Denver, CO Real Estate
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Denver is the capital and most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Colorado and is ranked as a Beta world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. It’s located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. In 2016, Denver was named the best place to live in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Denver is named after James W. Denver, a governor of the Kansas Territory. It is nicknamed the Mile High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level.
Living in Denver
The metropolitan area surrounding Denver represents a majority of the population and economic activity in the Front Range region. The Denver downtown district is immediately east of the confluence of Cherry Creek with the South Platte River, approximately 12 mi east of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
In the summer of 1858, during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, a group of gold prospectors from Lawrence, Kansas established Montana City as a mining town on the banks of the South Platte River in what was then western Kansas Territory. This was the first historical settlement in what was later to become the city of Denver. The site faded quickly, however, and by the summer of 1859 it was abandoned in favor of Auraria (named after the gold-mining town of Auraria, Georgia) and St. Charles City.
On November 22, 1858, General William Larimer and Captain Jonathan Cox, Esquire, both land speculators from eastern Kansas Territory, placed cottonwood logs to stake a claim on the bluff overlooking the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, across the creek from the existing mining settlement of Auraria, and on the site of the existing townsite of St. Charles. Larimer named the townsite Denver City to curry favor with Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver. Larimer hoped the town’s name would help it be selected as the county seat of Arapaho County but, unbeknownst to him, Governor Denver had already resigned from office. The location was accessible to existing trails and was across the South Platte River from the site of seasonal encampments of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. The site of these first towns is now occupied by Confluence Park near downtown Denver.
Larimer, along with associates in the St. Charles City Land Company, sold parcels in the town to merchants and miners, with the intention of creating a major city that would cater to new immigrants. Denver City was a frontier town, with an economy based on servicing local miners with gambling, saloons, livestock and goods trading. In the early years, land parcels were often traded for grubstakes or gambled away by miners in Auraria. In May 1859, Denver City residents donated 53 lots to the Leavenworth & Pike’s Peak Express in order to secure the region’s first overland wagon route. Offering daily service for “passengers, mail, freight, and gold”, the Express reached Denver on a trail that trimmed westward travel time from twelve days to six. In 1863, Western Union furthered Denver’s dominance of the region by choosing the city for its regional terminus.
The Colorado Territory was created on February 28, 1861, Arapahoe County was formed on November 1, 1861, and Denver City was incorporated on November 7, 1861. Denver City served as the Arapahoe County Seat from 1861 until consolidation in 1902. In 1867, Denver City became the acting territorial capital, and in 1881 was chosen as the permanent state capital in a statewide ballot. With its newfound importance, Denver City shortened its name to Denver. On August 1, 1876, Colorado was admitted to the Union.
Although by the close of the 1860s, Denver residents could look with pride at their success establishing a vibrant supply and service center, the decision to route the nation’s first transcontinental railroad through Cheyenne, rather than Denver, threatened the prosperity of the young town. The transcontinental railroad passed a daunting 100 miles away, but citizens mobilized to build a railroad to connect Denver to it. Spearheaded by visionary leaders including Territorial Governor John Evans, David Moffat, and Walter Cheesman, fundraising began. Within three days, $300,000 had been raised, and citizens were optimistic. Fundraising stalled before enough was raised, forcing these visionary leaders to take control of the debt-ridden railroad. Despite challenges, on June 24, 1870, citizens cheered as the Denver Pacific completed the link to the transcontinental railroad, ushering in a new age of prosperity for Denver.
Finally linked to the rest of the nation by rail, Denver prospered as a service and supply center. The young city grew during these years, attracting millionaires with their mansions, as well as a mixture of crime and poverty of a rapidly growing city. Denver citizens were proud when the rich chose Denver and were thrilled when Horace Tabor, the Leadville mining millionaire, built an impressive business block at 16th and Larimer, as well as the elegant Tabor Grand Opera House. Luxurious hotels, including the much-loved Brown Palace Hotel, soon followed, as well as splendid homes for millionaires, such as the Croke, Patterson, Campbell Mansion at 11th and Pennsylvania and the now-demolished Moffat Mansion at 8th and Grant. Intent on transforming Denver into one of the world’s great cities, leaders wooed industry and attracted laborers to work in these factories.
Soon, in addition to the elite and a large middle class, Denver had a growing population of immigrant German, Italian, and Chinese laborers, soon followed by African Americans from the Deep South and Hispanic workers. The influx of the new residents strained available housing. In addition, the Silver Crash of 1893 unsettled political, social, and economic balances. Competition among the different ethnic groups was often expressed as bigotry, and social tensions gave rise to the Red Scare. Americans were suspicious of immigrants who were sometimes allied with socialist and labor union causes. After World War I, a revival of the Ku Klux Klan attracted white native-born Americans who were anxious about the many changes in society. Unlike the earlier organization that was active in the rural South, KKK chapters developed in urban areas of the Midwest and West, including Denver, and into Idaho and Oregon. Corruption and crime also developed in Denver.
