Rhys Duggan Discusses Denver’s River Mile Project With DU Community

Ask Rhys Duggan, CEO of Revesco Properties, to describe Denver in one word, and he (like other Denverites) might say, “growing.” But instead of complaining about traffic on I-25 or scouring craigslist for the elusive cheap apartment, Duggan has a plan—or rather, a blueprint—to address the city’s growth.

CEO of Revesco Properties Rhys Duggan
(Courtesy of Revesco Properties)

Speaking to a packed crowd of nearly 500 at the Voices of Experience event at the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday, April 9, Duggan shared this plan, which involves an unlikely Denver landmark … Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.

“First and foremost, the park is not closing. Tell your kids to come to the park,” Duggan said. “But we have a long-term vision. What you’ll see tonight is a 25-year plan.”

With help from investors like billionaire Stan Kroenke, Revesco Properties purchased 62 acres of land along the South Platte River (currently occupied by Elitch Gardens) in 2015, with the plan to redevelop it into a vibrant, mixed-use, transit-oriented urban neighborhood dubbed the River Mile.

“Denver’s going through a change right now, and it’s an opportunity as a developer,” Duggan said in a video he shared about the River Mile project. “Let’s not grow out of the suburbs and into the farmland. Let’s grow up and closer.”

Using virtual reality, Duggan (almost literally) walked the audience through the proposed River Mile neighborhood—the largest development project in Denver since Stapleton—to show what the area would look like in 25 years. There were bike paths, green spaces, access bridges, storefronts, two light rail stations and slender glass skyscrapers weaving organically around the natural curves of the river.

Rendering of the River Mile
(Courtesy of Revesco Properties)

Duggan explained his vision: the River Mile will be a new downtown Denver neighborhood with great walkability, affordable homes, good schools, grocery stores, neighborhood centers, restaurants, gathering places and more.

“We want to create a new experience downtown for people to live and work and visit along the river, bringing the city to the edge of the river in a way that Denver hasn’t seen before,” Duggan said. “The main goal is to make greater public spaces. To interact together. To allow people to come to the site from other parts of Denver, whether it’s walking, biking or taking the train. And allow for diversity over time.”

Following Duggan’s keynote speech, Steve Nalley from the City and County of Denver joined him onstage to discuss how Revesco and the city are working together to make the River Mile a reality. Barbara Jackson, director of Daniels’ Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, moderated the discussion.

“Why should Denver residents embrace this project?” Jackson asked.

Rendering of the River Mile
(Courtesy of Revesco Properties)

“I don’t know that we have a 20-minute neighborhood in Denver where you can live, work, play, buy your groceries, take care of your daily needs, take your kids to school—all those things—by walking 20 minutes,” Nalley said.

“I think the question is why should we care about this development,” Duggan said. “I think it’s the access to this important stretch of river. And I really worry about the homogenization of our North American cities. We go to different cities and they all start to look the same. When I go somewhere else, Europe for example, every city has a character and a flavor. That’s one of the things I’m trying to accomplish with the River Mile. This site truly is a game changer for our city.”

Voices of Experience is a speaker series at the Daniels College of Business sponsored by US Bank, Newmont Mining and Zayo Group. The series brings CEOs and significant leaders into our community to share lessons learned from their triumphs, mistakes and decisions as they navigated through their leadership careers. The next Voices of Experience event will feature Abdulfattah Sharaf, CEO of HSBC Bank in the United Arab Emirates, Thursday, May 16. Learn more and register.