Platte Valley Plan, a 35-40 acre
open space, later to be Commons Park, including active, passive, and formal
activity was planned using the models of Central Park, NY; Grant Park,
Chicago; and Tivoli Park, Copenhagen. This large open space extending from
the river to the Union Station, as it was recommended by the 1986 Downtown
Area Plan, was to strengthen downtowns connection to the waterfront at the
Platte River. Also, a pedestrian connection over 1-25 along 16th street was
planned (Denver Planning Office 1986). (Figure 3.2 1986 Central Platte Valley
Other recommendations of the 1986 Downtown Area Plan for CPV
development were that the CPV become an integral part of downtown and not a
mere attachment to it, and that the edges between the Valley and its adjacent
neighborhoods be compatible. The extension of the 16th street mall through
LoDo to the CPV was a key element to connecting the Valley to Downtown.
The 1986 CPV Plan showed also a linear park extending from the DUT to the
river in the east-west direction.
To develop the Central Platte Valley, the Pena administration first had
to make it accessible. Therefore, $240 million dollar-bonds were issued for
such improvements. Viaducts over the South Platte River and the Central Platte
Valley were tom down, some were replaced and Lower Downtown streets were
improved. Once the connections from and to downtown were established,
Elitchs Amusement Park moved into Central Platte Valley. Pena brought the
Rockies to Denver and promised to build a baseball stadium for them, which
took place during a later administration.

Figure 3.2 1986 Central Platte Valley Plan.
City and County of Denver 1991, p 63.

Postmodern Downtown (1990s)
Pena announced that he was not going to run for a third term, but Denver
continued its minority leaders-age by electing an African American Mayor in
the 1991 elections. Webb, who portrayed himself as a working-class candidate,
was the City Auditor in 1989 prior to his mayoral victory in the 1991 election.
He had joined in the mayoral elections previously in 1983 but did not win.
After his first victory, he was re-elected in 1995 and 1999, and became the
dominant political actor in Denver.
The 1991 elections were significant in that two African-Americans were
running against each other in a white city. Wellington Webb fought against the
district attorney Norm Early who had the endorsement of several former
Denver mayors, and wide support from the business community. Although the
Pena administration never endorsed either candidate, Early had close
connections with the Pena administration. Webb announced that he would be a
mayor who addressed all the issues to solidify all groups behind him by
focusing on issues that they all shared in common unlike Early who had a
strong social and business elite support behind him. Later, republican candidate
Donald Bain and former governor Richard Lamm, and former mayor Bill
McNichols endorsed Webb and he won. Election results would show that
Webbs support was broad and deep, geographically, and demographically. He
had won every section of the city, which included all of the citys 11 city
council districts and 420 of the citys 495 precincts (Tucker 1995, p. 150).
This supports the notion that more educated whites tend to be more tolerant and
support black aspirations at a greater level is well established in the literature of
black studies (Alozie 2000).
Mayor Webbs vision for Denver has focused on parks and open space,
public safety, economic development, and children. When he became mayor in

1991, he proposed three large open spaces in Central Platte Valley, old Lowry
Air Force Base, and former Stapleton International Airport. During his three-
term administration, Webb determined that his legacy for the city of Denver
residents would be series of parks and open spaces along the restored South
Platte River that runs through the middle of the city and by downtown.
Therefore, he became known as parks mayor.
Webb had to complete a few projects that were started during Penas
term, one of which was the Denver International Airport. In parallel to the
Pena administrations agenda, Webbs agenda particularly focused on
revitalization of downtown and creating opportunities for downtown housing.
Webbs strategy for downtown revitalization was building a large retail center
on the 16th street mall, improvement of the marketing of downtowns arts and
tourist attractions, redeveloping the Central Platte River Valley in a way that
helps downtown revitalization, and enticing developers to build more
downtown housing.
Race Between Shopping Malls
To attract people and dollars into the downtown area, Webb preferred building
a large retail center on the 16th street mall, rather than a regional shopping mall.
A race between the two Denver malls -a downtown shopping mall proposed by
Taubman Co., and the Regency Fashion Centre at the Denver Tech Center
proposed by Prudential Property Co. had started prior to the 1991 Mayoral
election, during Penas term. Following Prudential Co. plans for a regional
mall in the Denver Tech area, Taubman Co. the Cherry Creek Shopping
Center developerannounced that they were considering building a downtown
mall. The Regency had high profile backing that included billionaire Marvin
Davis, and renowned shopping center developer Melvin Simon, builder of the

