Residents eye Gold Line station plans

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Denver Metro area residents and officials recently converged on the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center to take part in an interactive forum having to do with the forthcoming Gold Line — a commuter rail line that will soon provide transportation between downtown Denver and Wheat Ridge, and places in between.

The Oct. 30 event provided an opportunity for the public to weigh in on plans for amenities that will be located along the Gold Line’s stations, when the rail line begins operating in 2016.

The 11.2 mile Gold Line will provide service from Denver’s Union Station to Wheat Ridge, with stops along the way in northwest Denver, Adams County and Arvada.

An 85-foot long commuter train that will have the capacity to carry 232 passengers will stop at seven stations once it leaves Union Station. Individual planning groups are currently in the process of figuring out what kinds of amenities will surround each station, be they housing, businesses or recreation opportunities.

“What we’ve done here tonight is to provide an opportunity to bring in the public and said, ‘This is what these folks have done. Do you agree with it? Do you think we’ve missed the mark?’” said Paul Aldretti, a sustainable communities coordinator for the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

Aldretti’s group is behind the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which is providing planning and implementation activities for the Gold Line, and two other Denver-area commuter rails that will begin operation 2016.

Each station has its own working group that drive plans around the Gold Line stops. The groups are made up of representatives from public works, planning, economic development and other fields. Those groups receive feedback from separate, corridor stakeholder committees, which are made up of residents and representatives from the small business community.

Those who attended the forum were able to “walk the line” of the Gold Line corridor, where they could see each station’s vision, opportunities and challenges, as they relate to station planning.

Each station’s goals vary. The two Adams County stations, which be called the Pecos and Federal stations, look to serve as “employment centers” for the county, offering “a strong industrial jobs base” there.

Arvada will have three stations along the corridor: Sheridan, Old Towne and Arvada Ridge.

The Sheridan Station hopes to “provide diverse employment opportunities.” And the vision behind the Arvada Old Towne Station seeks to revitalize Old Towne “as a vibrant, 18-hour downtown” that will provide “additional retail, employment, dining and living opportunities” there.

Each station has its own challenges, as well. For example, environmental factors could affect development along the Pecos Junction Station. Much of the area is a former landfill and there could be floodplain issues there. And high land prices that would surround the Arvada Olde Towne Station might make affordable housing in that area difficult to come by.

Attendees were also able to provide input on what they would like to see in each of the stations.

For example, the Arvada Ridge station, which will be located in close proximity to Red Rocks Community College, received several comments that had to do with bicycle parking and opportunities for student housing.

Wheat Ridge hopes to create a “mixed-use ‘village’ with a slightly urban character” to the Ward Station. City Councilwoman Joyce Jay, who attended the forum, said it’s “exciting” to think about what that could entail, when all is said and done.

“I mean, the possibilities are endless,” said Jay. “Employment and attractive, higher density housing ... We could have a theater area; it could be a destination for Wheat Ridge.”

The Gold Line is an RTD FasTracks project that has received funding through a $1 billion federal grant. Groundbreaking for the Gold Line corridor occurred at the future Arvada Old Towne Station in 2011.

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