eDEN Vision Plan: Connected Networks | Dec 2020 | University of Colorado Denver

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eDEN Vision Plan: Connected Networks December 2020

Integral Studio FITS (Team C) Annie Rice | Charlotte Francisco | Derek Updegrove | Aidan Johan | James Lieven1


VISION + GUIDING PRINCIPLES Denver is a diverse and unique city nestled against the Rocky Mountains to the west and the great plains to the east; representing a gateway into the mountain west and the heart of Colorado. Throughout the city’s history residents have been drawn to Denver by the spirit of ingenuity and the allure of the mountain spirit. As people have moved to the city, Denver has built a strong urban form, character-rich neighborhoods, and a reputation as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. However, like many other cities, Denver faces the reality of a city divided by auto-oriented infrastructure. Through eDEN - a complete network of safe, green, economically thriving shared and open streets - Denver finds an opportunity to serve as a model for the future of urban mobility.


Vision Statement eDEN will trailblaze a new standard for urban pedestrian networks and urban ecology, with community empowerment and urgency at the heart of the endeavor. eDEN will weave through Denver’s tapestry of communities, stitching together the city’s neighborhoods to mend physical and economic barriers. The development and construction of eDEN will be defined by four guiding principles: enhance connection, elevate community, prioritize accessibility and plan for resiliency.


Enhance Connection Create a strong, connected, people-focused street network that prioritizes the safety of those on foot and on wheels. eDEN will be a complete network with linked streets that connect neighborhoods, commercial areas, landmarks, and other major nodes in Denver. Critical evaluation of local built form and tailoring to the surrounding context ensures that interventions and streetscaping choices support a robust, comfortable experience for pedestrians, cyclists, and all users.

Prioritize Accessibility Ensure that eDEN’s streets are well linked to one another and prioritize connections across Denver’s mobility barriers (highways, rail, and rivers). Design streets that accommodate the most vulnerable road user, incorporating universal design principles to ensure all users benefit from eDEN.

Elevate Community

Plan for Resiliency

Prioritize the experience of current residents by allowing the community to guide improvements. The community is the authority in what they want to see on their streets and should be given every opportunity to provide input and shape eDEN in their communities. Use eDEN to connect residents to each other and link neighborhoods to community assets.

With climate change in mind, eDEN’s interventions strengthen local ecosystems by promoting biodiversity, restoring habitat, and greening corridors. In our symbiotic relationship with the environment, ecosystem health is human health. An eDEN network means better water quality, stormwater management, cooler streets, less air pollution, the creation of pollinator networks and productive urban farming.



NETWORK PHILOSOPHY + PHASING There are two key components to the eDEN network: 1) the backbone network and 2) the Neighborhood Network Initiative. Both components are of equal importance in the creation of a citywide eDEN network that offers a safe, healthy green space for people to walk, bike and roll within their own neighborhoods and to reach opportunity across the city.

Backbone Network The priority of the eDEN backbone network is to establish essential connections between all neighborhoods, ensuring that residents may reach employment, school, childcare, healthcare, healthy food, recreational opportunities, and all needs throughout the city without necessitating the use of a car. Essential in the design of the backbone network is attention to safe pedestrian and bicycle connections across physical barriers such as highways, rail, and rivers. The backbone of eDEN will serve to create thoroughfares and connections across the physical barriers that currently hinder multimodal transportation, restitching the urban fabric. Another key consideration in the conceptualization of the backbone network is placing eDEN along trails and streets with already existing or planned infrastructure to make efficient use of city funds. The eDEN backbone incorporates existing trails; current shared and open streets; existing plans for the 5280 Loop,


neighborhood bikeways, and RiNo Promenade; then is fleshed out with select existing bicycle facilities that provide key connections; and is completed with first-and-last-mile connections necessary to link eDEN with the light rail network. This will be the final component of the backbone, due to the cross-agency collaboration needed and financial uncertainty of the Regional Transportation District.

The Neighborhood Network Initiative The backbone network is only one half of the eDEN network. It represents a agency-driven effort by the city, with streets specifically chosen to provide the bare minimum connections required to connect all neighborhoods. However, not every neighborhood may want eDEN streets permeating their streets. With elevating community as one of eDEN’s guiding principles, further branching of the eDEN network will be a directive of residents themselves. The Neighborhood Network Initiative puts the decision making in the hands of community members. The community creates their own vision for eDEN, with the support of city planning and design staff to bring their vision to fruition. The Neighborhood Network Initiative will allow residents to request additional eDEN streets within their neighborhoods in order to flesh out local networks. Modeled after Philadelphia’s Slow


Figure 1+2: eDEN Backbone Network

Zone Program, neighborhood organizations may apply for the implementation of traffic calming interventions on specific streets in their neighborhood. Much like the Philadelphia program, eDEN’s Neighborhood Network Initiative would evaluate applications based on three factors. These criteria are: 1) crash history (examining share of crashes on the street where someone was injured, seriously injured, or killed), 2) vulnerable users (equity indicators such as share of children and older adults, households in poverty), and 3) walkable community places (determining proximity of libraries, schools, healthcare, public housing). By using these metrics to evaluate each application, eDEN neighborhood networks can be built in an inclusive and equitable manner, prioritizing areas that need it most.



