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Denver 'Midtown' Brownfield Revitalization
Landscape Architecture by Norris Design, Denver


When Denver's Midtown is built out it will offer 1,300 Energy Star(R) certified homes. Brookfield Residential is the Midtown site developer and one of the homebuilders. The other homebuilders are Century Communities, Infinity Homes and David Weekley.
Photos by Norris Design Principal John Birkey; Renderings by Jordan Dame and Christ Bates, Norris Design

A landmark revitalization project, Midtown transforms a 182-acre brownfield site into a vibrant mixed-use community just minutes from downtown Denver. Midtown was planned as an extension of historic neighborhoods nearby while creating a community all its own. The design completes the fabric of neighborhoods surrounding downtown, filling a gap created by the industrial use that previously existed on the site.



This aerial view of the Garden Shed Community Center Commons, designed by Norris Design, reveals the green roofs on site, play equipment, a water feature and the radial and angular geometry used throughout the site. The planting bands of grasses and shrubs around the perimeter feature contrasting colors of tan crusher fines and black angular granite rock mulch.

Philosophy and Intent
The vision for Midtown was to create a walkable, sustainable community that ties into and adds to the rich vibrant culture found in Denver's historic neighborhoods. It is intended as a mixed-use, abundantly diverse and artful community. Adjacent to the Clear Creek Greenway, regional trails and within walking distance to three transit stations, Midtown creates a healthy urban community with access to all the things Denverites love to do. Key elements include the transformation of an urban infill brownfield site and the opportunity to provide safe and convenient modes of transportation (automobile, bike and pedestrian).

Midtown was planned with a respect for the gridded street fabric of the existing adjacent 1950s neighborhood. Porch-lined streets with an emphasis on the pedestrian environment help create a walkable, bikeable, commutable setting. At Midtown, residents will be able to easily hop on their bikes with direct access to the Denver area regional trail network, jump on and off the commuter rail trains, or even stroll to their own garden plot.



Builder, Brookfield Residential and the landscape architects collaborated with students at the Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design to develop and fabricate this custom, multifunctional, steel, powder-coated 'flip' site amenity seen here in front of the Garden Shed Community Center. It's a bench, but when flipped over becomes a bike rack. It's said to be quite comfortable as a bench.

Scope of Work and Project Requirements
The Midtown design guidelines were written to execute a vision for the community, zeroing in on the details that build the big picture. The planning team worked closely with Adams County staff to revise zoning codes and requirements and develop new standards and guidelines that create this healthy neighborhood. The development standards enable a dense community with a broad mix of uses, complemented by abundant community-driven amenities.

Norris Design collaborated closely with DTJ Design of Boulder, the project architect, to ensure the designs for indoor/outdoor and public/private spaces work in unison. The residential lots are adjacent to abundant outdoor public spaces.




The Community Center offers an expanse of open spaces for the Midtown community. The community garden, installed by Agriburbia-TSR Group, provides locals with an amenity in their own backyards. Midtown boast more than 50 acres of open space; 43 acres are within the open space park, with connections to the Clear Creek Regional Trail on the west side of the community, and a pocket park in the community's interior, plus various other trail connections. The pavilion space offers covered seating and a calming water feature made of aluminum mesh with a recirculating water basin. The festoon lights add a festive touch to the pavilion's architectural downlighting.

At the heart of the community is the Garden Shed Community Center. It is planned with retail space, public gathering spaces and areas for play for all ages. The entirety of the design brings people together to create successful, vibrant parks, open spaces and streetscapes.

Brownfield Redevelopment
Midtown was an agricultural site prior to becoming an industrial site in 1955, where aeronautical manufacturing operated until 2004. The site was classified by the EPA as a brownfield and has since undergone remediation. The developer purchased the land and employed new technology to clean groundwater and contaminated soil, providing a clean slate for the community.




The play area in at the Garden Shed Community Center commons features a green, patterned, poured-in-place safety surfacing. Play elements include a Mobius Climber 6-Panel (Landscape Structures), along with some structural play pieces like the 'Spaghettini' hoop. The outdoor plaza hosts lectures, live music, weddings, farm-to-table dining experiences and other community gatherings. Score patterns, concrete score joints and various decorative paving types accentuate the radial geometry of the garden.

A 43-acre park replaces the largest area of environmental impacts, healing the land and bringing activity to this once-blighted area. Norris Design worked closely with the environmental consultants and design team during the creation of the community plan to ensure that specific areas were identified for development, while capitalizing on the extensive areas preserved as open space.

To create the character and authenticity that supports Midtown's vision, Brookfield Residential, Norris Design and Kansas State University College of Architecture, Planning and Design students collaborated to design and fabricate custom site furnishings. For two years, 2014-2015, students at Kansas State worked with the design team to develop designs fitting of Midtown's lively character. The custom site furnishings created as a result of this collaboration are present at the Garden Shed Community Center, and will also make an appearance at a nearby neighborhood park.



