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East West Partners Aims To Put The 'Creek Back In Cherry Creek' With $1B Redevelopment

Public spaces such as the market square and connections to Cherry Creek North and the Cherry Creek trail are expected to be part of the first phase on the site.

East West Partners this week unveiled details of its $1B plan to redevelop 13 acres of Cherry Creek as interest in the Denver neighborhood spreads beyond its traditional reputation as a retail and dining destination.

The Denver-based company wants to develop the land along East First Avenue and University Boulevard, lowering Cherry Creek North Drive and building an at-grade landscape bridge that will connect the redevelopment to the creek itself.

In other words, they want to put “the creek back in Cherry Creek,” East West Managing Partner Amy Cara said at a virtual community planning meeting held Wednesday evening.  

The massive redevelopment, called Cherry Creek West, will take an estimated 10 years to build out, according to Cara. The Buell Foundation owns the site and is providing a 99-year ground lease to East West Partners. 

In its pre-application submitted to the city late last year, East West laid out plans for creating a series of subdistricts on the site. Seven acres of open space include a pedestrian connector to East First Avenue and the Cherry Creek North neighborhood, as well as a plaza, public market and event space, and a greenway leading to the Cherry Creek trail connector bridge.

Concept plans for vertical development list four proposed office buildings for a combined 980K SF and three residential buildings totaling 598 units, including affordable housing units, along with associated retail. Parking is also included in the plan.

This isn’t East West Partners’ first time reimagining a prominent Denver neighborhood.

East West Partners built its reputation on projects such as the Union Station redevelopment and Riverfront Park in downtown Denver and is “neighbors for the long term,” according to Cara, who added that the firm values “developing and designing for people first.”  

But the project must jump several municipal hurdles before East West can break out the ceremonial shovels.  

Cherry Creek West is making its way through the city of Denver’s development review process and will need to secure a rezoning, which requires city council approval.  

Cara expects the rezoning process to begin this fall and to get through entitlements by late summer 2023 for a fall 2024 groundbreaking. 

The future of Cherry Creek has been a hot topic in Denver for years, as developers have picked up parcels and rebuilt the neighborhood piece by piece. Luxury shops are paired with high-end dining, and on residential streets, historic homes dating back to Denver’s early days sit next to pricey modern replacements.

The creek from which the neighborhood derives its name is bordered by a paved trail and provides a taste of nature in an otherwise urban setting. However, to access the trail and the creek, cyclists and pedestrians must use scattered entry points, usually consisting of a concrete ramp that descends from street level.

East West wants to make creek access more seamless by connecting the redevelopment to the greenway.

“The magic of this site is the ability to provide something that currently doesn't exist, accessible open space for the community.” Design Workshop President Robb Berg said. “I'm talking about a true barrier-free connection to Cherry Creek and the Cherry Creek trail.”

The greenway is “one of the most, if not the most, unique elements of this site, and such an opportunity,” Denver Senior City Planner Brad Johnson said at the meeting.

At this stage, none of the buildings have been designed. Possible uses may evolve to include a hotel, and the number of residential units may end up somewhere in the 550-600 range, Cara said.

The design team, which includes Design Workshop and Gensler, must adhere to Cranmer Park view plane restrictions, which, like most Denver zoning rules, work to protect the view of the mountains.

Diagrams show building heights ranging between eight and 13 stories, and Berg said the team worked to “arrange the buildings in a way to maintain western views.”