Mall of America in Minneapolis, who snagged the Nordstrom-Dillards
package for the Regency location (Parker 1996).
To compete with the suburbs, Mayor Pena had supported the Regency
project and the $16.5 million subsidy (Regency developers had asked for a $24
million subsidy initially), which was to be used for a parking garage and access
roads. Taubman officials opposed the multi-million-dollar subsidy and said
they were considering building a downtown mall only if the City dropped its
plan to pay a $16.5 million subsidy to developers of the Regency Fashion
Centre. Taubman Co. was not the only opponent. Downtown First, a
grassroots campaign also fought the $16.5 million City of Denver subsidy for
the Regency Fashion Centre. The 59ers, a citizens City Hall watchdog group,
filed suit in Denver District Court to gain access to records used by the City in
justifying the subsidy. The Court ruled that confidential financial information
did not need to be disclosed. Wellington Webb, then city auditor, first refused
to approve the subsidy, but then signed the contract authorizing the sales tax
subsidy saying that no city money goes to developers until the mall is
operating. Opponents of the subsidy initiated a petition and put the issue on
the citywide ballot. Developers of the Regency Fashion Center returned the
$16.5 million tax subsidy in an effort to get the project out from under lawsuits
and a public vote. Prudential could not secure financing for the mall and
announced it was canceling plans for the mall on July 15, 1992 (Flynn 1992).
Later, St. Louis-based Center Mark Properties, Inc. wanted to resurrect the
Regency Centre in 1994, but Webbs administration did not support the project
because the Taubman Co. threatened to drop its plan for a downtown regional
mall if Regency Centre proceeded (Rebchook 1994).
Later in 1996, the Hahn Co. opened the Park Meadows regional mall
with anchors Nordstrom and Dillards south of where Regency was planned.
The Hahn Co. also planned a rival mall called Cheeseman Square on the 16th

Street Mall between Glenarm Place and Welton Streets and secured $50 million
in bond support offered by the DURA for the project that was originally set
aside for Centerstone, another failed shopping center on the site (Parker 1996).
None of these projects took place but later a 350,000 square-foot retailtainment
development called Pavilions, which houses several entertainment venues,
retail outlets (e.g. Virgin Records, Nike Town) and restaurants (e.g. Hard Rock
Cafe, Odyssey), including a 15-screen movie theater, was constructed on the
site, occupying the entire two blocks between the 16th Street Mall and 15th
Street, and Tremont and Welton Streets, by the Entertainment Development
Group and opened in 1999. This $104 million project had $24 million in public
funding from the Denver Urban Renewal Authority, which was used to build an
underground parking garage and improve the surrounding infrastructure.
DURA had declared this area as blighted and started the condemnation
process in order to build a traditional enclosed mall called the Centerstone. As
a result of land owners who were suing DURA, the developer and DURA
abandoned the shopping mall idea but the condemnation process was still in
place. DURA prepared a request for a proposal for the site this time with
backing from the mayor and the city planning office. Their proposal for a
retail/entertainment complex was answered by a developer from California.
Following the emerging trend in entertainment based retail in, the developer
designed Pavilions with a themed appearance in which chain restaurants such as
Odyssey and Hard Rock Cafe, and Mann theaters along with several national
chain stores occupy the space. Being the only project of its kind in an urban
downtown setting, the Pavilions Project was difficult to finance. According to
sources at DURA and Pavilions management, Mayor Webb was particularly
influential in courting the German investor.

Downtown Housing
In 1991 Wellington Webb convened a Downtown Summit that involved
relevant stakeholders including business interests, residents, investors, and art
supporters. By personally leading the discussion he focused on housing as a
key strategy for revitalizing downtown, and made clear that the top priority was
downtown housing. The summit concluded with a Downtown Action Agenda
that established agreed-upon priorities. First, the Downtown Housing Office
was established jointly by the City and the Downtown Partnership to gather and
distribute accurate information on properties, market conditions and available
public financing tools to developers interested in housing. The Denver Urban
Renewal Authority focused its resources on mixed-use projects with housing
components. Secondly, necessary modifications were made in downtown
zoning. In the past, Denver downtowns zoning district, established in 1956,
emphasized commercial uses. According to previous downtown zoning, The
base density was very high -10:1 floor area ratio (FAR)- and the use of
additional bonuses could take the ratio to 17:1. The density bonuses were
available only for office building amenities like atria and plazas. In 1994, the
existing program was replaced by bonuses to encourage housing development.
Today, only by including housing in a development can the maximum density
allowed be achieved downtown (Moulton 1999, p. 11). The third strategy was
to eliminate parking as a use by right to preserve historic buildings and
stimulate residential development. And lastly, all city private activity bond
allocations were directed toward downtown housing projects for at least three
In my fourth month in office, I convened a summit for downtown
because I believed then, as I do now, that how people view our downtown is
how they view our city. As a result, I redirected the lending policies of the