Between 1880 and 1895 the city underwent a huge rise in corruption, as crime bosses, such as Soapy Smith, worked side by side with elected officials and the police to control elections, gambling, and bunco gangs. The city also suffered a depression in 1893 after the crash of silver prices. In 1887, the precursor to the international charity United Way was formed in Denver by local religious leaders, who raised funds and coordinated various charities to help Denver’s poor. By 1890, Denver had grown to be the second-largest city west of Omaha, Nebraska. In 1900, whites represented 96.8% of Denver’s population. The African American and Hispanic populations increased with migrations of the 20th century. Many African Americans first came as workers on the railroad, which had a terminus in Denver, and began to settle there.
Between the 1880s and 1930s, Denver’s floriculture industry developed and thrived. This period became known locally as the Carnation Gold Rush.
A bill proposing a state constitutional amendment to allow home rule for Denver and other municipalities was introduced in the legislature in 1901 and passed. The measure called for a statewide referendum, which voters approved in 1902. On December 1 that year Governor James Orman proclaimed the amendment part of the state’s fundamental law. The City and County of Denver came into being on that date and was separated from Arapahoe and Adams Counties.
Early in the 20th century, Denver, like many other cities, was home to a pioneering Brass Era car company. The Colburn Automobile Company made cars copied from one of its contemporaries, Renault.
From 1953 to 1989, the Rocky Flats Plant, a DOE nuclear weapon facility that was about 15 miles from Denver, produced fissile plutonium “pits” for nuclear warheads. A major fire at the facility in 1957, as well as leakage from nuclear waste stored at the site between 1958 and 1968, resulted in the contamination of some parts of Denver, to varying degrees, with plutonium-239, a harmful radioactive substance with a half-life of 24,200 years. A 1981 study by the Jefferson County health director, Dr. Carl Johnson linked the contamination to an increase in birth defects and cancer incidence in central Denver and nearer Rocky Flats. Later studies confirmed many of his findings. Plutonium contamination was still present outside the former plant site as of August 2010. It presents risks to building the envisioned Jefferson Parkway, which would complete Denver’s automotive beltway.
In 1970, Denver was selected to host the 1976 Winter Olympics to coincide with Colorado’s centennial celebration, but in November 1972, Colorado voters struck down ballot initiatives allocating public funds to pay for the high costs of the games. They were moved to Innsbruck, Austria. The notoriety of becoming the only city ever to decline to host an Olympiad after being selected has made subsequent bids difficult. The movement against hosting the games was based largely on environmental issues and was led by State Representative Richard Lamm. He was subsequently elected to three terms (1975–87) as Colorado governor. Denver explored a potential bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but no bid was submitted.
In 2010, Denver adopted a comprehensive update of its zoning code. The new zoning was developed to guide development as envisioned in adopted plans such as Blueprint Denver, Transit Oriented Development Strategic Plan, Greenprint Denver, and the Strategic Transportation Plan.
Denver has hosted the Democratic National Convention twice, in 1908 and again in 2008. It promoted the city on the national, political, and socioeconomic stage. On August 10–15, 1993, Denver hosted the Catholic Church’s 6th World Youth Day, which was attended by an estimated 500,000, making it the largest gathering in Colorado history.
Denver has been known historically as the Queen City of the Plains and the Queen City of the West, because of its important role in the agricultural industry of the High Plains region in eastern Colorado and along the foothills of the Colorado Front Range. Several U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Denver in honor of the city.
As of January 2013, the City and County of Denver has defined 78 official neighborhoods that the city and community groups use for planning and administration. Although the city’s delineation of the neighborhood boundaries is somewhat arbitrary, it corresponds roughly to the definitions used by residents. These “neighborhoods” should not be confused with cities or suburbs, which may be separate entities within the metro area.
The character of the neighborhoods varies significantly from one to another and includes everything from large skyscrapers to houses from the late 19th century to modern, suburban-style developments. Generally, the neighborhoods closest to the city center are denser, older and contain more brick building material. Many neighborhoods away from the city center were developed after World War II, and are built with more modern materials and style. Some of the neighborhoods even farther from the city center, or recently redeveloped parcels anywhere in the city, have either very suburban characteristics or are new urbanist developments that attempt to recreate the feel of older neighborhoods.
