As in several other older neighborhoods in Denver, the landscape is now dominated by hundreds of “slot” homes, which feature sideways-facing townhomes stacked horizontally to the alley.
Heather Noyes, a resident in the neighborhood, says she felt “blind-sided” by the kind of development that unfolded after Denver city leaders adopted a new zoning code in 2010 — a land-use plan that notably adopted Berkeley neighborhood leaders’ support for more intense development along Tennyson, especially between West 44th and 46th avenues.
“We wanted mixed-use. We wanted more people, more families over here,” says Noyes, who works out of a landscape architecture office on Tennyson and lives a short walk away. “But to have development consistently turn its back to the street by ignoring the type of elements that contribute to street character is a missed opportunity, and that is what has frustrated so many people here.”
A let-up is in sight. On Monday night, the Denver City Council, after nearly two years of city discussions and task force meetings, is expected to approve a raft of zoning rule changes that will more heavily regulate townhomes.
The changes crafted by the task force, which included Noyes as a member, are led by a new requirement that developers orient new projects’ main buildings — and more front doors — toward the street. Projects still could include other units farther back in the lot.
The goal is to make slot homes, as Denver knows them, a thing of the past, or at least to wipe the current form off developers’ drawing boards.
Often built in pairs on adjacent properties, slot homes are so named for the notches created by the garages tucked behind and beneath each home, with a drive aisle running alongside the building. Front doors for seven or eight townhouses, which typically replace one single-family home, are down a narrow paved path on the other side.
Developers love slot homes because they maximize the profit potential on smaller residential lots that have three-story zoning. Dozens more projects that incorporate the much-derided slot form are still on the way, since they won approval under the old rules.