Take a poll at the end of this blog.
The last time K.C. Mason marched in a protest was in 1965 and the war in Vietnam was raging.
“I helped stop the draft and maybe I can now help stop RedPeak,” said Mason during the evening rush hour on Wednesday, as she joined about 50 others that carried signs and for more than an hour circled the intersection of West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, just south of where RedPeak Properties plans to build three luxury apartment buildings. The energy-efficient apartment community would have a total of 147 units on Lowell, Meade Street and West Moncrieff Place. While under the current U-MS-5 zoning RedPeak could build five-story buildings on each parcel, RedPeak plans to build four stories on Moncrieff and five stories on the other two sites.
Mason, and other members of a grassroots group called No High Rises in West Highland, want to see the buildings on Moncrieff and Meade lowered to three stories, and are angered and disappointed that Councilwoman Susan Shepherd is not pursuing a downzoning at City Council. Even though a downzoning vote was almost certainly not to garner the super-majority of 10 votes it needed to pass, many in the group feel betrayed by Shepherd’s decision. Shepherd did not respond to InsideRealEstateNews for a comment.
One of them was Christine Manesis, who carried a sign that proclaimed in large black letters, dripping with red: “SUSAN SHEPHERD: A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING.”
Some wore or carried the No High Rise Signs planted in many front yards, especially close to the buildings planned by RedPeak. Slogans scrawled on home-made signs included things such as “Main Street zoning belongs on Main Street,” “Homeowners have property rights too,” “RedPeak Gets $$ We Get No Parking.” Todd Lilienthal carried a giant, framed white board that contained more than 70 words, many of them Shepherd’s own words opposing the development, ending with “Why is our councilwoman NOT supporting her district?’
Manesis said she was thrilled by the number of people who walked the walk.
“I am very pleased,” she said. “It is not over. We are not giving up. We are not going away. The fight is not over.”
“I thought I would make a pun on the Arab Spring,” said Bolduc, who carried a sign inviting people to “Join the West Highland’s Spring.”
Bolduc, who has live in the neighborhood for the past 26 years, echoed the concerns of many that the new apartments would bring congestion and increased traffic to the neighborhood.
“It just never should have been zoned for five-story buildings,” she said. “Parking already is tight and this is going to make it worse. And 147 apartments are too many. It’s going to mess with the charm of this neighborhood.”
Many of the people brought their young children or carried babies with them. “It’s your first protest,” a number of people cooed to infants.
Laura Goode, the founder of the No High Rise group, said one of the purposes of the rally was to delay traffic in order to give people a taste of what they can expect if RedPeak moves forward with 147 units.
Shepherd is pushing for the city to conduct a traffic survey to measure the impact. A study by the city in 2004 found that during the morning peak time between 283 and 486 vehicles were heading eastbound in an hour at West 32nd and Lowell and between 207 and 472 were westbound. During the evening rush hours, between 257 and 292 vehicles were eastbound in an hour and 298 to 436 were westbound.
Although traffic likely has become worse as the area has become trendier, the Piton Foundation notes that the West Highland neighborhood’s population was flat from 2000 to 2010, growing to 8,540 from 8,501 over that decade.
RedPeak also has argued that some of the potential traffic will be mitigated by the potential of a Denver B-cycle station at is energy-efficient development. Some No High Rise members have said that Denver B-cycle will not be allowed to build a bike station in its development, but Nick Bohnekmap, director of system planning and special projects for the bike-sharing non-profit group, said it is possible.
He noted that RedPeak has been a supporter of the program since it was launched in 2010 and helped it secure a spot at one of its properties in Cherry Creek.
“Regarding their new properties in Highlands, they have reached out to us about providing space and locating a station in conjunction with their development work,” Bohnenkamp said. “We are looking for a location in that area somewhere, but at this time the exact location of the station is still to be determined, as we assess what’s best for our system. Regardless of the future B-station location in that area, we are working with them to continue their sponsorship support of bike sharing for the coming season.”
Meanwhile, many motorists traveling through the intersection appeared to support the protesters. Many of them honked their homes and waved.
However, not everyone was on board.
A little while later, another driver, talking on her cell phone while turning north on Lowell, screamed at a protester, who was a bit slow in getting to the sidewalk. The protester responded by gently tapping his sign on the back of her car, as she sped away.
“Wow, I hope she doesn’t live in the neighborhood,” he muttered to himself.
Jason Lancaster, who was walking his bicycle along West 32nd, looked at the protesters with disdain.
“I rent. I don’t care,” he said. “These people live in their $300,000 and $400,000 homes and now are telling other people what they can do with their property. I don’t like it. The got in, made their money on their homes, and now are locking the key to the door on another property owner and telling him he can’t do what he is legally allowed to do. It’s not right.”
One thing that the protesters didn’t get is any TV coverage.
Goode hopes to remedy that by holding another protest rally on a Sunday.
“We haven’t picked the date yet. We’ll also have speakers at the next one.”
2004 Traffic Count by City of Denver
Date Start Direction AM Peak vehicles per hour PM Peak vehicles per hour 24-Hour Vehicles
5-12-2004 East of Lowell East on 32nd 482 283 4,287
5-12-2004 West of Lowell East on 32nd 483 317 4,327
5-13-2004 West of Lowell West on 32nd 472 311 4,120
5-13-2004 East of Lowell West on 32nd 207 396 4.086
5-14-2004 West of Lowell East on 32nd 443 325 4,660
5-13-2004 East of Lowell West on 32nd 259 386 4,090
5-13-2004 East of Lowell East on 32nd 464 260 4,002
5-14-2004 East of Lowell West on 32nd 234 451 4,615
5-14-2004 East of Lowell East on 32nd 452 292 3,607
5-15-2004 East of Lowell East on 32nd 283 271 3,261
5-15-2004 West of Lowell East on 32nd 306 282 3,992
5-17-2004 East of Lowell East on 32nd 480 257 3,677
5-17-2004 West of Lowell East on 32nd 446 266 3,950
5-15-2004 East of Lowell West on 32nd 267 298 3,895
5-18-2004 West of Lowell East on 32nd 486 296 4,359
5-18-2004 East of Lowell West on 32nd 248 436 4,245
5-15-2004 North of 32nd South on Lowell 242 328 3,365
5-14-2004 South of 32nd South on Lowell 226 299 3,365
5-13-2004 South of 32nd South on Lowell 243 247 3,015
5-17-2004 South of 32nd South on Lowell 253 262 3,092
5-18-2004 South of 32nd South on Lowell 250 273 3,165
6-5-2004 South of 32nd North on Lowell 205 218 2,719
5-17-2004 North of 32nd South on Lowell 330 326 3,816
6-6-2004 South of 32nd North on Lowell 170 300 2,833
6-7-2004 South of 32nd North on Lowell 170 300 2,833
6-8-2004 South of 32nd North on Lowell 155 292 2,833