Following up on an earlier post, several of the transitions affecting Denver were evident yesterday in the presentations at the University of Colorado Real Estate Center 19th Annual Forum

Jeff Risom from Gehl Architects spoke about his firm’s people-first approach to cities and his experiences on San Francisco’s Market Street, in New York’s Times Square and other public spaces in the five boroughs, and with Denver’s 16th Street Mall.  Denverites can look for several events over the summer to showcase the way the 16th Street Mall could be redesigned to allow people to linger more in the mall.  But don’t expect one solution.  Gehl’s approach is to try temporary solutions, seek feedback from users and stakeholders, and then adjust.

A panel on RiNo spoke about the massive changes in that part of town.  Andy Feinstein and Kyle Zeppelin highlighted the several new developments in the area, including the advent of commuter rail rolling through the middle of RiNo beginning in April of this year.  They also noted the challenges facing the area, including lack of infrastructure, like sidewalks, and environmental issues with the South Platte River.  Richard Schaupp from Clarion Partners noted that his company was attracted to investing in RiNo because of Denver’s diverse economy and their view that RiNo compares to a walkable suburb.  He noted that walkable areas within a given metropolitan area tend to have higher rents.

Tom Clark, from the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, and Herman Stockinger, from CDOT, spoke about the challenges of I-70, both west of town into the mountains and north of RiNo between I-25 and Tower Road.  To the west, the need for travelers to have a car at almost any destination makes high speed trains and less-expensive trams less-than-perfect solutions.  The fast-developing technology of autonomous vehicles may be a better option.  But in addition to technology, current legal frameworks and liability allocation are also challenges with self-driving cars.

Finally, Jeff DeBoer of the Real Estate Roundtable spoke with Bobby Taubman of the Taubman Centers.  He spoke of his optimism for the U.S. economy, as well as his company’s investments in China and South Korea.  He was enthusiastic about the synergy between his company’s Cherry Creek Mall and the Cherry Creek North area.  He explained how the huge Restoration Hardware store at the Cherry Creek Mall was part of an omnichannel strategy to allow customers shopping online to see products and talk to representatives before buying.

The forum had fascinating speakers talking about a range of topics, all affecting the Denver area.