Denver does not have larger area designations, unlike the City of Chicago, which has larger areas that house the neighborhoods (IE: Northwest Side). Denver residents use the terms “north”, “south”, “east”, and “west”.
Denver also has a number of neighborhoods not reflected in the administrative boundaries. These neighborhoods may reflect the way people in an area identify themselves or they might reflect how others, such as real estate developers, have defined those areas. Well-known non-administrative neighborhoods include the historic and trendy LoDo (short for “Lower Downtown”), part of the city’s Union Station neighborhood; Uptown, straddling North Capitol Hill and City Park West; Curtis Park, part of the Five Points neighborhood; Alamo Placita, the northern part of the Speer neighborhood; Park Hill, a successful example of intentional racial integration; and Golden Triangle, in the Civic Center.
The Denver MSA has a gross metropolitan product of $157.6 billion in 2010, making it the 18th largest metro economy in the United States. Denver’s economy is based partially on its geographic position and its connection to some of the country’s major transportation systems. Because Denver is the largest city within 500 miles (800 km), it has become a natural location for storage and distribution of goods and services to the Mountain States, Southwest states, as well as all western states. Another benefit for distribution is that Denver is nearly equidistant from large cities of the Midwest, such as Chicago and St. Louis and some large cities of the West Coast, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Over the years, the city has been home to other large corporations in the central United States, making Denver a key trade point for the country. Several well-known companies originated in or have relocated to Denver. William Ainsworth opened the Denver Instrument Company in 1895 to make analytical balances for gold assayers. Its factory is now in Arvada. AIMCO (NYSE: AIV)—the largest owner and operator of apartment communities in the United States, with approximately 870 communities comprising nearly 136,000 units in 44 states—is headquartered in Denver, employing approximately 3,500 people. Also Samsonite Corp., the world’s largest luggage manufacturer, began in Denver in 1910 as Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company, but Samsonite closed its NE Denver factory in 2001, and moved its headquarters to Massachusetts after a change of ownership in 2006. The Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company, founded in Denver in 1911, is now a part of telecommunications giant CenturyLink.
On October 31, 1937, Continental Airlines, now United Airlines, moved its headquarters to Stapleton Airport in Denver, Colorado. Robert F. Six arranged to have the headquarters moved to Denver from El Paso, Texas because Six believed that the airline should have its headquarters in a large city with a potential base of customers. MediaNews Group purchased the Denver Post in 1987; the company is based in Denver. The Gates Corporation, the world’s largest producer of automotive belts and hoses, was established in S. Denver in 1919. Russell Stover Candies made its first chocolate candy in Denver in 1923, but moved to Kansas City in 1969. The Wright & McGill Company has been making its Eagle Claw brand of fishing gear in NE Denver since 1925. The original Frontier Airlines began operations at Denver’s old Stapleton International Airport in 1950; Frontier was reincarnated at DIA in 1994. Scott’s Liquid Gold, Inc., has been making furniture polish in Denver since 1954. Village Inn restaurants began as a single pancake house in Denver in 1958. Big O Tires, LLC, of Centennial opened its first franchise in 1962 in Denver. The Shane Company sold its first diamond jewelry in 1971 in Denver. In 1973 Re/Max made Denver its headquarters. Johns Manville Corp., a manufacturer of insulation and roofing products, relocated its headquarters to Denver from New York in 1972. CH2M HILL Inc., an engineering and construction firm, relocated from Oregon to the Denver Technological Center in 1980. The Ball Corporation sold its glass business in Indiana in the 1990s and moved to suburban Broomfield; Ball has several operations in greater Denver.
Molson Coors Brewing Company established its U.S. headquarters in Denver in 2005, but announced its departure in 2019. Its subsidiary and regional wholesale distributor, Coors Distributing Company, is in NW Denver. The Newmont Mining Corporation, the second-largest gold producer in North America and one of the largest in the world, is headquartered in Denver. MapQuest, an online site for maps, directions and business listings, is headquartered in Denver’s LoDo district.
Large Denver-area employers that have headquarters elsewhere include Lockheed Martin Corp., United Airlines, Kroger Co. and Xcel Energy, Inc.
Geography also allows Denver to have a considerable government presence, with many federal agencies based or having offices in the Denver area. Along with federal agencies come many companies based on US defense and space projects, and more jobs are brought to the city by virtue of its being the capital of the state of Colorado. The Denver area is home to the former nuclear weapons plant Rocky Flats, the Denver Federal Center, Byron G. Rogers Federal Building and United States Courthouse, the Denver Mint, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
In 2005, a $310.7 million expansion for the Colorado Convention Center was completed, doubling its size. The hope was the center’s expansion would elevate the city to one of the top 10 cities in the nation for holding a convention.
