Mines Plans for New Pedestrian Plaza

Mines’ plan to create a pedestrian-friendly, resident-focused campus will soon be taking another step forward with the creation of a new pedestrian plaza between Maple Hall, Elm Hall, and Weaver Towers. In the coming months, the plaza’s design will be refined from the concept in the university’s Master Plan, and the project will be put out to bid this summer; Capital Planning and Construction (CPC) anticipates construction finishing in November 2016, but an exact construction schedule has not yet been determined.

The entire project, from design to construction, is budgeted at $1.5 million, and it is intended to create a pedestrian “neighborhood” among the southern dorms. The new plaza’s style will match the main Pedestrian Plaza to the north; Mines will cover the area in patterned pavers, and most of it will be blocked off to vehicular traffic.

The vacated portions of Maple and 18th Streets

Imagery by Google. Street vacations are highlighted in green.

“The right of way of a city street is considered to be owned by the people,” Chris Cocallas, CPC’s director, said.

However, the city may vacate the street if is determined to be unneeded, in which case ownership of the street is transferred to the owners of the adjacent properties. In early 2015, the Golden City Council approved CSM’s request to vacate 18th Street between Illinois and Elm Streets, and Maple Street from 18th Street north to the Elm Hall alley.

Mines originally requested vacating the entire block of Maple Street, but, during the review process, concerns over the legal challenge of writing the vacation ordinance to preserve access to a private residence led Mines to cut back the request. Nonetheless, the northern half-block will be included in the project, subject to the city’s approval, despite remaining open to vehicles as a city street. A raised crosswalk across 17th Street is also being considered to link the new plaza to the current one.

“The city will allow us to improve the street,” said Cocallas. “Visually and design-wise, it will tie into the existing pedestrian way.”

Additionally, although vacated by the city, 18th Street between the president’s house and the Welcome Center will continue to act like a city street, preserving access to E Lot and a private residence down the alley paralleling Illinois Street. In order to distinguish it from the pedestrian-only area, the pavers in this section will remain at street level rather than being raised to curb height. A driveway on the east end of 18th Street will also provide access to B Lot.

Also included in the original vacation proposal was the vacation of 16th Street between Illinois and Arapahoe Streets—alongside the CoorsTek Center and the Green Center—which drew concerns over limiting options for east-west traffic. Although it was removed from subsequent proposals, Mines may propose a partial vacation of the street in the future, which would allow the school to remove on-street parking and narrow the road, in order to promote a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

Public Input Shapes Plaza Plans

Rendering of a Mines Park connection concept.

Rendering of a Mines Park connection concept.

On Monday, April 11, the Residence Hall Association (RHA) held a meeting for students to view the current design of the project and provide feedback.

According to architect Julie Zurakowski, the project team hopes to erode the feeling of the street grid, instead fostering the feeling of a meandering pathway. New landscaped areas, likely a mixture of grassy green spaces and xeriscapes, will be used to break up the linear feel of the former streets. Lighting fixtures will also be mixed in at a more pedestrian-level scale.

Students at the meeting favored grassy areas along the plaza, referencing the increased desirability of the campus’s green spaces due to the recent, but temporary, loss of half of Kafadar Commons. Outdoor furniture, especially tables, was also requested, and Zurakowski stated that the team had been studying the feasibility of powered furniture for the plaza. While they hope to provide ample seating, the locations of furniture will be restricted by the need to maintain access through the plaza for the fire department.

The plaza will leverage existing green spaces in the area, as well. The Coolbaugh House lawn is currently available to students and will be incorporated into the project plan. Additionally, bleacher-style seating will be placed along the natural area in front of Weaver Towers, one of the few remnants of the Welch Ditch (a former canal from Clear Creak) left on campus.

In its bicycle plan, Golden intends to encourage cyclists to use 18th Street between Elm and East Streets, rather than the busier 19th Street. Feedback on the plaza plan has favored separating pedestrian and bicycle traffic, however, so CPC plans to ask the city to amend its plan to take the bicycle route between 18th and 19th Streets at Illinois instead of Elm, possibly widening the 19th Street sidewalk to provide a safer trip. If the plaza segment of 18th Street remains part of the bicycle route, a bike lane will likely be installed along the plaza’s southern edge.

Early feedback on the project concept also led the project team to investigate building a stronger connection from the plaza to the path along 19th Street toward Mines Park, likely taking a route around the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house to West Campus Road. Many students walking and biking to campus from west of US 6 currently cross Elm Street between the 18th and 19th Street intersections under potentially unsafe conditions. By linking the pedestrian plaza to the 19th Street path, the project team hopes to encourage students to cross Elm more safely further from 19th Street, where a roundabout will be installed this summer. This connection is contingent on funding; in order to avoid delaying the original plaza project, the Mines Park connection may be established during a separate second phase of the project.

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