Wheat Ridge’s Main Street Comes to Life

by Sarah Showalter, AICP, LEED AP

How do you retrofit an auto-centric commercial corridor into a vibrant Main Street? The City of Wheat Ridge, together with partners Wheat Ridge 2020 and LiveWell Wheat Ridge, is working to do just that on W. 38th Avenue between Sheridan and Wadsworth. The community is actively changing the feel of the street, once characterized by speeding traffic, narrow sidewalks, and many vacant storefronts, in an effort to create the Main Street that Wheat Ridge residents desire.

A new pop-up cafe in the parking lane creates pedestrian activity at Ridge at 38 on West 38th Avenue and High Court

Redesigning the street is a key step in the corridor’s transformation. Utilizing a low-cost, innovative approach, the City completed a “road diet” in the summer of 2012 by reducing the number of thru-traffic lanes from four to two. The space created by removal of traffic lanes was repurposed to add a variety of amenities, including:

  • On street parking, which buffers the sidewalk from moving traffic
  • Pop-up cafes, which take the place of on-street parking spaces to provide outdoor seating areas attached to the sidewalk
  • A bike lane and bike parking
  • Large planters to demark the parking lane and add attractive landscaping to the corridor

The changes were designed to be affordable and malleable as a pilot project. The City will monitor a variety of metrics, from traffic counts to new businesses on the corridor, through early 2014 to assess the success of the project and to inform any future permanent reconstruction on the street.  The redesign is intended to slow traffic, create pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly amenities, and to help transform the corridor into “a place that people want to drive to, not through,” in the words of Denise Waddell, President of FirstBank Wheat Ridge and a board member of Wheat Ridge 2020.

Bicyclists enjoy the new bike lane on W. 38th Avenue

The physical changes to the street are complemented by economic development efforts, largely spearheaded by the 38th Avenue Leadership Committee. The committee, supported by Wheat Ridge 2020 and the City, is composed of businesses, property owners, and residents on the corridor. The committee’s work includes developing a new brand and marketing strategy for this up-and-coming district, known as Ridge at 38. Learn more at www.ridgeat38.com and www.ci.wheatridge.co.us/38thAve.

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