Denver’s position near the mineral-rich Rocky Mountains encouraged mining and energy companies to spring up in the area. In the early days of the city, gold and silver booms and busts played a large role in the city’s economic success. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the energy crisis in America and resulting high oil prices created an energy boom in Denver captured in the soap opera Dynasty. Denver was built up considerably during this time with the construction of many new downtown skyscrapers. When the price of oil dropped from $34 a barrel in 1981 to $9 a barrel in 1986, the Denver economy also dropped, leaving almost 15,000 oil industry workers in the area unemployed (including former mayor and governor John Hickenlooper, a former geologist), and the nation’s highest office vacancy rate (30%). The industry has recovered and the region has 700 employed petroleum engineers. Advances in hydraulic fracturing have made the DJ Basin of Colorado into an accessible and lucrative oil play. Energy and mining are still important in Denver’s economy today, with companies such as EnCana, Halliburton, Smith International, Rio Tinto Group, Newmont Mining, and Noble Energy, headquartered or having significant operations. Denver is in 149th place in terms of the cost of doing business in the United States.
Denver’s west-central geographic location in the Mountain Time Zone (UTC−7) also benefits the telecommunications industry by allowing communication with both North American coasts, South America, Europe, and Asia in the same business day. Denver’s location on the 105th meridian at over one mile (1.6 km) in elevation also enables it to be the largest city in the U.S. to offer a “one-bounce” real-time satellite uplink to six continents in the same business day. Qwest Communications now part of CenturyLink, Dish Network Corporation, Starz, DIRECTV, and Comcast are a few of the many telecommunications companies with operations in the Denver area. These and other high-tech companies had a boom in Denver in the mid to late 1990s. After a rise in unemployment in the Great Recession, Denver’s unemployment rate recovered and had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.6% in November 2016. As of December 2016, the unemployment rate for the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield MSA is 2.6%. The Downtown region has seen increased real estate investment with the construction of several new skyscrapers from 2010 onward and major development around Denver Union Station.
Denver has also enjoyed success as a pioneer in the fast-casual restaurant industry, with many popular national chain restaurants founded and based in Denver. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Quiznos, and Smashburger were founded and headquartered in Denver. Qdoba Mexican Grill, Noodles & Company, and Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard originated in Denver, but have moved their headquarters to the suburbs of Wheat Ridge, Broomfield, and Golden, respectively.
In 2015, Denver ranked No. 1 on Forbes’ list of the Best Places for Business and Careers.
Apollo Hall opened soon after the city’s founding in 1859 and staged many plays for eager settlers. In the 1880s Horace Tabor built Denver’s first opera house. After the start of the 20th century, city leaders embarked on a city beautification program that created many of the city’s parks, parkways, museums, and the Municipal Auditorium, which was home to the 1908 Democratic National Convention and is now known as the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Denver and the metropolitan areas around it continued to support culture. In 1988, voters in the Denver Metropolitan Area approved the Scientific and Cultural Facilities Tax (commonly known as SCFD), a 0.1% (1 cent per $10) sales tax that contributes money to various cultural and scientific facilities and organizations throughout the Metro area. The tax was renewed by voters in 1994 and 2004 and allows the SCFD to operate until 2018.
Denver is home to a wide array of museums. Denver has many nationally recognized museums, including a new wing for the Denver Art Museum by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the second largest Performing Arts Center in the nation after Lincoln Center in New York City and bustling neighborhoods such as LoDo, filled with art galleries, restaurants, bars and clubs. That is part of the reason why Denver was, in 2006, recognized for the third year in a row as the best city for singles. Denver’s neighborhoods also continue their influx of diverse people and businesses while the city’s cultural institutions grow and prosper. The city acquired the estate of abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still in 2004 and built a museum to exhibit his works near the Denver Art Museum. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science holds an aquamarine specimen valued at over $1 million, as well as specimens of the state mineral, rhodochrosite. Every September the Denver Mart, at 451 E. 58th Avenue, hosts a gem and mineral show. The state history museum, History Colorado Center, opened in April 2012. It features hands-on and interactive exhibits, artifacts and programs about Colorado history. It was named in 2013 by True West Magazine as one of the top-ten “must see” history museums in the country. History Colorado’s Byers-Evans House Museum and the Molly Brown House are nearby.
Denver has numerous art districts around the city, including Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe and the River North Art District (RiNo).
