In Denver, Colorado, the Civic Center park surrounded by government and municipal buildings has played host to climate protests led by Greta Thunberg; acted as a backdrop for a vigil following the Columbine shooting; and anchored countless annual festivals, parades, and community events. More recently, the park also made headlines when Denver police “cleared out people who had formed an encampment” after the city overruled its anti-homeless “camping ban” in 2019. For over 100 years the site has been an epicenter for cultural programming, and the city and county are now looking toward its next 100 years with a plan that will kick off with design work from Studio Gang.
The new concept plan called Civic Center Next 100, outlined by the city early last year, will preserve the history of the site while improving the park’s links to other prominent city locations. Studio Gang has signed a $2.8 million design contract and will lead Phase 1 of the plan. Studio Gang will make improvements to the Greek Theater and the Central Promenade, the main thoroughfare of the landscape that links the theater and Voorhies Memorial. The city envisions improving the accessibility and technology of the Greek Theater and using the promenade as an all-season venue where festivals and events could take place. It will also concentrate on a new Central Gathering Space and Bannock Street, abutting the park perimeter. Under the plan, Bannock Street will become an extension of the Civic Center Park accommodating additional gathering and event space.
The firm, with offices in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Paris, was chosen for the project following a competitive proposal process. A press release from the city stated the firm was selected “based on their project approach, which is rooted in a community-centered process, and both respects the historic aspects of the park while bringing innovative architectural design.” Nearby to the Civic Center Studio Gang is wrapping up work on Populus, a hotel that claims it will be carbon positive.
“We are looking forward to working closely with the city, the conservancy, and the communities of Denver on the design for Civic Center that extends its democratic legacy and invites everyone to come together around performance,” said Jeanne Gang, founding principal and partner of Studio Gang, in a statement. “It is also a perfect moment to make the park’s ecology resilient for its next 100 years of life.”
Denver Civic Center comprises two parks bordered by government buildings and a historic district. Structures within the venue are designed in a neoclassical style, with a Greek amphitheater and memorial to Colorado miner John Hart Pemberton Voorhies as focal points. The two structures are connected via pathways split by a garden bed. A fountain and several other pathways leading to the adjacent Lincoln Veterans Memorial Park and the city streets.
The project is under the scope of Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), which was recently a recipient of a Mellon Foundation grant in the total of $2.3 million. This funding will go toward making upgrades to the Greek Theater and South Plaza. DPR also received $750,000 from the National Park Service to make improvements to the Central Promenade. Other funding and donation sources include Elevate Denver Bond and Civic Center Conservancy.
The city anticipates substantial completion of Phase 1 by late 2025.