Hot on the heels of a report claiming the arts have a $141 million impact on the local economy is news that the Mayor’s Executive Leadership Team (ELT) held its first meeting to evaluate the future of the DCPA (Denver Center for the Performing Arts). Concerns have been raised that the complex and its programming are out of sync with the Denver of the 21st Century.
We agree, to a certain extent. Like any “product” it is time to invest, update, and renew the performing arts complex. Designed in the 1970s to be a safe zone for visiting suburbanites, parts of it resemble a self-contained fortress against the “rough streets”. Today, throngs of residents and visitors create a dynamic street scene. As long-time DCPA patrons and arts lovers, we care deeply about this complex and the artists that bring joy and wonder to our community. We offer this open letter to the Committee.
Dear Mayor’s Executive Leadership Team,
Create a performing arts center for Denver’s 21st Century.
DEMOLISH the hideous parking garage that blocks visual and physical access to the complex and isolates it from downtown street life. It is an ugly edifice to stare at from the balconies and terraces of the Buell and is a misuse of prime urban space!
BUILD in its place an architecturally striking/street-friendly/multi-use structure to invigorate the area 24/7: hotel, condos, visiting artist’s housing, restaurants, shops, artist studios, cabaret, etc. Building higher with a smaller footprint would open up exciting new public spaces and connectivity to 14th Street (“Ambassador Corridor”). Create a “ring road” underground for taxis, buses, handicap drop-off, etc. Excavate the vast, underutilized “sculpture park” along Speer and build an underground parking garage to serve the DCPA and Convention Center. Create garage access points directly from Speer Blvd to avoid flooding downtown streets with cars pre/ post events.
REIMAGINE the sculpture park into a flexible multi-use outdoor venue, including an outdoor theater conducive to various performances. Unite this outdoor space with Cherry Creek, connect to the energy of the water and enhance access to Auraria Campus.
INVEST in the facilities that need attention. The Ellie, Theatres and Buell are all excellent venues. But Boettcher, as we’ve discussed previously, needs and deserves investment to bring it up to contemporary standards.
EXPAND programming. DCPA programming is superb and of world class standards. Should there be a more diverse array of offerings to serve a more diverse audience? Yes, but not at the expense of current offerings. Facilitate access to a wider audience with DCPA organizational flexibility, community engagement and SUSTAINED public leadership from Denver’s Mayor and Private Sector Partners.
CONNECT the complex with the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square with visual “pulls”. Perhaps a web of lights strung over the streets between? Art? Paving? Make it easier for visitors to find and connect!
IMAGINATIVE efforts to generate symbiotic energy between the various DCPA entities would draw greater attention and interest. Marketing the complex as a whole, not just a collection of components, would boost visibility and “cross pollinate” interest to a wider audience.
Thanks for your attention. We appreciate your work over the coming year to guide a new vision for this essential part of Denver’s economic and cultural fabric.