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Take a moment to absorb this parking fiasco. Hard to believe it's near the middle of a major city.

This is the image that carried Denver through four rounds of competition to emerge as the champion of Streetsblog's 2017 Parking Madness tournament. In a tightly contested final that came down to a riveting back and forth on the last day of voting, Denver edged out scrappy Poughkeepsie 451-434.

For the tournament this year we focused on parking craters near transit stations to highlight how American cities are failing to support their transit infrastructure with walkable development. And Denver's monster parking crater is a classic of wasted urban potential: a huge swathe of land close to downtown, served by three light rail stations, and overwhelmed by massive parking lots for sports stadiums that barely get used much of the year.

Ken Schroeppel, a planning professor at University of Colorado Denver who blogs at Denver Urbanism, estimates that there are 50 acres of parking surrounding the Pepsi Center and another 15 acres to the immediate north and west as well. (The satellite view above is oriented so the top of the photo is facing west.)

Schroeppel has developed an infill plan for the area that would divide it into small, walkable blocks, consolidate parking into decks (cyan), and add mixed-use housing (yellow) and retail and office (blue). Existing mixed-use buildings are shown in red:

An infill development concept for Denver's championship parking crater. by Ken Schroeppel of Denver Urbanism
An infill development concept for Denver's parking crater by Ken Schroeppel of Denver Urbanism
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Denver Planning Department spokesperson Andrea Burns said the city is hoping for redevelopment here. "A key recommendation of the 2007 Downtown Area Plan was to attract more housing, mixed use and pedestrian friendly development to this area," she said. "We are seeing downtown development of the Central Platte Valley kind of moving this direction. I think some time in the not too distant future we will see that start to change."

But in the past ten years, however, the city has not pursued redevelopment strategies or incentives for the area around these light rail stations.

Streetsblog Denver editor David Sachs says this reflects a broader problem in Denver, where car commuting to the city center is on the rise despite its significant investments in light rail.

"Denver receives a lot of nice superlatives about its transit system that shape the city's national reputation," he said. "The reality is, vacuous parking lots and car-oriented development surround a lot of the city's stations, undermining our investments in transit infrastructure.

"Hopefully some notoriety will help make the case for this part of the city to resemble more walkable areas anchored by transit, like Union Station."

We now present the 2017 Golden Crater -- don't let this moment of infamy go to waste, Denver.

golden_crater_2017

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