Denver Urban Renewal Authority to concentrate on increasing housing with the
belief that housing would bring more people downtown because more people
will attract more retail.
Webb declared that the downtown strategy should take full advantage of
the strong market and demographic trends that are shaping the country. He saw
the national trend of an aging population and preference for having kids later as
an opportunity to bring people back to the central city. The Planning Director
Jennifer Moulton explains the Webb administrations housing agenda as
follows: housing must be downtowns political and business priority, and city
resources should be devoted to housing, downtown regulations must be
streamlined and support residential growth, downtown must be legible and
accessible, must have new and improved regional amenities, must be clean and
safe, must preserve and reuse old buildings, and finally, the edge of downtown
should be surrounded by viable neighborhoods (Moulton 1999).
After re-election in 1995, Mayor Webb maintained his commitment to
the work underway and still to be done by holding a second Downtown
Summit. Mayor Webb described his downtown strategy at the James W. Rouse
Forum on the American City in 1998 as Our lower downtown was booming,
and our midtown was under renovation. The time had come to expand our focus
to inner ring neighborhoods right around downtown. These areas were not
benefiting from the economic resurgence. But they offered lower property and
building costs, and a strong downtown as an anchor ( He
also explained the elements for Denvers long term strategy of placing sports
arenas in downtown -Coors Field, Pepsi Center, and new football stadium,
supporting the Denver Performing Arts Complex, providing free shuttle service
on the downtown mall for easy access, maintaining downtown as the hub of the
regional transportation system, and implementing the first phase of the light rail

The Webb administration saw the development of Lower Downtown
(LoDo) as a mixed-use area of lofts and sports related restaurants following the
construction of the baseball stadium right in the heart of downtown as an
integral part of their efforts for increasing downtown housing. Throughout the
redevelopment process of downtown, mayoral leadership had a significant
impact on the redevelopment of LoDo. In the mid-1960s, Mayor Thomas
Currigan had supported Dana Crawfords redevelopment efforts of Larimer
Square (Wilkie, 1997). Rezoning of LoDo in 1974 into B7 also spirited
revitalization. Then, Mayor Federico Pena thought that LoDo was the best
opportunity for the revitalization of downtown Denver. To be unique, the city
chose capitalizing on its history. Mayor Pena exercised strong leadership in the
process of designating the LoDo Historic District. He also emphasized
development of retail and entertainment projects. Mayor Webb continued this
tradition but also made downtown housing his priority in addition to
entertainment venues such as Coors Field, Pepsi Center and Ocean Journey.
Central Platte Valley and Webbs Legacy for Denver Citizens
The City of Denver and Downtown Partnership has undertaken a number of
plans focused on reviving the CPV since 1986. The concepts developed in
these plans were summarized in the Core Values for the development of the
Central Platte Valley by the Central Platte Valley Development Council
(CPVDC) of the Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc. These core values were
listed as (a) develop the CPV with a strong pedestrian-oriented urban character,
(b) create neighborhoods through the development of an urban residential
village, (c) create a dynamic, urban mixed-use environment, (d) the CPV
should serve as the regional hub of different modes of transportation into and

out of the downtown areas, (e) develop Commons Park as a significant regional
amenity (Design Workshop 1997).
During the mayoral campaign, Wellington Webb stated his plan for the
CPV as The city should buy all vacant land in the CPV and resell it later to
developers who are willing to abide by the Citys master plan which seemed too
ambitious to everybody. Webb saw the Platte River as crucial to the ambitious
development of the CPV including Coors Field, Elitchs Amusement Park, and
a possible new sports arena. Webb also considered locating a new football
stadium in the CPV. He thought that after the rehabilitation of the river, it
could be used year-round for recreation purposes. When the Webb
administration took office, Mayor Webb decided Denvers downtown and parks
were his two top priorities. Meanwhile, Seattle-based Trillium Corporation
purchased approximately 100 acres of the Central Platte Valley land in the late
1990s and was looking for ways to develop the property. Mayor Webb was
trying to formulate his legacy for the citizens of Denver and a close friend of
his, Kenneth Salazar -now Denver Attorney General, helped him to focus on
the rehabilitation of the South Platte River. Webb first formed a South Platte
River Working Group to explore opportunities for enhancing the 10.5-mile
corridor of the Platte River. Later in 1995, the South Platte River Commission
was established under an executive order that was called for in the report of the
Working Group (Table 3.1 Mayors South Platte River Initiative Founding
Mayor Webb wanted to redevelop the Central Platte River Valley in a
way that would help downtown revitalization through facilities such as a
Baseball Stadium and Elitch Gardens, and entice developers to build more
downtown housing. In the 1986 plan, railroads were taken out of the CPV but
in reality several railroad companies decided to consolidate and therefore in
1991 a new CPV Plan amended the outdated plan for the Valley. The 1991

