The chunk of pavement at the base of Highland Bridge along Platte Street is no longer only highlighted by two electrical boxes. It’s highlighted by two electrical boxes and local art, greenery, overhead lighting and places to sit.
Construction crews completed a $1.7 million renovation of the Platte Street Plaza that began last August. Unico Properties, which owns the historic Zang and Circa buildings on either side of the plaza, funded most of the project, which is on city-owned land.
The idea was to lure lingerers to shop, eat and drink on the nearby commercial strip rather than just passing through. The space is meant to host neighborhood meetings, farmers’ markets and other events — eventually.
Unico Vice President and Regional Director Austin Kane said the new public space will do much more of what it set out to do.
“I think you just have to believe in the premise,” Kane said. “We built it, and once we’re through the worst of COVID-19, we do believe they will come. I think that, assuming we can do it safely, people will be looking forward to gathering out outside again and Platte Street Plaza is a great place for them to do it.”
While COVID-19 has, to an extent, sapped the public’s ability to enjoy the area, a few people lingered on the new benches Wednesday in the shade of the Zang Building (the trees are still saplings and don’t yet give shade).
“It’s great because, I don’t know, I guess I would’ve just kept walking across I-25 before,” said Mo El-Baba, who works in Highland on the other side of the highway.
Denver artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios were hired to paint two large murals at the plaza. Their concept points to the transition of Platte Street from a gold-mining area to the (fancy) neighborhood it is today. The duo has worked in the area before, having decorated the walls of Platte Street’s Cervecería Colorado.
“Platte Street Plaza has had a bigger impact than we could have all imagined,” City Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval said in a statement. “The fact that Unico took it to another level and had local artists come down here, then it becomes more owned by the community. The more that we can create placemaking in Northwest Denver with improvements like this, I think the better Denver will be.”