Denver Children's Hospital Charrette
By Megan Valdiserri
This year at the 2003 APA National Planning Conference, the American Institute of Certified Planners sponsored its third annual Community Planning Team (CPT) Charrette. APA and AICP developed the charrette to provide an opportunity for planners to contribute their time and effort offering assistance to communities confronting planning challenges.
On Saturday morning, the CPT traveled to Denver Children's Hospital to assist the hospital administration and the surrounding neighborhood residents evaluate different redevelopment plans for the 20-acre site that will be vacated by Children's Hospital when it relocates to the Colorado Health Sciences Centers on the Fitzsimons Campus in 2007. The site is adjacent to two other health care facilities and surrounded by a dense residential neighborhood of mid-rise apartment buildings, small-scale retail businesses, extensive office space, and historic single-family homes.
Planners participating in the charrette started the day with a bus tour and a walking tour of the Denver Uptown neighborhood. Following the tours, the group of more than 30 planners congregated at Children's Hospital to begin the charrette. After a few brief introductions, UCD urban design graduated students outlined their proposed plans for possible redevelopment of the site. The following outlines the premise for each proposed scenario:
Scenario A: Conservation / Preservation. This scenario explored mandating that buildings in poor condition will be demolished leaving appropriate life cycled facilities to be refurbished for adaptable reuse plus incorporating additive mixed-use development.
Scenario B: Clean Slate. This scenario investigated planning for a phased scrape down and complete new development of the site.
Scenario C: Hybrid: This scenario explored a mix of both scenarios A and B.
Following the overview of scenarios, there were four breakout discussion groups. These groups focused on one of each of the scenarios so that planners, Children's Hospital administration, and community residents could more closely examine the pros and cons to the proposed plans. Some of the issues explored in the breakout sessions included edge treatments and the transitions between the Children's Hospital site and the surrounding residential neighborhoods, opportunities to create more open space and park area, and re-establishment of the street grid system.
During the group report and next steps discussion that followed the individual breakout sessions, most of the participants concurred that fostering a mix of uses and enhancing the existing park space available should be part of a final development plan.
There was some concern and contention amongst the group about how to treat the street areas around the hospital, as well as how the building should be used after it is vacated. Some people favored converting the site into affordable housing units, while other people feared the loss of a large economic base in the neighborhood and wanted to fill this void by using the space to maintain economic stability and employment base within the community.
While the hospital will not finalize its development plans for the next couple of years, the charrette helped develop guiding principles to create a foundation for successful development. Providing a forum for neighborhood representatives and hospital administration to voice their concerns and make suggestions was recognized as the first step to a successful planning and redevelopment process.
Recommendations derived during the charrette will be included as an appendix to the final report of the scenarios produced by the UCD urban design students.