Denver City Council rezones Loretto Heights for redevelopment, gives Lyft and Lime sole control of bike-and scooter-share market

The Denver City Council packed in several key decisions on Monday night, chief among them rezoning the 72-acre Loretto Heights campus and expediting the creation of areas where people can carry alcohol outside of businesses.

It also gave Lyft and Lime exclusive access to the city’s scooter- and bicycle-share market. As the clock neared midnight, the council ruled against a preservation request for the 52-year-old Denver 7 building on Speer Boulevard.

Despite the hours of discussion, each decisions was months, if not years, in the making. Here’s a deeper look at what passed.

Loretto Heights

Westside Investment Partners bought the former school campus in 2018 for $15.75 million with the goal of building single- and multi-family housing, as well as commercial and retail space and maybe even a grocery store.

Since then, the developer has met and negotiated with residents and city officials to find a way to build new stuff and preserve the 130-year-old campus’ character.

Those negotiations turned into the rezoning requests that the council approved: the company has to build on less acreage of the campus but has more leeway for additional retail and commercial space, particularly along the property’s eastern edge that borders Federal Boulevard.

A representative for the developer said it’s not yet clear when the company might break ground.

Walk with booze

A clearer timeline is now available for Denver’s businesses seeking to create common consumption areas, or well-defined borders within which customers would be able to wander with their alcoholic drinks. The move would put Denver in league with cities like Colorado Springs and Greeley.

State legislators legalized the areas in 2011, and the council agreed to allow them in Denver in late 2019, but the pandemic arrived shortly thereafter, postponing the zones.

The council agreed Monday to halve the 90-day waiting period for businesses to apply to create an area, which means the application process could open by late July.

Bye-bye Bird, see ya Spin

Lyft and Lime now have five-year licensing agreements with the city of Denver for a maximum 1,500 scooters and at least 300 bicycles per company.

The agreements give Lyft and Lime sole control of shareable bikes and scooters in town once permits for companies like Bird and Spin expire.

The contracts include free or discounted rides for some low-income users and require some scooters and bikes to be available outside of the city’s core. They also allow city officials to penalize the companies if too many bikes or scooters are left in public rights of way.

The votes were relatively tight, 8-4 and 9-3 for the Lyft and Lime contracts, respectively. Councilmembers Candi CdeBaca, Chris Hinds, Amanda Sandoval and Jamie Torres raised concerns that people with disabilities may not have equal access to the bikes. They also raised concerns over enforcement and whether city staff would be able to hold the companies accountable in keeping Denver’s rights of way clear.

Denver 7 building denied

Following the building owner’s requests, the council decided against designating the Denver 7 building at 123 East Speer Blvd. as historically significant.

A few residents had hoped to preserve the brutalist-style architecture, but station management (on behalf of the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company, which owns the building and the television station) opposed the idea. The designation would have hampered the station’s efforts to sell the building and move to a larger building, Manager Dean Littleton told The Denver Post last month.

Manhattan- and Miami-based Property Markets Group has expressed interest in buying the building, tearing it down and putting up new apartments.

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