'Wayfinding' plan would boost Englewood's visibility

City aims to 'define Englewood's character,' help residents get around

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/15/21

Take a drive on South Broadway from Denver — or cruise east on U.S. Highway 285 underneath the Santa Fe Drive bridge — and if you aren't paying attention, you might not notice you're in …

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'Wayfinding' plan would boost Englewood's visibility

City aims to 'define Englewood's character,' help residents get around

Posted

Take a drive on South Broadway from Denver — or cruise east on U.S. Highway 285 underneath the Santa Fe Drive bridge — and if you aren't paying attention, you might not notice you're in Englewood.

Nestled right against Denver, the look and feel of Englewood's neighborhoods and parts of its Broadway corridor might fool some visitors into thinking they're still in Colorado's capital city.

What's more, Englewood faces what a city planning document calls “notable mobility and local connectivity challenges” in its downtown district, the area near Broadway and Hampden Avenue.

The street network follows a grid pattern, but deviations along Englewood Parkway near the Englewood city hall and a large interchange at Broadway and U.S. Highway 285 make east-west connectivity challenging for people walking and cycling, according to the Englewood Downtown Plan. That's a recent framework that aims to economically boost Englewood's CityCenter shopping development, its traditional Broadway downtown and its medical areas.

The CityCenter area is roughly bounded by Santa Fe Drive on the west, U.S. 285 on the south, Elati Street on the east and Floyd Avenue on the north.

“Given the traffic volumes along U.S. 285 and South Broadway, pedestrian visibility and safety is a key concern at all intersections throughout downtown,” the plan says. “These physical conditions coupled with the lack of pedestrian-level wayfinding throughout the (area) can make navigating the downtown difficult or intimidating.”

That's where Englewood's upcoming Wayfinding and Placemaking Master Plan comes in. “Wayfinding” is a city planning term that means helping people arrive at their intended location, and “placemaking” generally means shaping places to be valuable to the surrounding community and visitors.

The wayfinding and placemaking plan concerns Englewood's central areas: the CityCenter shopping development, the Broadway downtown area, and the city's medical stretch, roughly between Sherman and Lafayette streets.

The plan hasn't yet been formally adopted by the city council, which will consider the final version likely in early March, according to Chris Harguth, city spokesman.

Here are some things to know about the plan.

Seeing the signs

Englewood is “working to design signage” that will “help define Englewood's character for residents, visitors and our business community for years to come,” a city news release said.

To help craft the signage's theme, the city released a survey that was open from Nov. 23 to Dec. 15. Just over 800 people started the survey, and about 80% completed all the questions, according to the results.

The public weighed in on two concepts: the “Wooded Nook” and “Love, Englewood” themes.

The City of Englewood got its name because the area was known for its abundance of trees — Englewood means “wooded nook,” according to the city website's history section.

Accordingly, the “Wooded Nook” concept features pedestrian signs and street decorations that play up a nature-based theme with subdued colors. The “Love, Englewood” concept used sharper colors and a more contemporary design.

Both concepts were well-received, but younger participants, up to age 54, preferred “Love, Englewood,” and those 55 and older preferred “Wooded Nook,” the results say. The survey asked questions such as how welcoming the concept appears, how effectively it portrays information about Englewood's businesses and services, how well it embodies Englewood's culture and how well it honors the city's past.

After the survey, the city council chose “Wooded Nook,” although some elements from “Love, Englewood” will be included in the final plan, Harguth said.

The final designs will be posted if and when the final plan is adopted by council, he added.

'Gateways' to Englewood

The primary purpose of the wayfinding effort is to provide safe passage for pedestrians and vehicles through Englewood, Harguth said.

“However, wayfinding is also a powerful and sometimes overlooked way for a city to connect with its visitors and residents,” Harguth said. “Each directional sign or placemaking element becomes a valuable touchpoint” that can “enhance their experience in the city.”

Part of the effort may spruce up or establish some major roadways at Englewood's city borders as “gateways.”

Often, “a physical structure will alert visitors that they have entered the city limits” or a certain area of the city, such as Littleton's “Downtown Littleton” signage, Harguth said.

Englewood's plan would identify “primary” and “secondary” gateways, Harguth added. Examples of primary gateways could include eastbound Hampden Avenue at the Santa Fe Drive bridge, westbound Hampden where locals know it as “Old Hampden” in the city's eastern part, eastbound Dartmouth Avenue at Santa Fe Drive, southbound Broadway at Yale Avenue and northbound Broadway at Belleview Avenue, near the south city limits, according to Harguth.

South Broadway Mile

Longtime Englewood residents may recall signage on Broadway that says "South Broadway Mile."

That signage was a product of the now-defunct South Broadway Business Improvement District to promote business activities along a roughly mile-long stretch of Broadway in Englewood, Harguth said.

The downtown Englewood area on Broadway features new signage with a different theme now, and the wayfinding plan could eventually update it.

Broader 'downtown' plan

In November, Englewood voters approved the creation of a “downtown development authority,” a body that would work to economically boost Englewood's CityCenter, its traditional Broadway downtown and its medical areas.

Only property owners, tenants and residents within the proposed “downtown” district were able to vote on the questions. That included business owners in the district.

The development authority is intended to carry out the goals of the Englewood Downtown Plan.

Plans aim to shape city's future

The part of Englewood within the downtown authority's purview includes a similar area to the one that would be affected by the wayfinding plan.

City officials hope the development authority will help fill vacant storefronts along the downtown Broadway corridor; pursue a hotel for business visitors, hospital patrons and community members in CityCenter; and add residential density to underused sites near Englewood's light rail station.

They also hope it will push for attainable housing and attract office employers to bring more daytime workers downtown to support local merchants and restaurants.

The city accepted applications to be part of the downtown development authority's board of leaders. The application deadline was Feb. 16.

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