Wellington E. Webb, Co-Chair Mayor, City and County of Denver
Joseph B. Blake, Co-Chair Mission Viejo Company
Andrew Wallach, Mayors Office
Hamlet J. Chips Barry, III, Denver Water Department
Bruce Baumgartner, Denver Department of Public Works
Barbara Biggs, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District
Rev. Jesse Langston Boyd, Jr., Colorado Wildlife Commission
B.J. Brooks, Denver Department of Parks and Recreation
Tim Carey, U.S. Corps of Engineers
Jim Daniels, Denver Planning Board
Kathleen Davenhill, Denver Audubon Society
Mark Olson, Environmental Protection Agency
D. Grover, Fresh Start, Inc.
Patrick H. Hamill, Homebuilders Association of Metro Denver
Jules Hampton, National Civilian Community Corps
William Himmelmann, Denver City Council District 7
Dr. Dan Huff, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Michael Kinsey, Denver Zoological Gardens
Brian Mankwit, Denver Commission on Youth
Stan McIntyre, Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation
Fidel Butch Montoya
Jennifer Moulton, Denver Planning & Development Office
Michael Mueller, Colorado Sierra Club
Steve Norris, Colorado Division of Wildlife
Deborah Ortega, Denver City Council District 9
Myma Poticha, Clean Water Action
Doug Robotham, Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Thomas C. Stokes, Gates Capital Management
Jose Trujillo, Denver Zoological Gardens
L. Scott Tucker, Urban Drainage and Flood Control District
Maureen Van Norden, American Society of Landscape Architects
Peter West, Public Service Company________________________________
Table 3.1 Mayors South Platte River Initiative Founding Commissioners,

plan envisioned a line of new riverfront parks and a 60-acre open space called
Commons Park instead of a linear park extending from the DUT to the river in
the east-west direction as in the 1986 plan. Both plans thel986 CPV plan
and 1991 CPV Plan Amendment prepared by Pena's planning office showed
the area from the river to the railroad tracks as open space but the new Planning
staff under Webb did think that creating an open space bounded by roads and
river and rail lines would create a total isolation and therefore several problems.
Also, this area had now become prime property for development and making it
an open space did not make much sense to the Planning Office.
Later, the revitalization of the Valley was sparked by Mayor Wellington
Webbs 1995 South Platte River Corridor Project. Webb expanded his vision to
include ten parks along the Platte River. According to Webb, the Platte River is
crucial to the ambitious development of the CPV. He thought after the
revitalization of the river, it could be used year round for recreation purposes.
The mayor has embraced the valleys park-like development as his Legacy
Project, equivalent to Mayor Robert Speers parkway system built decades
earlier (Berger 2000) (Figure 3.3 South Platte River Parks).
During the 1990s, the city-financed redevelopment continued with
DURAs renovation of the Denver Dry Building, renovation of the Adams
Mark Hotel (convention hotel), and financing of the Pavilions. DURA was also
instrumental in the development of Pepsi Center, Elitchs, and the REI (Old
Forney Railroads Museum) sports mega-store project (Figure 4.1 Central Platte
Valley Context).
Once Webbs brick-and-mortar achievements happened he tried to focus
his agenda more on social issues during the first eight years of his
administration. Mayor Webb formed an office for Workforce Development in
which most of the board members had to be from the private sector and all had
to be appointed by him. This board is meant to provide program oversight and

policy guidance for all federal and state funded workforce development
programs, with responsibility for the planning, oversight and coordination of
the implementation of the Workforce Centers. Webb also proposed a unique
tax credit for the working poor: Local earned income tax credit was provided
for families in need. The federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
program (TANF) was provided as block grants to states and communities after
the 1996 welfare reform (Kane 2001). The money was to be used to support or
expand early education programs, comprehensive health services for children,
and before/after school programs. Denver is the first city in the country to have
a dedicated sales tax for children.
To take action in an affordable housing crisis, a citizen organization,
Save Our Section 8 Housing (SOS8), has been formed by a coalition of people
who live in publicly subsidized housing in Denver. In November of 1999, the
SOS8 Coalition met with Mayor Wellington Webb to draw his attention to the
issue and made a request to form a Task Force in which low-income tenant
representatives take seats to evaluate Denver's Housing Crisis and to come up
with solutions. Following this, the city formed an Affordable Housing Task
Force at the end of 1999. Co-chaired by Councilwoman Debbie Ortega and
Jerry Glick, developer and president of the Columbia Group, SOS8 Coalition
members include public sector representatives such as DRCOG and Colorado
Housing and Finance Authority, housing developers including those from the
non-profit sector, community and business representatives, and two low-income
tenant representatives, both from the SOS8 Coalition. In 2000, Mayor
Wellington E. Webb announced the Focus Neighborhoods Initiative. The
strategy of this community improvement project is to focus the resources of
Denvers public, private, and non-profit sectors on sixteen of the citys lower-
income neighborhoods over a period of years.

