After years of planning and negotiating, commuter-rail transit is on its way to Westminster. The project is part of the Regional Transportation …
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After years of planning and negotiating, commuter-rail transit is on its way to Westminster.
The project is part of the Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) FasTracks Northwest Rail Line corridor project, which plans to bring rapid train service between Denver and Westminster. It includes construction of a Westminster Station, which will be surrounded by 135 acres for future development.
The Transit-Oriented Development District comprises land between Lowell Boulevard and Federal Boulevard to the west and east, and 72nd Avenue and the rail corridor to the north and south. Plans call for the Little Dry Creek basin, which is south of the rail corridor, to be turned into a 40-acre community park with recreation and open space amenities.
The Northwest Rail Line will run from Denver’s Union Station to Longmont, passing through North Denver, Adams County, Westminster, Broomfield, Louisville and Boulder. The first 6.2-mile segment from Union Station to south Westminster, at 71st Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, is already funded through the Eagle P3 project, a $1.03 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration. This portion of the project is set to be completed by 2016 and will work as an end-of-the-line station until the rest of the line is completed. Portions of the station must also be complete by 2016.
“In 2006 when the city of Westminster found out that a portion of the northwest rail was going to be funded, we went into hyper-planning mode,” said Mac Cummins, planning manager for the city. “We started updating our grand vision and working on a plan. It’s always been a goal to have a new neighborhood spring up in south Westminster, and this plan will allow for that to happen.”
After lengthy negotiations with RTD, the city signed an intergovernmental agreement in June with RTD allowing the city to make its plan a reality. The agreement required the city to produce a specified amount of parking at the station, which must be open by 2016.
“Instead of a huge sea of asphalt, which is what RTD had planned for the station, we are able to deliver the same amount of parking with the construction of a parking garage,” Cummins said. “So now we are able to create an area for future development.”
Cummins said the general strategy for the 135-acre site is to create a vibrant area filled with a variety of uses, including retail space, businesses and residential areas. The goal is to have the area grow over time without a specific urban-renewal plan, which would be carried out by a single developer.
“No one developer comes in and builds a city. Great cities are made by different people with different ideas who want different things,” Cummins said. “We want this neighborhood to develop organically and evolve over time because we think the area will become a more interesting place that way.”
Cummins said the city is not highly selective about what developments can come into the neighborhood, but said the most intense development needs to be around the station. This area will also be accompanied by a gently sloping landscape leading into an amphitheater.
“The amphitheater will be a semi-circle on the north side of the platform,” Cummins said. “It will be big enough for community and city events.”
To access the station platform for boarding the train, people will walk through an underpass and enter the train on the south side of the development. Cummins said the platform bridge will mirror other Westminster bridge designs.
As for the Little Dry Creek park area, John Burke, senior engineer for the city, said the project is a unique opportunity that will transform a neglected urban creek corridor into an environmental showcase and family playground. Burke said the project will relocate Little Dry Creek from the existing highly eroded banks that are a constant threat to the adjacent Adams County neighborhood and replace it with a natural, open channel with moderate slopes, loose-boulder drop structures, riparian areas and a sizable fishing pond at the eastern end of the project.
“This is a legacy-type project, one that will transform this area for decades to come,” he said. “It’s a fun and exciting challenge.”
The plan includes three major areas: to the west is the recreation district, which includes the playground and amphitheater. The middle area is the transit district, which allows for direct access to the station; and the eastern side is the environmental district, which includes the fishing lake, open space, wetland plantings and environmental pavilions.
“The Little Dry Creek project will be a first-of-its-kind along this fully developed urban corridor,” Burke said. “The proposed RTD FasTracks commuter rail station will be a catalyst for activity as hundreds of visitors a day will be traveling to this area, and the open space will become a refuge for many of the rail users.”
Work on both the park area and the station has begun. Cummins said construction on the parking structure and other areas, such as roadwork, will be done in phases. Discussions regarding zoning for the development area are also under way. Cummins said the area will end up having its own zoning, called transit-oriented development zoning.
“Although we have requirements to be complete by 2016, like the parking structure and access points, the project will happen over a long period of time,” Cummins said. “I’m talking 20 or 30 years. But that sort of organic development is what makes unique and vibrant areas.”
For more information on the TOD project visit www.westminstertof.com.
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