Project Name | Cherry Creek North Capital Improvements Project
Project Location | Denver, Colorado
Construction Budget | $14 million
Project Summary | Threatened by high on-going maintenance costs, deteriorating infrastructure, tired
aesthetics and competition from the adjacent indoor mall that drained retail dollars from the stores and
activity from the pedestrian realm, the property owners of the 16-block Cherry Creek North retail district in
Denver, Colorado saw an opportunity to reinvigorate this key retail destination. A vote of all the district
property owners authorized the Cherry Creek Business Improvement District (BID) to issue $18.5 million
in bonds to finance the design and construction of new landscaping to beautify Colorado’s premier
outdoor shopping district, conserve water, provide new lighting for safety and energy conservation,
increase identity and wayfinding signage, establish 20 new Art and Garden Places throughout the 16-
block district, and upgrade infrastructure.
Purpose of Project | The BID completed the first major streetscape improvements in more than 20 years
while bringing the 16-month phased construction project in on deadline and under budget, just in time for
the 2010 holiday season. The improvements are designed to attract and retain visitors and users, to
protect and preserve the District’s history and character, and to keep the District strong in a competitive
Role of Landscape Architect vs. Role of Other Participants | The Landscape Architect was the lead
consultant of an interdisciplinary team that included Environmental Graphics; Transportation Analysis and
Planning; Civil Engineering; Lighting Design; Electrical Engineering; Structural Engineering; Horticultural
Specialist and Irrigation Design. The landscape architect developed a project vision and guiding principles
with the District’s Program Manager, iterated concept plan alternatives with extensive neighborhood input,
designed and documented the site design elements, and oversaw the quality of the construction.
Balancing Stakeholder Interests | Because the project was financed through bonds serviced through
property tax assessments on all of the District’s property owners, the design process had to be
responsive to them, as well as to the residents of the surrounding high-income neighborhoods who were
very involved in its evolution and were concerned about access during construction. In addition, since the
success of a project like this is ultimately judged by shoppers, it needed to meet their exacting tastes or
everyone would lose. In order to address all of the stakeholders and keep to a rigorous schedule, the
landscape architect-led design team established a Project Advisory Group (PAG) that included a dozen
thought leaders representing all stakeholder groups, including the City and County of Denver (CCD) staff.
By involving them throughout the process, the client received full stakeholder support when the final plans
were reviewed and approved by the CCD’s Public Works Department. The client’s outreach program
during construction included a temporary signage program, a real-time website that provided schedule
and closure updates, and bi-weekly constituent meetings. To the benefit of all Stakeholders, the District
remained open for business during the construction of the improvements.
Creating Dwell Time | Together, Cherry Creek North and the Cherry Creek Shopping Center (the indoor
shopping mall south of First Avenue) are recognized as being one of the top tourist destinations in
Colorado. As an outdoor shopping venue, Cherry Creek North creates a special experience generated by
the wonderful Colorado climate and the ambiance of the place. This District has grown from the fabric of
the city and has the intricate details and idiosyncrasies that only time can create. The design team took a
holistic approach to ensure they were adding to the District’s composition and not destroying it – fixing
what was broken and leaving the parts that work alone. The design team created “The New North” by
revitalizing the existing framework while refining the palette of streetscape materials to be comprehensive
and appropriate for the District’s uses. The goal is to increase dwell time by providing places where
people want to linger, stroll, sit, shop, dine and explore.
Making a Greener Shopping Experience | In an era when the most successful projects are elegant, hip
and sustainable, the District was lagging behind other high-end retail areas in Colorado. Its aesthetic
appeal and infrastructure had grown outdated and was not compatible with its high-caliber retail tenants.
The annual maintenance budgets were not enough to cover replacements for key elements such as
seating, pedestrian paving, electrical and irrigation systems, and wayfinding signage. The designers
needed to ensure that best practices were not sacrificed for aesthetics or programming. By focusing on
the reduction of water-use, energy efficiency, material selection and recycling, the new designs allowed
the District to reduce its environmental footprint while re-establishing itself as a premier shopping
Over half of the existing water-demanding turfgrass was replaced with low-water-consuming perennials
and shrubs that are estimated to reduce the District’s annual water consumption by 58 percent and the
operating budget by $10,000. An additional 250 shade and ornamental trees were added around the
District to offset the urban heat island effect and create more habitat for urban wildlife. The quality of the
nighttime pedestrian environment was improved with more efficient one-bulb modern fixtures on a custom
pole, reducing electrical consumption by 1,000 Watts and maintenance costs by over $1,000. To increase
the wayfinding and identity signage, new banner poles, directories and special identity markers use highly
efficient LED fixtures. To reduce impacts to the local landfills, over 40 single stream recycling receptacles
were paired with trash receptacles at the intersections to provide a choice for the user. Seating areas
were increased by 50 percent for a total of over 100 benches that provided a variety of seating
opportunities and key intersections and shopper destinations. The choice to use wood certified by the
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and 20 percent minimum post-industrial recycled content in the site
furnishings contributed to the long-term sustainability of the District. Once construction began, the old
pedestrian lights, benches and trash receptacles were donated to another Denver metro community while
the remaining furnishings were recycled and diverted from the landfill.