Figure 3.3 South Platte River Parks, (

As a result of rising rents, areas adjacent to downtown have been faced
with gentrification and working families are being displaced. Skyrocketing
housing costs and the decreasing number of apartments drove out people who
could no longer afford it. Changes in downtown zoning encouraged housing
development in downtown but it does not have any specific requirements about
affordable housing. Between 1991 and 1998, the average price of a home
jumped 97.5 percent citywide; in Denvers poorest enclaves, the average shot
up 153 percent (Anton 1999). Therefore, Denvers poor have been moving to
the older, inner-ring suburbs bordering the city, particularly northeast of
downtown. One other issue in the decreasing number of low-income housing
units in Denver is the expiring leases of publicly subsidized housing in the
metro area. Some of the owners of these buildings do not want to renew their
leases, which cause a crisis in availability of the number of houses for working
class families (e.g. East Village).
The Low-Income Housing Task Force has achieved making some
differences in the system. For example, in the Fall of 2000, a financing
agreement was signed between the City of Denver and Fannie Mae Foundation,
the nations largest source of financing for home mortgages. According to this
agreement, Fannie Mae made available a $10 million line of credit to the city to
provide funding for neighborhood housing development projects in land
acquisition, mixed-use developments, and new construction or rehabilitation of
single and multifamily housing throughout the City and County of Denver. The
citys Housing and Neighborhood Development Agency is managing this line
of credit and will select investment opportunities that support the development
of neighborhoods. Target neighborhoods include Stapleton, Lowry, South
Platte, Central Platte, and the Gateway area. The city will also look to invest
funds in other key city neighborhoods like Five Points, Westwood, Globeville
and Northeast Parkhill.

GATES-CRESCENT PARK 22 acres $710,000 Formerly a Denver Department of Public Works maintenance yard and sand pile for highway use.
FISHBACK PARK 5 acres $897,000 Former junkyard filled with rusted cars, this park features picnic areas and a boat launch for kayaks and rafts.
CENTENNIAL PARK 3 acres $120,000 An intricate flower garden is planned for this park, which is on the site of a former car crushing business
CONFLUENCE PARK 2 acres $7 million Former official City dump, filled with tires, asphalt and concrete rubble.
COMMONS PARK 30 acres $20 million This park features natural wetlands, natives plants and grasses, bike trails, a tree-line promenade A skateboard park is also built at the park's northernmost edge.
CITY OF CUERNAVACA PARK 29 acres $3 million This park stretches across the South Platte River via two pedestrian bridges
Table 3.2 Parks System along the South Platte River
The Affordable Housing Task Force issued an ordinance requiring
developers to set aside cheaper units and offering them incentives including
cash payments. Under the plan, new for sale developments of 30 units or more
are required to keep 10 percent of the units affordable to households making 80
percent of the median income (about $ 34,000) and rental housing developers
that build 30 units or more are asked to make 10 percent of those units
affordable to families making 65 percent of the median income (about
$27,000). The city offers a $5,000 cash payment for each affordable unit as
incentive. Other incentives include either increasing the density of
development by building 10 percent more units on site, or, reducing the number
of parking spaces by 20 percent (Wheeler 2001).
Additionally, the city, along with private sector partners including the
Enterprise Foundation, the Fannie Mae Foundation, and U.S. Bank, formed the