Figure 3: Neighborhood Network Initiative Application Metrics

Westwood Via Verde and Baker Gardens are two examples of neighborhoods already conducting visioning work that could act as perfect pilot models for the Neighborhood Network Initiative.

Phasing In order to ensure that the network is built in an equitable and comprehensive way, one backbone segment will be constructed at a time within each of six subareas, created by dividing the city along Colfax Ave, Colorado Blvd, and I-25. While the construction of the backbone network is a agency-driven process, it will be augmented by the grassroots planning of the Neighborhood Network Initiative. Due to the scale of eDEN, the network will be constructed in phases, with both the backbone network and Neighborhood Network Initiative built simultaneously. The goal will be to complete 5-10 neighborhood networks by 2025 and at least one backbone segment per subarea of the city.

Pilot Neighborhood Networks Two existing grassroots efforts: the Westwood Via Verde inititative to create a loop of streets, alleys, and greenways that provide multi-modal access



Figure 4: eDEN Pilot Neighborhood Network Initiatives

and green infrastructure in the neighborhood, and Baker Gardens, a local community botanical garden that has converted tree lawns into productive, supportive spaces, provide excellent demonstration options for the first pilot Neighborhood Network Initiatives.



TYPOLOGIES We have developed a toolkit of typologies that fit varied network and neighborhood needs. Some are already in place and have established guidelines, including shared streets and complete streets, while other site-specific solutions can be tailored to improve connectivity. Citizens will be at the heart of the conversation as appropriate designs are tailored for neighborhood projects. All typologies will include wayfinding to create destinations and a cohesive eDEN identity as well as to maximize the ease of navigation and accessibility. Green infrastructure and street tree plantings will be major components of every street, with ecological resilience and environmental justice as an eDEN guiding principle.



Figure 5: eDEN Street Typology Concept Diagram Locations

Organization of This Section For each typology, the first page provides an explanation of the street type and applicability within the eDEN network, and the second page displays concept designs and renderings of each type. Since the network within the Baker neighborhood includes every street type, including a vital pedestrian crossing of major physical barriers and a light rail station, we chose to illustrate each street type on specific streets within this area.



Complete Streets These streets are designed to accommodate all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. Following the guidelines established by the City of Denver, these streets will allow vehicular travel but will maximize the pedestrian realm. Intended to be the most flexible, this typology will be the link that connects other typologies together and will be a key component of the backbone network.



Complete Street: S Cherokee Blvd



Shared Streets These recent additions to the city of Denver have been welcomed and supported by communities around Denver. The success of this program should be a key piece of neighborhood networks and should be precedent for expanding onto further streets. This typology can be deployed as long corridors to cut through distance, or as alleyways turned into beloved neighborhood byways. Current signage can be replaced with new traffic calming measures and street art.



Shared Street: W 4th Ave



Public Trails Denver’s Cherry Creek Trail, South Platte River Trail, and the Lakewood Gulch Trail are a few pieces of an already extensive trail network. eDEN can both increase the ecological diversity of these systems, and benefit from the connectivity it already supplies. Green fingers can reach out into the city along the eDEN network from these trails, which act as freeways for both humans and nature alike.



Public Trail: South Platte Trail at Alameda Denver Animal Shelter

S. Platte River Trail Entrance

Potenial Pocket Park

eDEN Network

Alameda Sheltered Art Walk




Sheltered Art Walks This typology is intended to solve an endemic problem in Denver. With highways and rail severing the city, there are few pedestrian friendly corridors that cross these barriers. Sheltered Art Walks are intended to be a design solution that creates a more comfortable and inviting experience when using paths that parallel major roads. Art, vegetation, shelter, and wayfinding will help create a more accessible route for pedestrians to cross highways along the likes of Alameda, Colfax, Speer and others.



Sheltered Art Walk: W Alameda Ave



Open Commercial Corridors Another recent success, streets like Larimer have seen successful placemaking. This typology and the flexibility the city showed with permitting was key to keeping many businesses alive during this pandemic, but it also shows promise to be the future of both the city and its neighborhoods. Outdoor seating and space completely devoted to pedestrians make these spaces destinations and community nodes around Denver. Open Commercial Corridors will be implemented where interested businesses and main street corridors align with eDEN connectivity and placemaking.