While Denver may not be as recognized for historical musical prominence as some other American cities, it has an active pop, jazz, jam, folk, metal, and classical music scene, which has nurtured several artists and genres to regional, national, and even international attention. Of particular note is Denver’s importance in the folk scene of the 1960s and 1970s. Well-known folk artists such as Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and John Denver lived in Denver at various points during this time and performed at local clubs. Three members of the widely popular group Earth, Wind, and Fire are also from Denver. More recent Denver-based artists include Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, The Lumineers, Air Dubai, The Fray, Flobots, Cephalic Carnage, Axe Murder Boyz, Deuce Mob, Havok, Bloodstrike, Primitive Man, and Five Iron Frenzy.
Because of its proximity to the mountains and generally sunny weather, Denver has gained a reputation as being a very active, outdoor-oriented city. Many Denver residents spend the weekends in the mountains; skiing in the winter and hiking, climbing, kayaking, and camping in the summer.
Denver and surrounding cities are home to a large number of local and national breweries. Many of the region’s restaurants have on-site breweries, and some larger brewers offer tours, including Coors and New Belgium Brewing Company. The city also welcomes visitors from around the world when it hosts the annual Great American Beer Festival each fall.
Denver used to be a major trading center for beef and livestock when ranchers would drive (or later transport) cattle to the Denver Union Stockyards for sale. As a celebration of that history, for more than a century Denver has hosted the annual National Western Stock Show, attracting as many as 10,000 animals and 700,000 attendees. The show is held every January at the National Western Complex northeast of downtown.
Denver has one of the country’s largest populations of Mexican Americans and hosts four large Mexican American celebrations: Cinco de Mayo (with over 500,000 attendees), in May; El Grito de la Independencia, in September; the annual Lowrider show, and the Dia De Los Muertos art shows/events in North Denver’s Highland neighborhood, and the Lincoln Park neighborhood in the original section of West Denver.
Denver is also famous for its dedication to New Mexican cuisine and the chile. It is best known for its green and red chile sauce, Colorado burrito, Southwest (Denver) omelette, breakfast burrito, empanadas, chiles rellenos, and tamales. Denver is also well known for other types of food such as Rocky Mountain oysters, rainbow trout, and the Denver sandwich.
The Dragon Boat Festival in July, Moon Festival in September and Chinese New Year are annual events in Denver for the Chinese and Asian-American communities. Chinese hot pot (huo guo) and Korean BBQ restaurants have been growing in popularity. The Denver area has 2 Chinese newspapers, the Chinese American Post and the Colorado Chinese News.
Denver has long been a place tolerant of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. Many gay bars can be found on Colfax Avenue and on South Broadway. Every June, Denver hosts the annual Denver PrideFest in Civic Center Park, the largest LGBTQ Pride festival in the Rocky Mountain region.
Denver is the setting for The Bill Engvall Show, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing and the 18th season of MTV’s The Real World. It was also the setting for the prime time drama Dynasty from 1981 to 1989 (although the show was mostly filmed in Los Angeles). From 1998 to 2002 the city’s Alameda East Veterinary Hospital was home to the Animal Planet series Emergency Vets, which spun off three documentary specials and the current Animal Planet series E-Vet Interns. The city is also the setting for the Disney Channel sitcom Good Luck Charlie.
Denver is home to a variety of sports teams and is one of 13 U.S. cities with teams from four major sports (the Denver metro area is the smallest metropolitan area to have a team in all four major sports). Including MLS soccer, it is one of 10 cities to have five major sports teams. The Denver Broncos of the National Football League have drawn crowds of over 70,000 since their origins in the early 1960s, and continue to draw fans today to their current home Empower Field at Mile High. The Broncos have sold out every home game (except for strike-replacement games) since 1970. The Broncos have advanced to eight Super Bowls and won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998, and won again in 2015.
The Colorado Rockies were created as an expansion franchise in 1993 and Coors Field opened in 1995. The Rockies advanced to the playoffs that year, but were eliminated in the first round. In 2007, they advanced to the playoffs as a wild-card entrant, won the NL Championship Series, and brought the World Series to Denver for the first time but were swept in four games by the Boston Red Sox.
Denver has been home to two National Hockey League teams. The Colorado Rockies played from 1976 to 1982, but became the New Jersey Devils. The Colorado Avalanche joined in 1995, after relocating from Quebec City. While in Denver, they have won two Stanley Cups in 1996 and in 2001. The Denver Nuggets joined the American Basketball Association in 1967 and the National Basketball Association in 1976. The Avalanche and Nuggets have played at Pepsi Center since 1999. The Major League Soccer team Colorado Rapids play in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium opened for the 2007 MLS season in the Denver suburb of Commerce City. The Rapids won the MLS Cup in 2010.
Denver has several additional professional teams. In 2006 Denver established a Major League Lacrosse team, the Denver Outlaws. They play in Empower Field at Mile High. In 2006, the Denver Outlaws won the Western Conference Championship, and then went on to become 2014 MLL Champions, eight years later. The Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League play at the Pepsi Center.
