Denver Wants Ground Floor Retail, Sidewalk Extensions to Achieve Main Street 'Vibe'

The Arts District on Santa Fe Drive is considered one of Denver's final frontiers for revitalization. Local stakeholders are targeting zoning changes as a potential solution.

2 minute read

March 13, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


A view up Santa Fe Drive in Denver. Stores and construction are visible along the street, and Downtown Denver looms in the background.

Ground floor retail, narrow sidewalks, and construction—one quick glance is all it takes to see the factors contributing to a proposal for a design overlay district along Santa Fe Drive in Denver. | Google Streetview

The city of Denver is considering a design overlay district that would require ground floor retail on a ten-block section of the Arts District on Santa Fe Drive.

"Councilwoman Jamie Torres filed a pre-application last summer calling for a design overlay district — essentially a tweak to the area’s zoning — to be established for the stretch of Santa Fe Drive between 3rd and 13th avenues, as well as some additional areas along 8th Avenue," reports Eric Heinz for the Denver Post.

The stretch of Santa Fe Drive in question is "mostly one- to two-story buildings with numerous art galleries, as well as restaurants and small office users," according to Heinz, although recent years have seen larger-scale development pop up along and around the corridor. The goal of the proposed design overlay district is to "maintain the character" of the area, according to Ann Nguyen, a local landscape architect and planner, who is active with the neighborhood association. Nguyen adds that the goal of the district would be to encourage development and activate the corridor more in line with the 'vibe' of other "Main Streets" in the city.

The new design overlay district "would also allow new buildings to sit 10 feet back from the sidewalk to allow more room for pedestrians and outdoor dining," according to Heinz. "Denver is already working on a project that would extend the sidewalk to where there is currently a white stripe along the corridor with white markers."

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