Open Commercial Corridor: S Pennsylvania St at W Bayaud Ave



FUNDING A project of the scale of the eDEN network will require multiple funding sources and cooperation from different partners from across the city. eDEN will be a transformative project and a large undertaking both fiscally and geographically, requiring cooperation from multiple partners and funders. In order to ensure that funding is adequate and sustainable, multiple funding avenues must be pursued. eDEN will be financed through the establishment of a dedicated eDEN fund. Multiple monetary streams will be required to cover the costs of the network.

Capital Improvement Budget

The City of Denver devotes significant budget every year to capital improvements. Many of these projects could provide an opportunity for incorporation with eDEN. Projects such as bikeway and pedestrian realm improvements fit within the eDEN ethos and could provide opportunities for the backbone network to begin to take shape.Two opportunities in Denver’s proposed 2021 budget that are of relevance to this project are the $15 million allotted to design and construct bicycle projects and $20 million devoted to construct sidewalks in accordance The Brick Line in Saint Louis provides a precedent with the Denver Moves Plans . eDEN could take study to better understand the cost of a project advantage of both opportunities. such as eDEN. The Great Rivers Greenway, the entity responsible for planning and constructing Federal Funding the Brick Line, serves as a model for possible funding streams for eDEN. Great Rivers eDEN should pursue applying for federal BUILD Greenways has an annual budget for 2020 of grants, which can cover up to $25 million of $31 million. This covers both the construction of a project (however they may not be the sole greenways and the ongoing support that this type funding source). Projects must demonstrate of infrastructure requires. Their budget covers future improvement to safety, economic both the Brick Line as well as other greenways competitiveness, quality of life, environmental throughout the city, making it a comparable sustainability and state of repair . While eDEN project for eDEN. checks these boxes, the BUILD grant program is highly competitive, with funding often awarded to With the need for such a large annual budget highway projects. for a timely build out, eDEN will harness multiple revenue sources.



Grant Funding


Grant funding to cover small portions of the eDEN network is available through numerous organizations. Organizations that offer grant funding for multimodal transportation projects include, but are not limited to: AARP and national and state Safe Routes to School programs. eDEN streets, especially those that serve as connections to schools, would be a natural partner for Safe Routes to School.

A project such as eDEN has the opportunity to seek funding from national philanthropic organizations. Examples of organizations that have funded multimodal and planning projects include the Bloomberg Foundation and the Knight Foundation. The Knight Foundation in particular could support eDEN, with a long history of supporting grassroots urban planning.

Medical Partners Denver is home to many world class medical facilities including Denver Health, Anschutz Medical Campus, and Kaiser Permanente. Large hospital systems have shown an appetite to fund large trail networks as a preventative health measure, with studies showing that regular daily exercise can reduce health care spending by $2500 per person on average. An example would of this is the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greensville South Carolina, where the local health system provided a funding boost for trail construction and maintenance .

Tax Initiative A large portion of eDEN’s funding could come from a tax initiative. One model that eDEN could follow would be the passage of new sales tax similar to the city of Boulder’s Health Equity Fund. In 2017, the City of Boulder passed a ballot initiative that adds a 2% tax to the distributers of sugary beverages. The money collected from the tax is placed into a fund through which organizations may apply for funding of health initiatives that target the high-risk local populations . If a Denver voters were to pass a similar ballot initiative, the tax revenue could be funneled into the eDEN fund.



Figure 6: eDEN Funding Streams

eDEN Backbone Network

Community Derived eDEN Network

eDEN Fund $

Community eDEN Applications

Federal BUILD Grants

Capital Improvement Funding

Sales Tax Initiative

Additionally, eDEN could tap into Denver’s newly approved Sustainability Tax. This 0.25% sales tax increase is dedicated to sustainability initiatives throughout the city, including environmental justice and neighborhood based environmental programs. The Sustainability Tax is estimated to raise $36 million in its first year . eDEN fits well with in the goals of the Sustainability Tax, making it a potential funding stream.


Community eDEN Applications

Public Health Dollars

Philanthropy and Grant Funding

eDEN Fund Once the eDEN fund has been established it would serve three distinct purposes. 1. It would cover the construction and maintenance cost of the backbone network. 2. It would cover costs of Neighborhood Network Initiatives. This funding could be on a sliding scale, awarding more funding to neighborhoods that have been historically overlooked by the city. 3. It would cover staff time to assist neighborhoods with planning their eDEN segments. This last component is of particular importance for lower income neighborhoods that may not have the resources or time to apply for a Neighborhood Network Initiative on their own. If the eDEN fund could support a small number of planning and design staff, there would be technical assistance available to these communities.