The custom green roof modular planting trays, grown by Montana turf company, showcases various sedums: 'Coral Carpet', 'Blue Spruce', 'Angelina', 'Gold Moss', 'VooDoo' and 'John Creech'. Accent plantings include red Beardtongue Penstemon, 'Panchito' Manzanita', Korean feather grass, 'Little Bluestem' grass and 'Color Guard' yucca. Also in view are the board-formed concrete planter walls, concrete paving patterns with custom finishes in a radial pattern, custom designed metal 'Wavy Fence' and the community garden and urban farm.

The Garden Shed Community Center Design
The Garden Shed Community Center acts as both the heart of Midtown and a welcome mat to the new community. Radial geometry was used throughout the site design to reiterate the sense of community and create a focal point for gatherings. Community is the key to Midtown's success, and the Garden Shed Community Center allows ample opportunity to create and sustain a healthy urban community.



At the Garden Shed Community Center Commons there are 4"-thick custom pavers that are a concrete aggregate mix with 25% exposed colored glass. The pavers are 1' and 2' squares with 1/4 " beveled edges. Black granite from a local supplier is present throughout the site. The landscape is English lavender, 'Knock-Out' roses and Mexican and Korean feather grasses. The turf is a bluegrass-fescue blend.

Urban Farming
Drawing from its roots as an agricultural site, Midtown has an onsite working urban farm. Local produce is grown to eventually serve retailers, the Farmers' Market or provide farm-to-table dining experiences. Adjacent to the urban farm is a community garden to further enhance this ideal and provide garden plots that serve the community.



The design of the Garden Shed Community Center is by the project architect, DTJ Design of Boulder. The colorful combinations of plantings and site furnishings create an inviting front door to the community. The specified landscape is native and low-water perennials, shrubs and grasses: 'Autumn Joy' sedum; 'Black Eyed' Susan; 'Sunset' Hyssop; coneflower; 'Heavy Metal' switchgrass; Russian sage; and Korean feather grass. Green screens of Clematis, hops and honeysuckle vines enhance the community center building's façade.

Accompanying Community Parks and Gardens
Throughout all aspects of the planning efforts special consideration was given to healthy living by designing enhanced pedestrian amenities and connecting community members to open space corridors and bike trails, a regional park and the Garden Shed Community Center. The site features an outdoor plaza and commons area, and a geometrically configured garden that includes both edible and ornamental plantings. Next to the community garden, a professionally farmed vegetable garden provides fresh produce for nearby restaurants and for community members to partake in the seasonal produce. The 43-acre regional park located at the west end of the community is large enough for soccer fields, and will have walking paths that connect to the natural landscape and adjacent creek area, and a temporary leash-free dog park. Soon to be completed, a nearby neighborhood park located in the center of the Midtown community features lush open space, various seating options and play equipment. The park is also home to a water play elements, including water rills, arcing jets and natural boulders for all ages of play.




Nearly complete, this small neighborhood park tucked into rows of houses in the Midtown community is a sister-site to the Garden Shed Community Center. It is one of several neighborhood parks in Midtown designed by Norris Design. This park stands out for its water play design elements, which should be completed this spring. The design calls for water rills throughout the water play area to allow children to direct the flow of water through gates and bridges. Directly behind the water rills will be arcing water jets providing additional water play surprises for curious adventurers. The park will also offer various play equipment, ample seating and open space for other activities.

A model for new urban communities in Denver, Midtown honors the past and embraces the future. It restores the land and revitalizes the community with a new brand of healthy, urban neighborhood. It celebrates the vibrant local culture, infuses traditional yet modern architecture, cultivates a cutting-edge community garden and brings people together.

The project garnered a 2014 Colorado ASLA Chapter Merit Award. The Midtown Amenity Center won Gold for Best Clubhouse in association with the National Association of Home Builders National Sales and Marketing Council.

Coordination Team/Parties

Adams County Building Department 

Denver Water 

Pecos Water 




Installation Team 

BK Welding: Metal Wavy Fence and Light Poles
Colorado Hardscapes: 

Detailed Sidewalks
Creative WCCI 

Denver Heating & Air Conditioning: HVAC

Kerwin Plumbing 

LS Paint 

Martin Marietta 

Productive Electric
Schultz Industries

 Security Central 

Sidewalks / Flatwork: Western Concrete 


Taylor Fence 

Waner Construction: 

General Contractor

Design Team
Developer: Brookfield Residential 

Landscape Architecture & Planning: Norris Design 

Architect: DTJ 

Civil Engineer: Redland 

Structural Engineer: Vertex McGlamery Engineers 

Electrical Engineer: AE Design 

Irrigation/Water Management Consultants: Hydrosystems, KDI 

Geotechnical Engineers/Construction Materials Consultants: Cesare 

Compliance/Engineering/Remediation: LT Environmental 

Custom Site Furnishings: Kansas State University (College of Architecture Planning & Design, 
Department of Interior Architecture & Product Design, and Professor Dustin Headley, 2014-2015)

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