The South Platte in Denver: A Corridor of Change

The South Platte is a major river of the American West and its valley in Denver has had many forms as that city has evolved – and may be entering its contemporary heyday.

Buildings At Night

Relationship between Denver and the River

The valley of the South Platte in Denver is a corridor of change.  The city has had an intimate relationship with the river since its earliest days.  Founded at the confluence of the South Platte River and the Cherry Creek, Denver began to develop and expand first along the banks of the two streams.  As time progressed and Denver matured, the South Platte became home to many varying uses.  As Denver became a hub of industry, many parcels became solely industrial use.  Similarly to what can be seen with industrial areas in the Midwestern and Northeastern United States, after industrialism began to decline in this country, so did the quality of the neighborhoods that hosted it.  Denver was no exception.  The parcels that line the South Platte riverfront were blighted and frankly a blemish on the face of an otherwise burgeoning city.  Fortunately, those days seem to be over.

Redevelopment

Redevelopment of the Central Platte Valley, as the area is now called by planners and developers, has changed the entire character of the riverfront.  Investment in existing structures, such as what was seen with what is now the flagship store of REI, has transformed the area into a destination.  Reinvestment in the area between Denver’s Central Business District and its Lower Highlands neighborhood has created many new parks, fashionable residences and commercial opportunities.  In fact, some of Denver’s highest priced condominiums can be seen there.  That means that this area is becoming very desirable.  In combination with the nearby Union Station neighborhood (relationship pictured), the once neglected developmental origin of Denver is becoming the centerpiece of the city.

River North

Further up the South Platte north and east of central downtown is the area known as River North, or RiNo for short.  This district seems to have missed the initial reinvestment enjoyed in the area of Riverfront Park, but has gotten lots of attention by those without large-scale funding.  Many new artist spaces, café’s, music venues and residences have emerged to occupy the formerly abandoned industrial buildings in RiNo.  The reuse of these buildings is great – it is sustainable in nature and preserves the historically important character of this part of town.  Some new development is quite large, as with Zeppelin Development’s TAXI project, which makes use of a site formerly used to harbor a taxi fleet.  Check it out at http://www.taxibyzeppelin.com/ .  RiNo is slated to become among the most vibrant districts in Denver; it really offers a unique energy to the heart of the Front Range metropolitan area.

The South Platte River is intimately tied with the history of Denver.  It is wonderful to see that its urban riverfront is not being left behind as Denver itself becomes so highly sought after and invested in in the 21st century.