The prominent urban site located along East Colfax Avenue was the first anchor development for the City of Denver’s Colfax Redevelopment Plan. This project strives help to invigorate the neighborhood and work as a catalyst for the revitalization of East Colfax Avenue.
Architect: Semple Brown Design, P.C
Location: Denver, Colorado, USA
Project Team: Russel L. Brown Jr. (Principal-in-Charge), Kevin Stephenson (Architect/Designer), Leila Schwyhart (Designer/Job Captain), Chris Wineman (Theatre Design Expert)
Structural Engineer: McGlammery Structural Group
Electrical/Mechanical/Plumbing Engineer: Belfay Engineering
Civil Engineer: JVA Incorporated
General Contractor: Swinerton Builders
Signage Consultant: ArtHouse
Project Area: 92,000 sqf
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Ron Pollard
The project’s components consist of new retail (25,920 sqf), a 203-space parking garage and a renovated historic theatre. The design team’s intent was to reinforce the Esplanade (parking and fountain), which fronts East High School and connects to East Colfax Avenue, by placing the project on axis with it. A smaller Esplanade was created by vacating the alley and converting it into an urban pedestrian street which connects the two buildings with the garage.
To meet the developer’s needs, the site needed to be built-out on all sides as well and the building’s height was maximized to a bulk plane of 55’ above the street. The resulting massing was an ominous partner to the historic Lowenstein Theatre building which steps down from the fly tower to a much lower massing at Colfax Avenue.
In order to resolve massing issues the design team took small shifts to the garage structure, visually breaking it down into smaller pieces. These elements were either completely solid, open, or became part of the art piece.
Homage was paid to the original Lowenstein lobby façade by taking critical datums from the old building over to the new. For example, the metal clad entrance to the music store was a direct translation from the theatre’s roof line on Colfax Avenue. Also, the prominent gallery windows on the Lowenstein were measured and reinterpreted into a louvered truss/screening element on the upper level of the garage.
Time was also a major challenge. To meet the needs of the bookstore’s required move-in date, the garage needed to be completed within 7 months from the time the program was first given to the architectural team. The Architects and Structural engineers had little more than a week to commit to the overall structural layout and grid which meant that the architectural design of the building needed to be resolved as well. The move-in date was achieved, though at the cost of many sleepless nights for the designers.
With a core and shell construction cost of $55/sqf the design team was forced to find inexpensive materials for the building structure and skin while also trying to make a comfortable pedestrian experience on three sides of the building.