In 2018 the Denver Bandits were established as the first professional football team for women in Colorado, and will be a part of the initial season for the Women’s National Football Conference WNFC in 2019.
Denver submitted the winning bid to host the 1976 Winter Olympics but subsequently withdrew, giving it the dubious distinction of being the only city to back out after having won its bid to host the Olympics. Denver and Colorado Springs hosted the 1962 World Ice Hockey Championships.
As of 2006, Denver had over 200 parks, from small mini-parks all over the city to the giant 314-acre (1.27 km2) City Park. Denver also has 29 recreation centers providing places and programming for resident’s recreation and relaxation.
Many of Denver’s parks were acquired from state lands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This coincided with the City Beautiful movement, and Denver mayor Robert Speer (1904–12 and 1916–18) set out to expand and beautify the city’s parks. Reinhard Schuetze was the city’s first landscape architect, and he brought his German-educated landscaping genius to Washington Park, Cheesman Park, and City Park among others. Speer used Schuetze as well as other landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and Saco Rienk DeBoer to design not only parks such as Civic Center Park, but many city parkways and tree-lawns. All of this greenery was fed with South Platte River water diverted through the city ditch.
In addition to the parks within Denver, the city acquired land for mountain parks starting in the 1911s. Over the years, Denver has acquired, built and maintained approximately 14,000 acres (57 km2) of mountain parks, including Red Rocks Park, which is known for its scenery and musical history revolving around the unique Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Denver also owns the mountain on which the Winter Park Resort ski area operates in Grand County, 67 miles (110 km) west of Denver. City parks are important places for Denverites and visitors, inciting controversy with every change. Denver continues to grow its park system with the development of many new parks along the Platte River through the city, and with Central Park and Bluff Lake Nature Center in the Stapleton neighborhood redevelopment. All of these parks are important gathering places for residents and allow what was once a dry plain to be lush, active, and green. Denver is also home to a large network of public community gardens, most of which are managed by Denver Urban Gardens, a non-profit organization.
Since 1974, Denver and the surrounding jurisdictions have rehabilitated the urban South Platte River and its tributaries for recreational use by hikers and cyclists. The main stem of the South Platte River Greenway runs along the South Platte from Chatfield Reservoir 35 miles (56 km) into Adams County in the north. The Greenway project is recognized as one of the best urban reclamation projects in the U.S., winning, for example, the Silver Medal Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence in 2001.
In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, reported Denver had the 17th best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.
Denver Public Schools (DPS) is the public school system in Denver. It educates approximately 92,000 students in 92 elementary schools, 18 K-8 schools, 34 middle schools, 44 high schools, and 19 charter schools. The first school of what is now DPS was a log cabin that opened in 1859 on the corner of 12th Street between Market and Larimer Streets. The district boundaries are coextensive with the city limits. The Cherry Creek School District serves some areas with Denver postal addresses that are outside the city limits.
Denver’s many colleges and universities range in age and study programs. Three major public schools constitute the Auraria Campus: the University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and Community College of Denver. The private University of Denver was the first institution of higher learning in the city and was founded in 1864. Other prominent Denver higher education institutions include Johnson & Wales University, Catholic (Jesuit) Regis University and the city has Roman Catholic and Jewish institutions, as well as a health sciences school. In addition to those schools within the city, there are a number of schools throughout the surrounding metro area.
Most of Denver has a straightforward street grid oriented to the four cardinal directions. Blocks are usually identified in hundreds from the median streets, identified as “00”, which are Broadway (the east–west median, running north–south) and Ellsworth Avenue (the north–south median, running east–west). Colfax Avenue, a major east–west artery through Denver, is 15 blocks (1500) north of the median. Avenues north of Ellsworth are numbered (with the exception of Colfax Avenue and several others, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and Montview Blvd.), while avenues south of Ellsworth are named.
There is also an older downtown grid system that was designed to be parallel to the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. Most of the streets downtown and in LoDo run northeast–southwest and northwest–southeast. This system has an unplanned benefit for snow removal; if the streets were in a normal N–S/E–W grid, only the N–S streets would receive sunlight. With the grid oriented to the diagonal directions, the NW–SE streets receive sunlight to melt snow in the morning and the NE–SW streets receive it in the afternoon. This idea was from Henry Brown the founder of the Brown Palace Hotel. There is now a plaque across the street from the Brown Palace Hotel that honors this idea. The NW–SE streets are numbered, while the NE–SW streets are named. The named streets start at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway with the block-long Cheyenne Place. The numbered streets start underneath the Colfax and I-25 viaducts. There are 27 named and 44 numbered streets on this grid. There are also a few vestiges of the old grid system in the normal grid, such as Park Avenue, Morrison Road, and Speer Boulevard. Larimer Street, named after William Larimer, Jr., the founder of Denver, which is in the heart of LoDo, is the oldest street in Denver.
