A city center in the suburbs

  • Charlie Lybrand says he rarely drives his car since he moved into an apartment complex on the light-rail line

    Allen Best
  On weekdays, Charlie Lybrand’s car doesn’t budge from its parking space. A student of economics at Denver’s Metropolitan State College, Lybrand lives in an apartment complex in the suburb of Englewood. Just out the door is a light-rail station.

"I use it every day," says Lybrand. "I never drive my car, unless I go to the mountains."

A rock and ice climber, Lybrand named his husky-malamute dog "Makalu," after the world’s fifth-highest mountain, which he someday hopes to climb; Alaska’s Denali is also one of his goals. For the moment, though, the 23-year-old likes to party: "I hop on the light rail and go downtown, so I don’t have to worry about driving," he says.

The 480-unit apartment complex Lybrand calls home is one of metro Denver’s most prominent examples of transit-oriented development. Alexan City Center is part of a redevelopment project on the site of a former shopping center, Cinderella City. The complex has a gym, a library, and a museum, along with coffee shops, pubs, and other urban amenities.

Rents range from $700 for a one-bedroom to $1,300 for a three-bedroom. That’s high by local standards, but tenants figure they more than make up the difference in reduced transportation costs. The complex attracts some couples, even a few with children, and occasionally older people. Young singles, however, predominate.

Vicki Abrams, 24, who works downtown as a leasing agent, chose to live here specifically because of the light-rail connection. A hockey fan, she uses the train to go to Avalanche games. She likes the urban environment, with concerts, the corner pub and a grocery store just a short walk away. "You can live, play and shop all in one place," she says. "It’s great."

Still, Abrams eventually wants a family — and when she does, she wants the American dream, a single-family home. "It feels like I’m in college," she says of the project. "You don’t have a yard to yourself. You don’t have any privacy. If I have family and children, I’d rather have a house."