Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Land use plan defines campus boundaries

In 2002, urging from neighbors and the city of Denver led to the University’s agreeing to create its first land-use plan. It was a bold document, intended to publicly lay out DU’s ambitions over 20 years.

Neighbors wanted to know if DU had expansion in mind, and the University wanted to be sure it was following a reliable road map to the future.

“In 2002, we formed an agreement with the city to provide a master plan on how we will generally build out the campus,” Community Liaison Neil Krauss said in September at a meeting of University Neighbors.

Five years later, the land-use plan has been reborn to add elements, document accomplishments and signal intentions. Most of all, the 2007 revision — approved by the Board of Trustees in October — sets a “framework for priorities” aimed at informing the community about how the University wants the next 20 years to unfold.

“Our land-use plan has served us well,” Chancellor Robert Coombe writes in the detailed public document. “In many cases it has proven to be prophetic, as in the impact of the University of Denver Light Rail station and the explosive growth of new construction on the perimeter of the campus.”

A better focus

The update departs from the 2002 plan in three principal ways, says University Architect Mark Rodgers, who authored both texts.

The update rescinds the goal of adding graduate-student housing and backs away from co-development ventures with off-campus businesses. “The University is comfortable with its current stock of between 70 and 100 beds for the immediate future,” the plan says. The original 2002 plan had encouraged partnerships with private businesses to provide services that supported University activities, such as off-campus graduate-student housing.

The update also adds a sustainability statement that expands the University’s commitment to the stewardship of its campus environment.

Additionally, the plan defines DU boundaries, identifies target areas for on-campus growth, sets construction priorities and outlines ways to improve the quality of life on campus and enhance DU’s image to the outside world.

“It is important that we continue to look as far ahead as we can,” Coombe writes.

The 2002 plan spoke to DU’s efforts to use its property efficiently, construct enduring buildings, carefully choose construction materials, and integrate systems that are energy efficient and that reduce the use of potable water, pesticides and volatile cleaning chemicals.

The updated plan takes these sustainability efforts further, articulating commitments to: seek independent review of all construction projects for compliance with LEED standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council; use wind and solar power effectively and improve DU’s handling of its water resources; increase campus green space by reducing small surface parking lots; improve transportation options; enhance the biological diversity of trees and plants and improve the soils and irrigation systems that serve them; and develop a campus-wide approach to food service, mail distribution, trash collection and recycling.

A central element to the new plan is the idea of the Promenade, a central spine extending the length of the campus. The Promenade emphasizes “the pedestrian nature” of DU and symbolically reflects the university’s civic identity and sense of community. The Promenade would be a linked system of open spaces that would guide the development and use of buildings on its edge.

The plan is only a guide, former Chancellor Dan Ritchie wrote in 2002, but can effectively shape projects in the years ahead.

Five years later, Chancellor Coombe notes that the document has done that and something else: “It has also produced one of the most beautiful places in Colorado.”

A copy of the land use plan is available for public review at Penrose Library.

Other land-use plan elements of note include:

Primary construction projects
Top priorities are a new building for the Morgridge College of Education; a new School of Engineering and Computer Science building; and renovation of Penrose Library.

Growth and enrollment

Hold the line at the 10 percent growth projected in the 2002 plan. With nearly 12,200 students and employees, the campus has a peak on-campus population of about 10,000, of which 42 percent are undergraduates and 52 percent graduate students.

Campus boundaries

These are Interstate 25 on the north, University Boulevard on the east, Harvard Gulch on the south and High Street on the west. According to the plan, the University “does not foresee the need to acquire property north of Buchtel Boulevard or west of High Street to meet any defined University expansion.”

Athletic fields
Develop a plan to extend playing fields west to High Street and a plan for erecting a “competition soccer field” and varsity sports fitness facility.


Continue to discourage on-street parking in adjacent neighborhoods by students, employees and visitors and work to toughen enforcement. With 5,368 parking spaces, DU is slightly ahead of its 2002 goal.

Building/redevelopment zones
These are the west side of University  Boulevard between Buchtel and Evans; the east side of High Street north of Asbury Avenue; High Street between Asbury and Evans; Iliff Avenue to Wesley, west of the Newman Center; the west side of the campus core; and the south campus area between Iliff and Harvard Avenue.

Student housing
Realize 2,800 beds for undergraduates upon the completion of Nagel Hall.

Campus gateways

Create new primary visitor gateways at Asbury Avenue and University Boulevard and Buchtel Boulevard and University. Develop secondary gateways used primarily for the campus population at Asbury and Warren avenues at High Street; Wesley Avenue at University; High at Buchtel; and Iliff Avenue at High and at University.

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