Denver City Council approves sweeping East Area Plan ushering in taller buildings, greater density

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DENVER (KDVR) — Members of the Denver City Council approved a major urban development plan on Monday that will impact four large neighborhoods on the city’s east side.

The plan calls for taller buildings and more density as Denver continues to pave the way for continued growth. It’s called the East Area Plan.

East Colfax Avenue is the centerpiece of the plan that is shaped by future rapid transit along the corridor and new zoning in the Hale, South Park Hill, Montclair and East Colfax neighborhoods.

Recommended future zoning could forever change what’s currently more of a suburban feel in certain areas of those neighborhoods.

“We wanted anti-displacement to be our number one priority,” said Tim Roberts, president of East Colfax Neighborhood Association.

Preventing displacement of current residents is a top priority for many residents as developers eye the plan for future projects. New construction in defined areas could see buildings standing three stories to twelve stories tall.

Smaller business areas surrounded by residential neighborhoods, like Oneida Park, are recommended “enhanced design areas.”

“Without an affordability component, that’s just density for density sake,” said Colette Carey of the Greater Park Hill Community. “It’s not necessarily making a home more affordable for someone.”

Carey said the city assumes greater density will equal affordability, but without strict mandates, she fears that might not happen. Carey and Roberts said their neighbors need more time— especially during a pandemic— to ensure the plan is to their liking.

“It just doesn’t make sense to pressure the community into responding here,” Roberts said.

The pandemic has led to an inability to hold additional in-person community meetings. However, Denver officials said numerous community meetings were held prior to the pandemic.

District 5 Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who represents much of the area, supports the plan without delay following three years of urban planning and community input.

The plan also calls for homeowners to have the ability to build tiny homes or “granny flats” on their properties.

Supporters of the plan said recommended zoning changes would make affordable housing a priority and will help prevent displacement more than the current development plan.

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