This month, the Denver City Council approved a long-term lease of two historic buildings at 35th Street and Arkins Court, which nonprofit RiNo Art District is now transforming into a one-of-a-kind gathering place for Denverites called the ArtPark Community Hub.
The three-acre project encompasses a large space and has its sights set on a large goal — several goals, actually.
“It’s going to be a new community resource to celebrate art, innovation, education, small business and community empowerment,” said John Deffenbaugh, projects director of RiNo Art District. “It’s the first of its kind — certainly in Denver, and the region.”
The buildings, which once were operated by the Denver Police Department, were previously slated for demolition. But Deffenbaugh says that RiNo Art District fiercely advocated to save the buildings and adapt them into something new. And after a years-long process, that vision is finally becoming a reality. The nonprofit has officially broken ground on the project with plans to open in late summer of this year — and to offer a little something for everyone.
Creatives will find that the hub plans to work with RedLine Contemporary Art Center to bring a vibrant new art experience to the area. Eight artists will be invited to rent out affordable studio space in the hub, affording them a unique environment in which they can hone their craft and share their work with the neighborhood. The center will also run arts education programming for the community out of the new location.
Meanwhile, the hub will also offer a second amenity the entire community can enjoy: A new branch of Denver Public Library (DPL).
“The library will be providing flexible community spaces open to all for a variety of uses,” Deffenbaugh said. “They’ll have IT facilities, Chromebooks, Wi-Fi and we’ll also have parts of their book collection there as well. So it’s a really great resource.”
And in addition to RedLine and DPL, a third group, Focus Points Family Resource Center, will also expand its efforts under the hub’s roof. Deffenbaugh specifically highlighted Focus Points’ Comal Heritage Food Incubator, a culinary training program for immigrants and refugees with an interest in restaurant entrepreneurship, which will be continued at the hub when it opens.
Different as the three partner groups may be, all three of them have at least one thing in common: Each group is a cultural partner seeking to promote a diverse and vibrant community, Deffenbaugh said.
He also underscored another one of his favorite aspects of the soon-to-be-built facility — it connects to the RiNo Art Park, creating an opportunity for indoor activities to “spill out into the park” during warmer months.
RiNo Art District has already raised about a quarter of the funds needed for the multimillion-dollar project and is currently accepting donations, which will help to further cover the project’s costs.
“This is intended to be highly community-focused and open and accessible to all,” Deffenbaugh said. “I really hope it will become a very vibrant hub of activity for this area.”