All roads in the downtown grid system are streets (e.g. 16th Street, Stout Street), except for the five NE-SW roads nearest the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway: Cheyenne Place, Cleveland Place, Court Place, Tremont Place and Glenarm Place. Roads outside that system that travel east/west are given the suffix “avenue” and those that head north and south are given the “street” suffix (e.g. Colfax Avenue, Lincoln Street). Boulevards are higher capacity streets and travel any direction (more commonly north and south). Smaller roads are sometimes referred to as places, drives (though not all drives are smaller capacity roads, some are major thoroughfares) or courts. Most streets outside the area between Broadway and Colorado Boulevard are organized alphabetically from the city’s center.
Some Denver streets have bicycle lanes, leaving a patchwork of disjointed routes throughout the city. There are over 850 miles of paved, off-road, bike paths in Denver parks and along bodies of water, like Cherry Creek and the South Platte. This allows for a significant portion of Denver’s population to be bicycle commuters and has led to Denver being known as a bicycle-friendly city. Some residents are very opposed to bike lanes, which have caused some plans to be watered down or nixed. The review process for one bike line on Broadway will last over a year before city council members will make a decision. In addition to the many bike paths, Denver launched B-Cycle – a citywide bicycle sharing program – in late April 2010. The B-Cycle network was the largest in the United States at the time of its launch, boasting 400 bicycles.
The Denver Boot, a car-disabling device, was first used in Denver.
The League of American Bicyclists has rated Colorado as the sixth most bicycle-friendly state in the nation for the year 2014. This is due in large part to Front Range cities like Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver placing an emphasis on legislation, programs and infrastructure developments that promote cycling as a mode of transportation. Walk score has rated Denver as the fourth most bicycle-friendly large city in the United States. According to data from the 2011 American Community Survey, Denver ranks 6th among US cities with populations over 400,000 in terms of the percentage of workers who commute by bicycle at 2.2% of commuters. B-Cycle – Denver’s citywide bicycle sharing program – was the largest in the United States at the time of its launch in 2010, boasting 400 bicycles. B-Cycle ridership peaked in 2014, then steadily declined. The program announced it would cease operations at the end of January 2020. The city announced plans to seek one or more new contractors to run a bike-share program starting mid-2020.
Electric rental scooters
In 2018, electric scooter services began to place scooters in Denver. Hundreds of unsanctioned LimeBike and Bird electric scooters appeared on Denver streets in May, causing an uproar. In June, the city ordered the companies to remove them and acted quickly to create an official program, making a requirement that scooters be left at RTD stops and out of the public right-of-way. Lime and Bird scooters then reappeared in late July, with limited compliance. Uber’s Jump e-bikes arrived in late August, followed by Lyft’s nationwide electric scooter launch in early September. Lyft plans to offer ride-sharing, electric scooter and e-bike services all from its app. It says that it will, each night, take the scooters to the warehouse for safety checks, maintenance and charging. Additionally, Spin and Razor each were permitted to add 350 scooters.
2017 rankings by Walk Score placed Denver twenty-sixth among 108 U.S. cities with a population of 200,000 or greater. City leaders have acknowledged the concerns of walkability advocates that Denver has serious gaps in its sidewalk network. The 2019 Denver Moves: Pedestrians plan outlines a need for approximate $1.3 billion in sidewalk funding, plus $400 million for trails. Denver does not currently have resources to fully fund this plan.
Mass transportation throughout the Denver metropolitan area is managed and coordinated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD). RTD operates more than 1,000 buses serving over 10,000 bus stops in 38 municipal jurisdictions in eight counties around the Denver and Boulder metropolitan areas. Additionally, RTD operates eleven rail lines, the A, B, C, D, E, F, G, L, R, W, and H with a total of 57.9 miles (93.2 km) of track, serving 44 stations. The C, D, E, F, L, R, W and H lines are light rail while the A Line, B Line and G Line are commuter rail.
FasTracks is a commuter rail, light rail, and bus expansion project approved by voters in 2004, which will serve neighboring suburbs and communities. The W Line, or West line, opened in April 2013 serving Golden/Federal Center. The commuter rail A Line from Denver Union Station to Denver International Airport opened in April 2016 with ridership exceeding RTD’s early expectations. The light rail R Line through Aurora opened in February 2017. The G Line to the suburb of Arvada opened on April 26, 2019 after being originally planned to open in the Fall of 2016. The N Line to Commerce City and Thornton, was last estimated to open in Spring 2020.
