What Should RTD Do With A Prime Piece Of Downtown Denver Real Estate?

Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
RTD owns a 20,000 square-foot parcel of land near Civic Center Station in downtown Denver, but hasn’t decided what to do with it.

As construction has boomed in downtown Denver in recent years, empty lots have become a rarity. 

A notable exception is on Colfax Avenue, between Broadway and Lincoln Street, where the Regional Transportation District has a 55-year lease on a 20,000-square-foot parcel just south of Civic Center Station. It sits empty, with the exception of some short trees and landscaping rocks.

RTD’s board on Tuesday night signaled what they won’t do with the prime piece of land: lease it for $1 a year to the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation. The foundation wanted to use the plot as a gateway park to a facility it might build across on Lincoln Street.

“I think it’s fair to say that no one on the board is comfortable with the notion of leasing for a dollar a year,” said RTD board chair Doug Tisdale. “If the project should go forward, it would require some other individual, agency, company, others, to come forward and provide a financial incentive to RTD.” 

Denver and Arlington, Texas are finalists for the new museum. The agency's leadership is set to meet with the foundation’s staff later this week.

Left undecided is what to do with the gravel-covered land, which RTD now pays $123,000 for every year.

“I guess we could lease it to food trucks or something?” said board member Bob Broom.

A 2016 master plan for Civic Center Station calls for the plot to become a “dynamic public space” in the short- and medium-term, a concept that could include food trucks and other low-cost, temporary attractions. In the long-term, the plan envisions the plot be used for a building. RTD staff and some board members suggested the agency could build a new 10- to 12-story headquarters there. 

It could also be held open for future expansion of Civic Center Station, an idea that board member Shelley Cook said was worth exploring.

“I’d just hate to trim our 20- or 30-year ability to expand if we needed to at some point, without really thinking it through,” she said.

Broom said RTD may be better off doing nothing, in the hopes that the land’s value increases in the next five or 10 years. 

“They're not going to make any more land in that area,” he said.

RTD staff said they’d explore more options and report back to the board later this year.