IMPLEMENTATION Once funding has been secured, the most critical step will remain: implementation. The construction of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure within the currently auto-oriented right-of-way will come with some new and unique challenges for the city. Fortunately, the city has outwardly prioritized pedestrian and multimodal streets throughout the Denveright system of plans. The forthcoming Complete Streets Guidelines provide a regulatory framework for many of the traffic-calming and right-of-way changes that eDEN will initiate. One challenge that eDEN will face throughout its implementation will be the interplay between the various parties responsible for streets and right-of-ways in the city, with some owned by the City and County of Denver and some by CDOT. These CDOT-owned roadways like Alameda Ave provide vital pedestrian crossings for the eDEN network, but will require cooperation with CDOT to make needed safety improvements, such as the installation of a sheltered art walk.

stretch will require creativity, since the right-of-way is constrained by a retaining wall. In order to bring this vision to life, CDOT would need to be flexible and allow for the use of screening, something typically only allowed for in a work zone. In addition to the need for close cooperation between CDOT and eDEN, the network will require cooperation with local business improvement districts (BIDs). BIDs will provide key resources for the commercial corridors of eDEN. Permitting of street furniture such as benches, planters, and cafĂŠ seating can be expensive and cumbersome. However, via cooperation with BIDs this permitting process could be facilitated by the district in a similar manner to the 16th Street Mall. By helping businesses break down these administrative barriers, eDEN could increase buyin and ease the discomfort some business may feel with the removal of parking space.

Increased cooperation among entities such as the City and CDOT and the leveraging of BIDs and With CDOT prioritizing the speed and movement other partners is a crucial step in implementation of auto traffic, the pedestrian realm has been of the eDEN, but is only one step in the build-out of relegated to narrow outskirts of the right-of-way, the network. The construction of the infrastructure with Alameda’s sidewalk two feet narrower than itself will take time and implementation will happen CDOTs recommended 12ft standard. The addition in stages. of screening and protective elements along this



Figure 7: eDEN Network Phasing

Before all else will be the closure of streets to traffic or in some cases the transition to shared streets. This is key to begin to shift the paradigm away from auto-oriented design to people-oriented design. While this is a vital first step for eDEN, it will require extensive study of traffic circulation and emergency vehicle routes, ensuring that eDEN does not hinder access along essential corridors. Once a street has been closed to traffic, needed accessibility improvements can be made using Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines as a template. These improvements will include updated curb ramps and widened sidewalks where needed. Prioritizing accessibility features early in eDEN’s build-out highlights eDEN’s commitment to accessibility, welcoming all Denver residents to use the network.


The next step, wayfinding, is a key component in creating a sense of connection from one neighborhood to the next. Wayfinding signage

shows users and communities that they are part of a connected system that goes beyond the bounds of just one neighborhood. These wayfinding elements will be placed on cityowned properties or on the land of consenting property owners and will not interfere with ADA accessibility. Once wayfinding has been installed, attention will turn to cultivating plant life along eDEN - moving beyond grass and concrete to productive and native plant life. Shade trees, planters filled with native flora, urban gardens, and agricultural uses will be introduced as amenity zones along the network. The blossoming of native and productive plants in eDEN will create natural oases accessible to Denver residents, without needing to venture beyond the bounds of the city. While this is one of the most impactful changes of eDEN, it will require partnership between communities and local sources of horticultural expertise to be successful. Connecting communities to partners


Figure 8: eDEN Implementation Partners

Medical Or gan iz a t ion s

taxes y and p o thr an l i Ph

Bu sin es sI

Neigh bor ho od Or g

ns tio iza an

istricts nt D e m ve o pr m


City Government such as the Botanic Gardens, and establishing peer-to-peer learning opportunities between neighbors will be key to reflect Colorado’s plant biodiversity within eDEN.

opportunity for ongoing programing. By brining native landscapes into the city, there are many opportunities for communities to work in partnership with educators throughout Denver, providing a resource to learn about Colorado’s eDEN’s finishing touch will be the installation of unique climate and flora all along the eDEN light features to signal to users at all hours that network. The construction of the network is the they are on the eDEN network, regardless of night first iteration of eDEN. It will be up to residents to or day. This final step will provide a consistent continue transforming eDEN as it becomes a part visual cue to users of the vast interconnected of their life and city. set of streets and trails that comprise eDEN. The installation of lights will be the last step, as it will be CONCLUSION a more involved process to them into the existing electrical grid and ensure that they do not disturb eDEN provides an opportunity for Denver to be on the forefront of the future of urban transportation residents along eDEN. and sustainability, while restoring its urban fabric that has been damaged by years of auto-centric While these are the major mile markers in the design. eDEN will create a healthier Denver building of the eDEN network, the work does connecting both human systems and ecological not stop upon their completion. Additional street systems on Denver’s streets. Denver will be able enhancements and traffic calming mechanisms such as mini roundabouts, chicanes, curb bump- to offer a world-class amenity to all residents, creating a green network that is accessible, outs, protected bike lanes, transit upgrades, and equitable, and open to all who call Denver home. other infrastructure improvements will create a safe place. eDEN also provides a tremendous


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