No Vision for East Arapahoe

Typical East ArapahoeI went to the Open House for the city’s Envision East Arapahoe project last night. This process was originally supposed to look at transportation improvements and potential land-use changes along the East Arapahoe corridor. But based on the presentation from and some conversations with staff, it sounds like they’ve scaled the project back on the land-use side to only considering what the best split between employment/retail/housing would be for the 4,300 jobs they estimate could be out there under current zoning but which haven’t been built out yet.  When you compare that number to the existing ~34,000 jobs in the study area, it’s clear that no change in the character of the corridor is going to be considered.

Which is amazing, because it’s horrible for the most part now.  People who have to walk and bike through the area use words like “hellhole” and “wasteland” and “disaster area.”  But I guess Motordom seems to think it’s just fine as is.

The city has apparently been inundated with “Don’t make it like Boulder Junction!” comments, and so have been scared off from doing anything substantial to the land use.  Of course there’s still lots of flowery language about bike and pedestrian amenities, but they’ll be of little use if there are no destinations in the area to speak of, and it continues to have a giant freeway running through the middle of it.

At this point it feels like the best outcome within these constraints might be to stop throwing planning resources toward land use changes at all (including the 4,300 jobs/housing/etc) but get a real BRT line along Arapahoe, so that if/when we come to our senses on land use, the transit trunk line capacity is already in place to potentially support redevelopment without creating a traffic disaster.

It would be nice if there was at least one scenario modeled in all this — if they’re going to continue putting staff hours into it — that included substantial changes to the zoning.  Just to see what it looks like in terms of VMT, GHG emissions, potential street cross-sections, etc.

It would also be nice if the superblock between the east CU campus and Boulder Junction got special treatment, and were looked at with an eye toward knitting those two urbanizing areas together into one cohesive whole.  It’s miserable to walk or bike through now, built to very low intensity with a ton of surface parking, but it could be a wonderful mixed use district served well by the new transit hub and in easy walking distance of the University.  Restaurants, lab and office space for university spin-offs or startups, some housing, etc.  More than any other part of the Arapahoe corridor, that place seems to have a context that demands some re-envisioning in the shorter term.

The whole package goes to Council tonight (Tuesday, 10/28) for their feedback.

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