Brownfield Redevelopment Brings Mixed-Use, Mixed-income Residences to Denver

Jim Johnson, AIA, founder and principal of JG Johnson Architects in Denver and a past chair of the Denver Partnership Housing Council, discusses his firm’s work on a new mixed-use, mixed-income, transit-oriented development in Denver. When completed, Alexan Broadway Station will be comprised of 479 units and 14,000 sq. ft. of retail space and public amenities.Name of Project: Alexan Broadway Station/The Reserve at GatesType of project: This is a 479-unit, market-rate (419 units) and affordable (60 units) rental apartment project. Also included is approximately 14,000 sq. ft. of retail space and public amenities, including the leasing center, clubroom, fitness center, and outdoor pool and patio area. It is a transit-oriented development, as it is located along Denver’s South Broadway bus line and within walking distance of the major Broadway Station light rail stop. A six-tier pre-cast concrete parking structure is centrally located on the site and screened from the public right-of-way.Client: Trammell Crow ResidentialBuilder: Colorado Structures Inc. (CSI)MHN: What were the client’s aesthetic and functional design objectives? Johnson: The aesthetic objectives included the use of durable materials that are compatible with the urban surroundings, and variation in the building elevations to provide depth and visual interest in the architecture. The functional objectives included high density, efficient residential unit configurations, balconies with natural views and a naturally ventilated parking structure.MHN: Describe the overall site size of the project. Johnson: The project is situated on a five-acre site and consists of four separate structures, including three five-story residential structures and one six-tier structured parking garage. The residential buildings include Building A (73,444 gross sq. ft.), Building B (67,110 gross sq. ft.) and Building C (384,598 gross sq. ft.) for a combined area of 525,152 gross sq. ft. The structured parking garage, Building D, consists of 202,557 gross sq. ft. MHN: Describe the client’s target demographic. Johnson: The client’s target demographic consists of singles and/or couples between the ages of 25 and 35 who are interested in living in an urban environment with close proximity to downtown and mass transit.MHN: How does the architecture and design of this project help the client to be more competitive in the marketplace? Johnson: This project provides an urban experience for its residents. It provides them with transportation options and amenities close to their residence. It creates an atmosphere of community with easy connections to other areas of the city.MHN: What were the challenges of this project and how did you resolve them? Johnson: Water quality and water retention were difficult problems, due to the high project density and limited open space on the site. To resolve this issue, a large retention tank was designed beneath the structured parking garage. This tank has no impact on the available site area and did not impact the allowable density on the site. Due to the functional need for greater density, Building C was designed as a very large structure, which exceeded the maximum allowable square footage allowed by code. It was also the client’s request that this building be phased. To solve this problem, the building was designed with two separate firewalls, which allowed for the building to be constructed in phases and also created smaller square footage areas allowed by code. In order to meet the client’s request for density, it was necessary to provide five-story structures. It was also the client’s desire to use wood construction but type V-A wood construction only allowed for a four-story structure. To solve this problem, the design utilized a three-hour rated concrete podium with four stories of wood-framed construction above. An administrative modification was obtained to allow for five stories of residential occupancy.MHN: Describe the overall housing trends that this project is addressing. Johnson: This project is a brownfield development. The original site contained structures associated with the Gates Rubber Company and is just a small part of the overall Gates industrial site. It is a redevelopment of an existing industrial site that will bring revitalization to the area by infusing young residents into this abandoned industrial site.MHN: What design features make this project stand apart from others in the market? Johnson: This project has a unique relationship to the adjacent industrial development and neighboring residential areas. Its close proximity to mass transit makes it attractive for environmentally conscious individuals.MHN: Describe any innovative materials and construction methods.Johnson: This project is a combination of Type I-A concrete podium construction, Type V-A wood framed construction, and Type II-B pre-cast concrete construction. Although not LEED-certified, some green building techniques were utilized in the design, including recycled materials, renewable resources, energy-efficient appliances and mechanical systems, and enhanced building envelope detailing.