Denver, CO

Walnut Street is getting a major natural makeover

Margaret Jackson

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Volunteers add to the RiNo streetscape by planting a tree@graffiti.gardens

Businesses and residents are bringing an urban oasis to the Walnut Street corridor of Denver’s River North (RiNo) Arts District by landscaping the area with native plants and trees to transform the pedestrian experience in the area.

EDENS, a national real estate owner and operator that’s acquired a number of properties in Denver in recent year, teamed up with the Denver Botanic Gardens for the project. The botanic gardens provided guidance on plant selection, focusing on native and xeric plants that require less water and can adapt to Denver’s weather patterns.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever hit a point where there’s enough nature in our neighborhoods, especially in RiNo because it was industrial for so long,” said Tom Kiler, managing director for EDENS. “We’re attacking it in phases and layers. Bringing in nature is a big part of what we do — when you live in an urban area, you hunger for green space.

“We’re trying to add it in any way we can. It’s been a goal of ours since we started.”

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The Denver Botanic Gardens helped with plant selection.@graffiti.gardens

In addition choosing plants that are suited to Denver’s climate, the Botanic Gardens accounted for the microclimates created by the built environment. It the amount of sunlight and exposure to the elements present in any given block. It also incorporated pollinator plants, which attract butterflies, bees and birds to bring more wildlife to the neighborhood.

“By using the right plant species and western horticulture methods, we can create a sense of place and a natural reprieve in even our most urban spaces,” said Annie Barrow, manager of the Denver Botanic Gardens’ horticulture outreach programs.

The project is part of a larger effort to bring more nature to urban neighborhoods in Denver. Volunteers from False Ego, Patagonia as well as representatives from the National Wildlife Federation and a group of design and planning students from the University of Colorado Denver all worked on the project.

Denver-based Quantum 3 Construction donated the soil and plants for the landscaping, and each retail partner will maintain their own planters moving forward.

“We have irrigation and will water the plants and take care of them, but your irrigation can get ripped out or damaged,” Kiler said. “People are pretty rough with plants. We’re starting small so we can test spots and watch it more — it needs more maintenance so the plants can get established.”

EDENS’ portfolio in Five Points includes 37 businesses, with over half of them women- and minority-owned. The company has demonstrated its commitment to sustainability by ensuring the common spaces of its 120 properties nationwide are carbon neutral, meaning they generate no additional carbon load on the planet.

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EDENS is committed to sustainability.@graffiti.gardens

The company considers its impact as well as its retail partners as part of its approach to sustainability. Since 2008, EDENS has seen a 32% reduction in common-area electricity use across its portfolio. The company also has diverted 2,350 tons of waste from landfills since 2013. It has a goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2026.

EDENS also is intentional about branding its properties and ensuring they connect to the communities and neighborhoods they’re in. In RiNo, which is part of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, EDENS is striving for inclusivity and diversity — half of the retailers in the area are women and people of color. EDENS requires its tenants to have social initiatives or participate in community projects.

“We now have a group of retailers who are very much aligned in those pillars and focuses,” Kiler said. “They all helped us plant these. We did it as a community project and gave them watering cans because they’re there every day.”

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I'm a Denver-based business writer with expertise in commercial and residential real estate as well as general business news.

Denver, CO
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