Exterior of the Miner's Alley Playhouse

Miners Alley Playhouse: Envisioning a cultural gold rush in Golden

Nestled just a block off of the main strip in Golden, Colorado is what, at first glance, appears to be the former family-owned Meyer Hardware Store. But back in 2013, Len Matheo, Artistic & Executive Director of Miners Alley Playhouse saw something more.

Exterior of the Miner's Alley Playhouse“The first time I entered the building,” said Matheo, “I thought, ‘this would make a really great theatre.’ The layout is conducive to a large main floor stage, and there is an adjacent backstage area and full basement for the construction of sets and installation of trap spaces. It was perfect.”

But buying the building wasn’t an option…until 2021 when owner Steve Shaefer decided to retire. Originally opened in 1945, the store was not only a three-generation centerpiece of his family, it also was a beloved cornerstone of a fledgling community. People from throughout the area came to buy the supplies they needed to erect the city that Golden would become.

When Shaefer decided to sell, community leaders despaired that another housing development would be erected, tarnishing the charming historic characteristics of downtown Golden and eliminating another local community asset and gathering place in the core of town.

A rendering of the developing Golden arts complex

Acting quickly, Matheo and his wife, Miners Alley Board President Lisa DeCaro, assembled a coalition of civic, cultural and community organizations to present an alternative. Instead, the group proposed Meyer Square, a community centerpiece that will include a newly relocated and renamed Miners Alley Performing Arts Center plus outdoor performance and pedestrian spaces that will serve as a true town square.

“It’s a passion project for the community,” said Matheo. “People have said that we’ve ‘saved downtown Golden’ and we’ve certainly preserved another piece of history.”

The project is on a fast track. The coalition, which includes Miners Alley Playhouse, Miners Saloon, Golden Civic Foundation, Downtown Development Authority, and Stone Strategy Design, all worked quickly together to help raise $5 million to allow Miners Alley Playhouse to purchase the hardware store in December 2021.

A rendering of the interior of the playhouse with the theatre in the round

Next, they hired Semple Brown Design to oversee plans for the space and surrounding grounds. Phase 1 will focus on renovation of the hardware store including the creation of a 157-seat thrust theatre, box office, dressing rooms and some adjacent space.

Phase 2 will be to nearly double the theatre in size by redeveloping it into a flexible, in-the-round venue. Additionally, Phase 2 will include the addition of community spaces, rehearsal rooms, limited on-site artist housing, design of outdoor areas and performance spaces, and expansion into other performing arts disciplines.

“Our goal is to expand the number of people that Miners Alley Playhouse can serve. Currently, we welcome 20,000 visitors to our 125-seat theatre and classes,” Matheo explained. “As we look ahead, my dream would be to create a summer theatre festival similar to Creede Rep — a ‘Creede on the Front Range’ so to speak. I hope to partner with neighbors such as Colorado School of Mines to utilize dorms for artist housing as well as Foothills Arts Center’s newly-renovated Astor House to develop this area as a new creative complex.”

The couple estimates the price tag for the full redevelopment project will be $15 million, of which the coalition has already secured $5 million.

A rendering of the exterior of the playhouse

“We envision Meyer Square as a warm, inviting public space anchored by the new Miners Alley Performing Arts Center where neighbors meet up, small community events bring people together, and everyone can enjoy a beautiful green space in downtown,” added DeCaro.

When asked to describe Miners Alley Playhouse, Matheo characterized it as “a professional theatre with a community feel.”

Community feel is apt. Community support is clearly evident. What inevitably comes next, is community connection. “We can’t wait to open Phase 1 early next year,” said Matheo. “We’re ready.”

To learn more about Meyer Square, please visit www.minersalley.com.