Explosive growth in Five Points makes RiNo the richest business district in Denver. Here’s what it’s been up to.

RiNo Park is on the horizon.
7 min. read
(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the RiNo Art District had a budget of $3.3 million.

And in that time, the district was very busy.

Seven new galleries moved in, artist membership increased by 60 percent, more than 400 trees were planted, four miles of bike lanes were added and $40,000 was paid to artists represented in the district's new RiNo Made store. It's also put those funds -- which come in more or less equal parts from district membership and events, the business improvement district and the general improvement district -- toward big projects like fixing Brighton Boulevard, getting Artspace built and converting 35th Street between Arkins and Wazee into fareway for pedestrians and cyclists.

That's all according to the district's annual report, which highlights projects from summer 2017 through fall 2018.

Let's dig in.

Summer 2017: The RiNo BID contributes another $20,000 toward Artspace

The nonprofit developer Artspace builds live-work space for artists, as well as artist studios and arts centers. There's been talk of a project in Denver for a long time -- we first heard inklings of it when Rhinoceropolis and Glob were shut down by the city two years ago.

So far, RiNo has contributed a total of $40,000 to get the project going and helped "leverage more than $300,000 in additional funding," according to the report.

But summer 2017 was a while ago. Where does Artspace stand right now?

"The last time we heard, they've chosen the site over at [North Wynkoop] and they're in the negotiation phase with Westfield and the city and getting the tax credits. Last I heard it was still on track," RiNo Art District President and co-founder Tracy Weil said. "For me it's really  -- as an artist, it's probably one of the top priorities we have as an arts district. You can't have an art district without artists."

"I'm fighting to death on that one," he added.

Westfield, the developer, is also busy getting AEG's Mission Ballroom completed at the North Wynkoop development.

Artist's rendering of the North Wynkoop development. (Works Progress Architecture)

Winter 2017-18: RiNo completes 30 percent of design documents to convert 35th Street between Arkins and Wazee into a street designed primarily for pedestrians and cyclists

They're still at 30 percent as of now, but Weil says they're working with the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative and the city and hope to get to 90 percent by the end of the year.

Not in the annual report: Weil says the district has also begun the process for Chestnut Place, a project Denverite first reported on back in February 2017:

The Denver Channel reported in October 2018 that the plans still include at least a hotel, condos and an outdoor entertainment space.

An aerial conceptual rendering of Hurley Place along the South Platte River. (Courtesy Bernard Hurley)

Spring 2018: The RiNo Design Overlay and Guidelines, and Density Bonuses are passed

Denverite first reported on this in November 2017. There's a lot going on, but here's a brief explanation from Erica Meltzer's story:

A Community Planning and Development spokesperson said more than 10 projects in the area have submitted plans that involve incentive height. None of them have gotten final approval yet though, and some are still in early stages of the review process

Among those in the early stages, the spokesperson said, is a project Weil pointed out: a grocery store and 175 housing units, 10 percent of which would be affordable, where Five Points meets Cole.

The project would also rearrange the streets, including turning Downing and Marion streets into two-ways and getting rid of that curved piece of Lawrence Street.

As is almost always the case in the face of big new development, residents are worried about dramatic change to their neighborhood.

"I think Denver is being overdeveloped and it's a shame to see an old neighborhood like this get pushed out, no one can afford to live here," Denver resident of 49 years Diane Mahoney told Denverite's Allan Tellis.

Samuel Busby, a resident of 54 years in the neighborhood, told Allan he welcomes improvements to his neighborhood but is concerned the changes will force some residents out.

Summer 2018: Following a 20-month construction project, Brighton Boulevard celebrates its grand re-opening

The $30 million project was funded significantly by the city with the support of $3 million from the RiNo Denver GID, the annual report says.

This is where you'll find those 400 trees and new bike lanes, as well as two new traffic signals, new pedestrian crossings, more than 300 new streetlights, more than new 100 benches, more than 30 new bike racks and more than 80 new on-street parking spaces.

Brighton Boulevard, Jan. 16, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

But if you frequent Brighton Boulevard, you probably know the grand re-opening didn't mark the end of work on the thoroughfare.

"Officially, it's finished between 29th and 38th," Weil said. "That piece is done."

Anne Hayes, president of the GID, told him the section from 38th to 44th is "pretty much done" except for the landscaping and installation of some benches, he said. It's difficult to plant in the winter, so that will likely finish up in the spring.

Most importantly for your sanity, Weil said "all the cones are gone."

RiNo's 2019 calendar is already filling up.

Asked what's coming up, Weil mentioned the return of Velorama, another "ramping up" of CRUSH Walls, and in April, RiNo Week and the start of a farmers market at Boxyard Park.

Perhaps the main event, though, will be the Oxpecker Ball. (An oxpecker is the little bird eating bugs off a rhino's back.) The event will be held May 4 at EXDO Event Center to raise funds for the district's next big project: RiNo Park.

The development would add some publicly accessible green space next to the South Platte River, on Arkins Court between 35th street and 33rd streets. Here's an early design:

An early concept for the design of RiNo Park. (Courtesy of North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative)

The district announced last week that it signed a letter of intent with the city to use former Parks and Recreation buildings on the site. Weil said they're talking with Denver Public Library about creating a maker space there, and with Focus Points and Prodigy Coffeehouse about having incubators there. The space would also be used for artist studios, he said.

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