Increase Value with Fiscal Responsibly | The Cherry Creek North shopping district is funded by an
assessment from property values; success means higher taxes for all property owners. Any
improvements made to the District needed to create a benefit for property owners that was greater than
their increased costs, and improvements needed to aid retail sales in exceeding the increased taxes
passed onto retail tenants. To accomplish this balancing act, the team equitably distributed the
improvements across the 16-block District to draw shoppers onto every street and to encourage them to
stay. By reusing the electrical infrastructure to the greatest extent possible and selecting the most cost-effective
irrigation solution, the design increased the percentage of construction costs that could be spent
on furnishings, paving, plantings and signage. Along the perimeter of the District, ‘gateway’ intersections
announced the Cherry Creek North district with primary identification markers, large planter pots and
elegant concrete paving. The internal intersections incorporated street identification banner poles with
colors that corresponded to the Directory maps at each intersection, clay brick pavers, custom benches
and refurbished concrete planters. The design team created visual interest points such as more colorful
plantings and mid-block banner poles to draw shoppers into the District’s less-traveled, north/south-oriented
streets, acknowledging merchants’ concerns that people were not traveling those streets. The
east/west-oriented streets were already heavily traveled so the design contained simple, low plantings
and concrete pavers for ease of pedestrian use. A portion of the budget was set aside to create 20
special Art and Garden Places (AGP) throughout the District that included specialty lighting, paving and
seating. These AGPs created a sense of surprise and added to potential for shoppers to remain in the
The landscape architect helped the BID complete its first major streetscape improvement in more than 20
years and bring the first phase of the 16-month construction project in on deadline and under budget, just
in time for the 2010 holiday season. The design increases functionality for shoppers, unifies the identity of
the District, creates more destinations and retains the authenticity that brings vitality to the experience of
shopping, working and living in Cherry Creek North.
Cherry Creek North 01 | Distinguished identity: Primary identification markers and banners surrounded
by large pots with layered plantings define the gateways of the retail District with class, simplicity, and
Cherry Creek North 02 | Scaled transitions: Centrally located in the city of Denver, the mass of the
District steps down from the busy arterials of 1st Avenue to the south and University Boulevard to the west
to meet the scale of the high-income residential neighborhoods to the north and east.
Cherry Creek North 03 | Clarified vision: To solve the mundane appearance and the unclear wayfinding
experience of the District, the design distinguishes between “gateway” and interior intersections, between
the north-south streets and east-west avenues, and between the five “event streets.”
Cherry Creek North 04 | Lack of distinction: The previous aesthetics of the main intersection at First
Avenue and University Boulevard was underwhelming and did not announce the District very well.
Cherry Creek North 05 | Unmistakable boundaries: Strong identity elements were added to define the
District and address the complaints from past visitors that they did not know where Cherry Creek North
was – now they can’t miss it.
Cherry Creek North 06 | Distinct arrival: The redesign announces the District and creates more visual
interest for the 50,000 daily cars that pass by.
Cherry Creek North 07 | Unimpressive crossroads: The existing pedestrian intersections had outdated
environmental graphics, randomly placed site furniture and deteriorated concrete with stone bands.
Cherry Creek North 08 | Sophisticated and simplified intersections: The interior intersections are vital
pedestrian gathering points and vehicular navigation nodes. New benches and pavers as well as planting
bed renovations upgrade the material quality of the intersections. Banner poles and custom street signs
aid wayfinding and identity.
Cherry Creek North 09 | Refined pedestrian experience: The addition of richly colored clay pavers,
simple wood benches, custom environmental graphics and seasonal plantings redefined the pedestrian
Cherry Creek North 10 | Easy navigation: Tall banner poles at each intersection clearly mark the streets
and avenues, carrying the brand of the District. Lit at night with LED lights, the banners create identity
and help visitors navigate the 16-block District with street name abbreviations associated with a distinct
Cherry Creek North 11 | Enhanced and efficient lighting: Inefficient and outdated pedestrian lights were
replaced with more efficient light fixtures on custom light poles with strategically placed hanging planter
pots along the event streets.
Cherry Creek North 12 | Landscape folly: Art and Garden Places (AGP) throughout the District provide
specialty lighting, paving and seating that create a sense of surprise and added potential for shoppers to
remain in the District longer.
Cherry Creek North 13 | Versatile showcase: Designed as a large Art and Garden Place, Fillmore Plaza
is the showcase of the District and can be used as a street or closed down completely during one of the
35 planned annual events.
Cherry Creek North 14 | Lost no more: Access to wayfinding directories as well as trash and recycling
receptacles is on every block of the District.
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