Mayor unveils bold vision for new Denver Performing Arts Complex

Nest Stage: The New Denver Performing Arts Complex

Our complete gallery of photos from the city’s press event today, including a look at artist renderings and live entertainment that was spread throughout the Denver Performing Arts Complex. To see more photos, simply click the forward arrow on the photo above. To download for free, click on the photo. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.


The city’s grand vision for a new downtown Denver Performing Arts Complex is for now, just that. But when the mayor orders you to dream big … you dream big.

On Thursday, Mayor Michael B. Hancock unveiled “Next Stage,” a bold proposal for what a transformed arts center might look like at a public press event held under the iconic arches of the 38-year-old Denver Performing Arts Complex.

Scott ShillerIf realized, the 12-acre site that is already the largest arts complex in the country by attendance will undergo a makeover that aims to go much further than simply transforming the city’s Theatre District.

“We are here to transform a city,” Hancock said.

When you combine the Performing Arts Complex with the Colorado Convention Center next door, Hancock said, more than 2 million people visit Denver’s arts corridor each year. “But what I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that’s simply not good enough,” he added. “This project has the potential to change our city’s cultural life in untold ways.

“I want Denver  to be known for its commitment to arts and culture.”

The ambitious – and as of now unfunded – plan calls for expanding Sculpture Park, which runs along Speer Boulevard between Arapahoe and Stout streets, into an entertainment destination that would be anchored by an amphitheater that would rival Chicago’s Millennium Park. It calls for moving Denver School of the Arts from its east Denver campus to the Boettcher Concert Hall property. It calls for three 40-story residential towers that would include new hotels, restaurants, office and retail space where the city’s public parking garage is currently located. It imagines a new 1,200-seat music hall at 14th and Arapahoe streets that would, among other things, serve as a new home to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. It calls for a new parking facility under Sculpture Park that would raise the current number of available parking spots from 1,700 to more than 2,600. And it calls for dedicating at least $250,000 to introduce new public art projects in and around the Performing Arts Complex over the next two years.

For starters.

A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.A look at what the new Denver Performing Arts Complex might look like from the entranceway at 13th and Curtis streets.

The goal is to make the Denver Performing Arts Complex a place that will be buzzing with activity for 18 hours every day. And remaining right at the heart of it all would be the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which presently draws about 800,000 to the Denver Performing Arts Complex with its theatre programming and educational opportunities. DCPA CEO Scott Shiller was present on Thursday to lend his full support for the plan.

Go to the city’s ‘Next Stage’ web page

“The city has made arts and culture one of the pillars of what is going to make Denver a global arts center,” said Shiller, who was backed by more than 200 DCPA employees wearing matching black DCPA jackets. “Mayor Hancock has been supportive of us, and we want to be supportive of him.”

Mayor Michael B. Hancock: 'What I love about Denver is that that even though we are No. 1, we are saying that's simply not good enoughAccording to city officials, the new DPAC will be “an enlivened, vibrant, thriving, public regional center of cultural activity in the heart of downtown. It will attract diverse audiences, celebrate a variety of art forms, contribute to the city’s economic vitality, enhance Denver’s urban fabric, integrate with neighboring amenities and serve as an innovative model for sustainable cultural and civic investment.”

And despite the radical proposed new looks, all early architectural renderings call for maintaining the signature arch that connects the two sides of the Complex at Curtis Street, and provides patrons protection from the weather.

The plan unveiled Thursday was developed by an Executive Leadership Team appointed by Hancock (pictured above right) that received input from more than 4,200 Denver residents, as well as arts patrons, performers and presenters. Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, who served on that Leadership Team, said its charge from the mayor was to simply reimagine what the new Performing Arts Complex might look like in the future, without limits.

“It is rare to announce something that can change the face of a city and in a way that we are doing today,” said Brooks.  

Added Hancock: “I asked the Leadership Team to be bold, to think outside the box and to not acknowledge limitations. I asked them to make this Complex into something that will take Denver to the next level.”

Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  Among those representing the DCPA on that Executive Leadership Team were Shiller, Broadway Division Executive Director John Ekeberg and board member Tina Walls.

“As the largest non-profit theatre company in America and the primary programmer of the Performing Arts Complex,” Shiller said, “we appreciate Mayor Hancock’s challenge to look beyond what the Complex is today and to focus on what we can become tomorrow. The cornerstone elements that comprise Next Stage align with our own vision to be the most engaging theatre organization in the nation.”

A key component of the plan is tearing down the 2,600-seat Boettcher Concert Hall to create a new home for Denver School of the Arts, currently located at East Montview Boulevard and Quebec Street. Denver Public Schools Acting Superintendent Susana Cordova hailed the Hancock plan as “revolutionary.” She said moving DSA to the downtown corridor would not only infuse the new Performing Arts Complex with “adolescent energy,” but, being centrally located near many public transportation hubs would solve many existing transportation problems for low-income students who come from all over the city.

“We are so excited to be a part of all this newness coming here to downtown Denver,” Cordova said. “We know that as the Performing Arts Complex grows, so will grow the opportunities for our students, both on the stage and as supporters of the amazing arts community here in Denver.”

Read the city’s Executive Summary

There has been no attempt at attaching a price tag or a timeline to the project yet. And as for how Hancock will pay for it all, he said bluntly, “I don’t know.” He has appointed a funding and governance committee that has been tasked with delivering a financing plan by the end of the year.

The unveiling event included entertainment from Colorado Ballet, the Colorado Symphony, Denver Brass, Black Actors Guild, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Opera Colorado, Gift of Jazz, Denver Young Artists Orchestra, students from Denver School of the Arts and former Bobby G Awards winner (for outstanding high-school achievement in musical theatre) Abby Noble.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Frequent Flyers. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.  A member of the Frequent Flyers performs from a makeshift trapeze outside the Bonfils Theatre Complex at the heart of the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Thursday. Above right: A member of the Colorado Ballet. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

A video prepared by the city’s Department of Arts and Venues about its plans for a new Performing Arts Complex.

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