In advance of Rail~Volution 2017 in Denver (September 17-20), we’re doing a short series of blogs about Denver’s transit evolution—its Rail~Volution. This blog primarily is based on a conversation with Maria VanderKolk, communications manager with the City of Arvada.
Note: Mobile Workshops at Rail~Volution in Denver will focus on the station development along the G Line in Arvada (see Mobile Workshop 11).
Train tracks through Olde Town Arvada. Credit: Denver Rail~Volution Local Host Committee
In the 1970s through the1990s, almost no one went to Olde Town Arvada. Once the heart of the community, the old downtown was cut off in the mid-twentieth-century when Wadsworth Boulevard became Wadsworth Bypass. But in the 1990s, a century after the town’s founding around a gold strike and a railroad line, city leaders began thinking about saving Olde Town rather than tearing it down.
One of the Denver area’s visionary developers—Dana Crawford, known for saving LoDo—agreed. As Arvada’s Maria VanderKolk tells it, Crawford said, “the bones are beautiful in Arvada,” but to make it live again, the city needed more density and people to attract businesses. She advised the city to narrow the streets and make them friendly to people walking.
The city applied for and received designation as a National Historic District. They put portions of Olde Town under their Urban Renewal Authority, which provided funds for the streetscape and saving old buildings like the Old School House, now home to a popular restaurant. And they looked for developers to add a mix of rental and for-sale homes. Today, approximately 1,200 people live next to Olde Town and can walk to dine, shop and socialize.
New housing in Olde Town Arvada. Credit: Denver Rail~Volution Local Host Committee
A Beer Train Has Always Run Through It
Active freight tracks run through Olde Town, carrying the “Beer train” to Coors. When RTD’s G Line opens, commuter rail will once again connect Arvada to Denver, other cities in the region, and the airport. The coming of the new G Line has sparked another round of development in Arvada, including a new hotel near the Olde Town Station that fills a major gap in Colorado’s sixth-largest city.
Maria VanderKolk, communications manager with the City of Arvada, says that in the 1990s, a couple of city council members began pushing to restore commuter service to Arvada. When the plans were being made for FasTracks, the region’s transit-funding plan, Arvada got an early seat at the table. They already had Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) plans for three stations.
In a lot of communities, the train leads to development. Here we have development and are waiting for the train.” – Maria VanderKolk
Arvada Ridge Station on the G Line. Credit: Denver Rail~Volution Local Host Committee
At the Arvada Ridge station, just west of Olde Town, Red Rock Community College reacted to the coming G Line by expanding its satellite campus to offer more degrees in the health industry. The campus and a lot of multifamily housing are right next to the station. Arvada’s third station on the G Line, called Gold Strike Station, is more industrial, with more affordable housing but also rising rents.
The turn-around for Olde Town Arvada along with new development around other G Line stations has increased the tax base in this northwest Denver suburb. Arvada’s VanderKolk said that with recent growth, the challenge the city faces now is to maintain affordable housing.
The G Line By the Numbers
Long planned by the near northwest suburbs and Denver, the G Line will provide a rapid transit alternative for travel along the I-70 West Corridor. As of summer 2017, RTD is testing G Line trains along the route. An opening date for the G Line is pending approval from the Federal Transit Administration of at-grade crossing technology, according to the latest from RTD.
- 11 miles, 8 stations
- Commuter rail with speeds up to 79 mph and a total capacity of 170 people (seats for 91)
The 3 stations in Arvada are respectively 13, 17, and 20 minutes to downtown Denver: 60th Avenue and Sheridan at Arvada Gold Strike; Olde Town Arvada; and Arvada Ridge. Via car the same trip takes 15-17 minutes when there’s no traffic and up to 35 minutes at rush hour.
My daughter has a bear of a drive to school. When it opens, she can take the G Line. Even if it takes longer sometimes than driving, she can sleep or study on the train.” – Maria VanderKolk
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Arvada Urban Renewal Authority http://arvadaurbanrenewal.org/projects/water-tower-village/
Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) http://www.rtd-denver.com/g-line.shtml
Maria VanderKolk, Communications Manager, City of Arvada, CO