An express bus service, known as the Flatiron Flyer, serves to connect Boulder and Denver. The service, billed as bus rapid transit, has been accused of bus rapid transit creep for failing to meet the majority of BRT requirements, including level boarding and all-door entry. A commuter rail connection to Boulder and its suburb of Longmont, also part of the FasTracks ballot initiative and an extension of the B Line, is planned to be finished by RTD, but no construction funds have yet been identified prior to 2040. RTD is currently considering an interim commuter service which would run rush-hour trains from Longmont to Denver.
The Colorado Department of Transportation runs Bustang, a bus system that offers weekday and weekend service connecting Denver with Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Gunnison.
Greyhound Lines, the intercity bus operator, has a major hub in Denver, with routes to New York City, Portland, Reno, Las Vegas, and their headquarters, Dallas. Subsidiary Autobuses Americanos provides service to El Paso. Allied bus operators Black Hills Trailways, and Burlington Trailways provide service to Billings, Omaha, Indianapolis, and Alamosa.
Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Denver, operating its California Zephyr daily in both directions between Chicago and Emeryville, California, across the bay from San Francisco. Amtrak Thruway service operated by private bus companies links the Denver station with Rocky Mountain points. In 2017 the Colorado legislature reinvigorated studies of passenger rail service along the Front Range, potentially connecting Denver to Fort Collins and Pueblo, or further to Amtrak connections in Cheyenne, Wyoming and Trinidad.
At Albuquerque, New Mexico, Denver Thruway connections are made daily with the Amtrak Southwest Chief. Additionally, the Ski Train operated on the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, which took passengers between Denver and the Winter Park Ski Resort, but it is no longer in service. The Ski Train made its final run to Winter Park on March 29, 2009. The service was revived on a trial basis in 2016 with a great amount of local fanfare. Further development of a mountain corridor rail option, though publicly popular, has been met with resistance from politicians, namely the director of Colorado Department of Transportation. The Ski Train did return to service under Amtrak with the name “Winter Park Express” in 2017, and currently runs only on Saturdays, Sundays, and major holidays during the winter ski seasons.
Denver’s early years as a major train hub of the west are still very visible today. Trains stop in Denver at historic Union Station, where travelers can access RTD’s 16th Street Free MallRide or use light rail to tour the city. Union Station will also serve as the main juncture for rail travel in the metro area, at the completion of FasTracks. The city also plans to invest billions to bringing frequent public transit within one-fourth of a mile of most of its residents.
Denver public transportation statistics
The average amount of time people spend commuting on public transit in Denver and Boulder, Colorado—for example, to and from work, on a weekday—is 77 minutes; 31% of public transit riders ride for more than 2 hours every day. The average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public transit is 14 minutes, while 25% of riders wait for over 20 minutes, on average, every day. The average distance people usually ride in a single trip with public transit is 6.96 miles (11.20 km), while 31% travel over 7.46 miles (12.01 km) in a single direction.
Denver International Airport (IATA: DEN, ICAO: KDEN), commonly known as DIA or DEN, serves as the primary airport for the Front Range Urban Corridor surrounding Denver. DIA is 18.6 miles (30 km) east-northeast of the Colorado State Capitol. DIA is the 20th busiest airport in the world and ranks 5th in the United States, with 64,494,613 passengers passing through it in 2018. It covers more than 53 square miles (137.3 km2), making it the largest airport by land area in the United States and larger than the island of Manhattan. Denver serves as a major hub for United Airlines, is the headquarters and primary hub for Frontier Airlines, and is a major focus city and the fastest-growing market for Southwest Airlines.
As of 2017, Denver International Airport has been rated by Skytrax as the 28th best airport in the world, falling to second place in the United States behind only Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Skytrax also named DIA as the second best regional airport in North America for 2017, and the fourth best regional airport in the world.
Three general aviation airports serve the Denver area. Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (KBJC) is 13.7 miles (22 km) north-northwest, Centennial Airport (KAPA) is 13.7 miles (22 km) south-southeast, and Colorado Air and Space Port formerly, Front Range Airport (KCFO) is 23.7 miles (38 km) east of the state capitol.
In the past, Denver has been home to several other airports that are no longer operational. Stapleton International Airport was closed in 1995 when it was replaced by DIA. Lowry Air Force Base was a military flight training facility that ceased flight operations in 1966, with the base finally being closed in 1994. Both Stapleton and Lowry have since been redeveloped into primarily residential neighborhoods. Buckley Air Force Base, a former Air National Guard base, is the only military facility in the Denver area.
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