non-profit Denver Neighborhood Housing Fund that makes available loans and
other financial assistance from a $6.25 million pool. It is to be used to trigger
production of affordable housing in the city by non-profit housing developers.
In summary, the history of downtown Denver redevelopment since
WWII illustrates continuous public and private efforts for economic growth
(Table 3.3 Major Decisions in Downtown Denver Redevelopment). There are
two critical points in development history of downtown Denver. First, Quigg
Newton replacing interminable Mayor Ben Stapleton, following the Second
World War, and second, Hispanic Federico Pena becoming mayor in a white-
dominant city in 1983. In fact, both Newton and Pena shared many similarities
including being lawyers and youngest mayors of Denver at their mid-30s,
reformed and democratized the local government by opening doors to citizens
including minorities. Newton had established the City, Planning Office; Pena
reclaimed the control and leadership of the Planning Office as his
administration took over previous mayor McNicholss laissez faire strategy in
planning. Pena built a political leadership in growth politics in Denver that did
not exist before and regained the City Hall authority in decision making.
Following Pena, Mayor Webb chose partnering with the downtown business
interests and enhancing open space system in Denver as the focus of his
administrations development and service provision.
All the major capital projects in downtown have in common the retail-
sports-recreation-entertainment theme to draw visitors (Table 3.4 Major
Downtown Projects in Denver since Urban Renewal, Figure 3.4 Downtown
Denver Attractions). Since WWII, approximately $2 billion dollars, including
Denver International Airport (DIA) construction, were spent by public and
private resources in downtown with major public subsidies.

Quigg Newton (1947-1955) * Downtown business groups * Local Press * Local Government * Metropolitan planning efforts (e.g. The Intercounty Regional Planning Commission) * Modernized the local govmt * Set up the professional Planning Department * Hired the first traffic engineer
William Nicholson (1955-1959) * Downtown Denver Inc. * Denver Urban Renewal Authority-(DURA) * Urban Land Institute (ULI) Panel * Comprehensive Plan 1958 * Skyline Urban Renewal Plan * Downtown Revitalization
Richard Batterton (1959-1963) * Downtown Denver Master Planning Committee (DDMPC) * Downtown Denver Inc. * Denver Urban Renewal Authority-(DURA) * Development Guide for Downtown Denver * Compact downtown * Public-Private Partnership * Building a convention center
Thomas Currigan (1963-1968) * Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) * Downtown Denver Master Planning Committee (DDMPC) * CPV railroads * Dana Crawford * Skyline Urban Renewal Plan * Urban Renewal Project for an urban campus * Comprehensive Pian 1967 * Model Cities * Currigan Exhibition Hall * Historic Preservation * Extending city center into the Central Platte Valley (CPV)
Bill McNichols (1968-1983) * Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) * Denver Urban Renewal Authority-(DURA) * Greenway Foundation * Railroads * Model Cities * 16th Street Mall * Railroads Plan for the Central Platte Valley * Platte River Greenway Plan * 1976 Winter Olympics * Performing Arts Complex Restoration of the South Platte River * McNichols Arena * Mile High Stadium
Federico Pena (1983-1991) * The Planning Office * Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) * Platte Valley Landowners Association * Platte Valley Alliance of Neighbors (PLAN) * Historic Denver, Inc. * 1986 Downtown Area Plan * 1986 Central Platte Valley Plan * 1989 Comprehensive Plan *1991 CPV Plan Amendment * Bringing a major baseball team * Make downtown accessible * LoDo Historic District Designation * To develop CPV * Regional entertainment facilities downtown
Wellington Webb (1991- present) * The Planning Office * Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) * South Platte River Commission (SPRC) *1991 Downtown Summit * 1995 Downtown Summit * 2000 Comprehensive Plan * 2001 Land Use Plan * Parks legacy * Restore South Platte River * Downtown housing * Regional entertainment facilities downtown
Table 3.3 Major Decisions in Downtown Denver Redevelopment

Downtown Attractions
Figure 3.4 Downtown Denver Attractions,
http://www. asp
Lc gend:
1 State Capitol 13 Performing Arts Center
2 City & County Building 14 Denver Art Museum
3 Denver Library 15 Colorado History Museum
4 IJ.S. Mint 16 Writer Square
5 Union Station 17 Children's Museum
6 16th Street Mall 18 Firefighters Museum
7 Larimer Square 19 Molly Brown House
8 Pavilions Shopping 20 Ocean Journey Aquarium
9 Sakura Square 21 Invcsco Field at Mile High
10 Tatxir Shopping Center 22 Coors Field
11 Llitch Gardens / Six Flags 23 Pepsi Center

