RTD’s Getting Closer To Doing Something With That Empty Lot At Broadway And Colfax

September 16, 2019
RTD holds a lease on this unused lot at Broadway and Colfax Avenue through 2075. RTD holds a lease on this unused lot at Broadway and Colfax Avenue through 2075. Nathaniel Minor/CPR News
RTD holds a lease on this unused lot at Broadway and Colfax Avenue through 2075.

Just last August, the Regional Transportation District's board said they weren't interested in a proposal to turn an empty lot at Colfax Avenue and Broadway into a park-like entrance to what might be a new museum.

But on Tuesday night, the RTD board will vote on a plan to do just that.

What's changed? Money.

Here's the background: RTD holds a 55-year lease on the 20,000-square-foot parcel. The transit agency decided it didn't need it for its Civic Center Station, which opened in 2017. The National Medal of Honor Museum, which is considering building a $150 million facility across Lincoln Street, said it would give RTD $1 a year for the lot.

That proposal didn't go very far.

“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,” RTD board chair Doug Tisdale said in August. “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.” 

Which is exactly what happened. The city and county of Denver said it might just cover RTD's annual $123,000 lease. RTD board documents say Denver's made a commitment, but a city spokeswoman said it's not quite a done deal.

"Allocating city funds to lease the RTD property located at Colfax and Broadway is one of the options in discussion," Jen Morris, spokeswoman for Denver Economic Development & Opportunity, wrote in an email.

Even if the RTD board approves the deal, it'll still need sign-off from the Denver City Council — and is, of course, contingent on museum officials choosing the Mile High City. Arlington, Texas is also under consideration.

Tryba Architects/Courtesy Downtown Denver Partnership
This rendering shows the proposed location of the National Medal of Honor Musuem on state-owned land found at the corner of Colfax and Lincoln in Denver, Colo. RTD's empty lot is just to the left.

Museum officials have already visited Denver to sell their plan and said they'd announce which city they've selected around the start of October. Once that announcement is made, Morris said, the city will finalize its plans.

The museum would be devoted to Medal of Honor recipients and include military artifacts and multimedia exhibits.

"Whether your politics are on the left or right, the idea of building a National Medal of Honor museum that celebrates those that have earned the highest award, our nation's highest award for valor in combat, that's objectively a good thing," foundation CEO Joe Daniels told CPR News' Stephanie Wolf.