Aria Denver is a diverse, intergenerational, mixed-income, urban infill neighborhood designed intentionally to create community with a focus on the health of its residents and the surrounding neighborhoods. The ideals of community and environmental stewardship are instilled by the Sisters of St. Francis, the former owners of the property, and are woven into all aspects of the Aria Denver development. Located within one block of Regis University, the Aria Denver Neighborhood fosters a unique relationship with the University, along with other project partners, for learning new skills, to maximize personal health, and establish physical connectivity for a neighborhood that was severely isolated by Federal Boulevard and I-70. Programs established onsite promote an active lifestyle with walking paths and exercise facilities, increase access to healthy food including a one-acre production garden and community plots, and with Regis, offer integrated health services for a community that is designated a “food and health care desert.” Dedicated to environmental sustainability, Aria Denver commits to conserving energy, planting drought-tolerant/water-wise landscapes, and employing durable materials.
Aria Denver is a new neighborhood intentionally designed to cultivate life by providing a well-designed community that provides affordable housing, promotes active living through walking and exercise trails, and is supported by two production gardens onsite, and fosters continued education in partnership with Regis University. The 17.5 acre site features a variety of housing options – from rental apartments to for-sale townhomes to cohousing units. Over 40% of the total units are affordable, with 168 units for those earning less than 60% area median income (AMI). Aria Denver is a diverse and intergenerational community, a place where people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests can find their place.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES:
The goal of Aria Denver is to be a model for sustainable development that will support neighborhood revitalization in the surrounding area. Aria Denver is part of the Cultivate Health initiative, a partnership among Regis University, Aria Denver, and the surrounding neighborhoods. The goal of Cultivate Health is to support the health and wellness of residents in the neighborhood. The project creates infrastructure and programming that promote an active lifestyle, increase access to healthy food, and offer integrated health services.
The Landscape Architect led a multi-disciplinary team for master planning for the project, in addition to implementing the project in several phases. Special factors and objectives included the following:
SEED TO PLATE – Aria Denver features a one-acre production garden, community garden plots, and permaculture pocket gardens with the coined name, The Sister Gardens, after the site’s heritage, as well as an 1,800 square foot greenhouse for year-round gardening. Both the greenhouse and production garden are operated by a local non-profit that sells the fresh produce to the neighborhood and Denver businesses, and provides job training to low-income youth. Regis University’s Center for Food Systems and Community Health offers classes to community residents as well as to students in the gardens.
The garden is also a big part of the university’s Cultivate Health Project, a partnership with the surrounding neighborhoods to promote healthy living in the communities, particularly the Chaffee Park neighborhood where Aria is located. A non-profit group hosts weekly classes at the garden on a variety of food-harvesting activities such as beekeeping, water usage, saving seeds, and raising chickens, amongst the always open door for just helping in the garden.
ACTIVE LIVING – The design of a community has direct impacts on a resident’s physical fitness and overall health. Aria Denver was thoughtfully planned to encourage active living with walking paths and exercise facilities planned on site. A nearby park and Aria Co-housing features outdoor fitness equipment, two of several destinations along a 3.7-mile wellness walk. The wellness walk connects Aria Denver with Regis University and other neighborhood landmarks, such as Beach Court Elementary School and Zuni Park. Bicycle programs featuring urban riding classes and basic repair classes will be offered to the community as well as a healthy living coordinator to lead group walks, fitness classes, and other active living programs.
The vegetable garden and healthy-food focus are part of an overarching theme for the development meant to promote health through diet and exercise, as well as preventative health care.
GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE – Aria Denver is dedicated to environmental sustainability. This includes planting drought-resistant landscaping and utilizing durable materials for longer life and reduced maintenance. It also includes utilizing low impact development (LID) techniques to reduce stormwater runoff while also consolidating stormwater management for all phases of the project in a shallow wetland pond to create a natural, passive park at the northwest entry of the site. Landscape-based green infrastructure strategies allowed the project to be phased overtime, when financially feasible.
CONNECTIVITY – Because Aria Denver is located on a major regional corridor, Federal Boulevard, that cuts through lower-income areas, improving access to healthy food benefits the community overall. Enhancements to one of Denver’s most dangerous corridors for pedestrians, the development and design team worked with both Adams and Denver County to provide critical input on median and roadway signal locations. Improvements by Aria Denver included landscape enhancements to continue Federal Parkway and widen sidewalks that provide important and safe connections to the Clear Creek/Federal Light Station.
POCKET PARKS –Aria Denver is located near a portion of park-poor neighborhood that lacks access to a park within a 10-minute walk for residents, a goal for the City of Denver. The site plan is developed around the idea of “pocket neighborhoods” whereby common spaces are neither private (backyard) nor public (a busy street), and the residents surrounding the common spaces share in its care and oversight, enhancing the security and identity of the community. Private streets within the community are narrow, and designed to place an emphasis on use, bicycle safety, and neighborhood interaction. Parkside Avenue, a private street, is designed to accommodate street festivals in front of the historic convent building—the symbolic and geographic heart of the community.
Pocket parks are strategically located near the higher density affordable apartments within the development for ease of access to flexible open courtyards and green spaces buffered by dense planting and shade trees. The focal pocket park is located at the heart and center of the development, adjacent to the historic convent that has been renovated into Co-housing which revolves around common areas that promote diversity and getting to know your neighbor. The focal pocket park otherwise known as the Inner Green is perfectly situated in the development to promote a central gathering space for the entire neighborhood and tie the community together with the help of the Co-housing residents.
PROJECT INVOLVEMENT (ROLE OF LA vs. OTHER TEAM MEMBERS):
The Landscape Architect led the multi-disciplinary team through master planning and implementation of the project including eight different architects providing a variety of housing and commercial building types, one civil engineer consistent throughout, and electrical, survey, and irrigation — through a multi-phase, decade-long (still ongoing) site development process including master planning, design, and construction. Collaboration with the design team and developer was crucial for strategically delineating implementable, financially feasible projects for building and infrastructure improvements that would be phased over a decade-long timeframe. The Landscape Architect also worked closely with the developer on messaging and marketing materials to support partnerships with the University, non-profits, and funding applications for health initiatives within the development and adjacent neighborhood.
Dedicated to environmental sustainability, Aria Denver commits to conserving energy, planting drought-tolerant/water-wise landscapes, and employing durable materials. And, through unique partnerships and programs with the adjacent Regis University and the surrounding community, Aria Denver offers integrated health services for a long underserved community that was designated a “food and health care desert.”
Documents and Media
Planning Docs (if applicable):