URBAN RENEWAL Currigan Exhibition Hall 1969 Public $7.2 million
Denver Art Museum 1965-1971 Denver Art Museum Board, private donations& Scientific and Cultural Facilities District
McNichols Arena 1975 $12 million
Writer's Square 1977-1981 Land assemblage by DURA
16th Street Mall 1982 Federal Funds $76 million
Performing Arts Center seat tax & revenues $31 million
Tabor Center 1979-1984 DURA and the Tabor Group
Convention Center 1988-1990 Revenue bond- generated by convention activity & $36 million State grant $126 million
POSTMODERN DOWNTOWN Public Library 1990 Tax based bond issue $65 million
Elitch Gardens Amusement Park 1994 DURA subsidy & loan from MOED, with the old Elitch's as collateral $125 million
Pepsi Center 1994-2000 Private financing $160 million
Renovation of Denver Dry Goods 1993 DURA financing $50 million
Coors Field 1995 Metro-area sales tax $215 million
Ocean Journey 1991-1999 Public and Private $93 million
The Pavilions 1994-1999 Private and DURA financing $102 million
Expansion&renovation of Adam's Mark Hotel DURA financing $135 million
REI 2000 Private and DURA financing $32 million
Convention Center Expansion 2001 State subsidy, sales tax & parking revenues $200 million
New Football Stadium 2001 $400 million
Table 3.4 Major Downtown Projects in Denver since Urban Renewal

So, what does this all mean?
1. Aggressive growth politics in Denver started with Nicholson.
2. Business interests governed the agenda until Mayor Penas term.
3. Mayor Pena made City Hall matter, business interests still
dominated; growth politics continued this time under active
leadership of the Mayor.
4. Until Mayor Webb, significant public funding was available.
5. During the Webb administration, the Postmodern era is
characterized by:
a. federal spending dried up; available public funds used to
leverage private investment.
b. growth politics continue; new actors are included, e.g.
environmental groups.
c. the city halls agenda includes broader public interest.
d. business interests continue to dominate the implementation.
These findings support the structuralist framework with minor
modifications, such as the broadening of the growth coalition to include
new elite actors.
In the next section, I explore development of Commons Park and
surrounding residential neighborhood and its implications on public
realm, to see whether and how these patterns play out in the context of a
specific development.

Commons Park, which is located adjacent to downtown Denver and along the
South Platte River in the Central Platte Valley (CPV), once was an industrial
area and rail transportation corridor of the city. There have been talks and
numerous plans about developing the area for several decades, and finally it is
realized as a part of the Webb administrations downtown regeneration efforts
(Figure 4.1 CPV Context). In this section, I first introduce how I conducted the
research, then, describe the Commons Park development process in detail,
finally, analyze its development process.
Method of Approach
I have conducted in-depth interviews with prominent stakeholders who played
essential roles in the redevelopment process of downtown and who were
specifically involved in the development of the selected case study Commons
Park. These in-depth interviews have been significant to understand the
decision-making process by allowing me to come to know the experiences of
the participants through their stories. In-depth interviews are all about
understanding the experiences of other people and the meaning they make of
that experience (Seidman 1998, p.3). I have organized the in-depth interviews
with the key actors in the development of Commons Park around three major
topics: Initial goals and objectives; the decision-making and development
process; and an evaluation of the end products operation and functions.

To identify a preliminary list of primary players in downtown Denvers
redevelopment, I first analyzed local newspaper articles, published books, and
journal articles. I then verified and extended this list by using a reputational
method by relying on informants to provide names of others who were major
actors in the development of Commons Park.
I interviewed a total of 23 people between December 2000 and February
2001, 18 of which are directly involved in the Commons Park and adjacent
residential development. The remaining 5 people are the former directors or
planners of the City Planning Office who also played essential roles previously
in the planning history of downtown Denver.
Establishing access, making contact, and setting up an actual date for
the interview with the potential interview participants was time and effort
consuming. I contacted the potential interviewees one by one through phone
calls or e-mail messages, explained the aim of the research, asked for their
participation, and arranged appointments for the actual interview. I had
difficulty to some degree with reaching some of the people due to their
positions and busy schedules. Therefore, a few people that I thought would be
participants ended up not being included in the final list of interviewees. A list
of the interview participants and their positions at the time of Commons Park
development is shown in Table 4.1: Interview Participants.
In general, I developed an interview guide, which some qualitative
researchers refer to as an interview schedule, that consisted of open-ended
questions for each participant who was directly involved in the Commons Park
development. In-depth interviewing is designed to ask participants to
reconstruct their experience and to explore their meaning (Seidman 1998, p.
76). Therefore, I started the interviews by asking each participant to tell his/her
recollection of the Commons Park development. Then I asked the open-ended
questions that were mainly based on identification of major actors, their goals,

Jennifer Moulton Director, Planning and Community Development
Tyler Gibbs Director, Urban Design
Andrew Wallach Director, South Platte River Commission; Director of the Commons Park development
Bar Chadwick Program Manager. Director of South Platte River Initiative.
Debbie Ortega City Council Member of District 9.
Anonymous Parks and Recreation Department
Karen Aviles City Attorney. Involved in land acquisition process.
Jerry Glick Former chairman of the Urban Renewal Authority of Denver
Dick Farley City Planner. Planner in the City under Pena administration
Ronald Straka Former Urban Design Director at the City under Pena administration.
Bill Lamont. Former Director, Planning Department under Mayor Pena administration
Frank Gray Former Director, Planning Department under Mayor Pena administration.
Tom Gougeon Mayors Office under Pena administration. Known as Mayor Penas brain trust.
Myma Poticha: . SPR Commission member. Clean Water Action
Kathleen Davenhill: SPR Commission member. Audubon Society
Dick Anderson Private developer. Worked for the City in the land acquisition process.
William Mosher Former president of the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP)
Tim Boers Highlands United Neighborhoods (HUNI) representative in Commons Park development. Chair of Highland United Neighbors Planning Development Community.
Mark Johnson President of Civitas Landscape Architecture Firm which designed Commons Park.
Mark Naylor Landscape Architect. Works at Civitas. Prepared the Commons Park Master Plan.
Todd Johnson President of Design Workshop which prepared the final Commons Neighborhood Plan.
Marilee Utter First Trillium Co. Denver representative.
Larry Grace Trillium representative who replaced Marilee Utter
Table 4.1: Interview Participants

roles, and objectives; major challenges they experienced during the process;
and an evaluation of the end products operation and functions. I also asked
probing questions that follow from what they said for clarification purposes.
Figure 4.1 Central Platte Valley Context. Design Workshop, p. 1.
Two of the participants were not involved in the entire development
process, but played roles during the land acquisition phase. Therefore, these
two people were asked specific questions on details of the land acquisition
process. And. one person, who was appointed by the Mayor to oversee the
development, was asked specific questions on costs for land acquisition and
development, and financing methods in addition to the standard list of interview
questions. The participants who previously played roles in planning downtown
Denver are asked for their recollections of downtown redevelopment in general
and their involvement in the process. The participants who were involved with
the Commons Neighborhood development arc asked for their views on the park

and their experiences of the neighborhood development process. I also pre-
tested the interview questions for wording and clearness as well as practice
Since this research includes human subjects, securing the informants'
written informed consent to be interviewed is required. And the first step to do
this is getting an approval and permission to perform the study. Therefore, I
first submitted a brief aim and context of the study with the interview questions
as well as the informed consent form to the University of Colorado Human
Research Committee and had it approved. Then, before doing the interviews,
the informed consent forms were given to the participants. The informed
consent form mainly told interviewees briefly about the research and provided
them with a context for the interview, the use of a tape-recorder, and their
rights. Among 23 participants, one person wanted to be anonymous.
"Research based on in-depth interviewing is labor intensive (Seidman
1998, p.95). First of all, tape-recorded interviews are transcribed from oral
speech to written text. Then, narratives of each respondent are read very
carefully a number of times with a demanding eye looking for themes for
coding. Following careful reading, I prepared summaries of interviews and
summary tables. By examining tables a display of data in a condensed form
I worked on noting some patterns and clustering by conceptual grouping that
helped make connections from which conclusions are drawn. I categorized the
findings of the data in three main groups: roles of the actors, goals of the actors,
coalitions, major challenges they came across with, and expected users and
Before doing the interviews, I executed a content analysis of local
newspapers specifically on Commons Park development, which is used in
identifying the major actors. Using only the information I gathered from the
news, I wrote a narrative explaining how it happened in chronological order.

Later, after conducting and analyzing the interviews with the people who
actually did make the Commons Park happen, I wrote another narrative. And
comparing the two was especially important in terms of what and how much
information was made available to the public.
For verification and validity purposes, I crosschecked the final text I
wrote from the interviews through asking participants to review the material,
and also through triangulation, using multiple sources, of comparing my
conclusions from the interviews with the newspaper articles. Having explained
the methodology, I now explain the development chronologically, by first
introducing the vision, land acquisition process, and plan development. Then, I
describe the plan implementation.
Chronological Development
There was a park along the South Platte River shown in the 1986 and 1991
Central Platte Valley Plans. The serious discussions of whether the park should
really get built at Central Platte Valley or not started in mid-1990s following
Mayor Webbs election. By this time, the Elitch Gardens, the local family-
owned amusement park business, had already moved into the CPV and became
an anchor. Elitchs became the first amusement park located in such close
proximity to a downtown area in the United States when it was relocated in
1995. The baseball park (Coors Field) was also constructed at the edge of the
LoDo area in 1995, which became another important anchor. By the mid-1990s,
Mayor Webb decided that improvement of the South Platte River and building
a chain of parks along the river would be his legacy for Denver citizens. He
founded the South Platte River Commission to oversee the restoration of the