May - December 2023


DAV and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) have been working with Pfeiffer and expert consultants on the pre-design work, site and facility assessments to complete the schematic design process. 

In parallel with this work, the project team conducted a series of community outreach events and engagements to solicit meaningful input from the public and interested stakeholders on the planning and conceptual design. Denver Civic Arts Foundation Board and Loretto Heights Capital Campaign Committee have also initiated a fundraising campaign to close the gap in funding for Phase 1. 

More recently, Mayor Mike Johnston named a new Executive Director for Denver Arts & Venues. Gretchen Hollrah comes with a wealth of experience in Capital Projects and has been fully briefed about the project and is now working with the project team to finalize the schematic design process. Together, the Mayor and Executive Director have confirmed they are committed to completing the RISE Bond theatre renovation, as planned.

Key Milestones: 

  • Completed 8 community engagement workshops and a usage survey completed by 32 arts organizations.
  • Completed site and facility assessments to confirm all required building systems upgrades for current accessibility, safety and energy codes (electrical, mechanical, plumbing, windows, roof, new interior finishes, technology and communications upgrades, furniture, finishing and equipment.)
  • Confirmed with DDPHE extensive environmental remediation required before construction begins.
  • Completed conceptual designs for theatre and surrounding footprint with first round of rough cost estimating that was well above expectation.
  • Using rough cost estimate to prioritize "must haves" for immediate build and determine future phasing.
  • Working to finalize initial schematic design to share with the public in Q1 2024 with community meetings to follow.

Community & Stakeholder Engagement

Public engagement was targeted to three groups: the southwest Denver community, local and regional arts groups and site partners, public agencies and officials. We used various methods of engagement like in-person and virtual meetings, an online survey, and a website to solicit input and encourage participation. 

  • Public Workshops: Joined by members from the Loretto Heights community and neighborhood, Sisters of Loretto, Loretto Heights Alumni, DSST College View Middle & High School, local arts and cultural organizations, Westside Developers, City officials, etc. 

  • Arts Groups Workshops: 22 local arts and cultural organizations were represented at the workshops and 32 completed the potential usage survey

Here's what we heard: 

From the Community

To create a community-centric place for everyone to:

  • Come together for formal and informal events, both inside and outdoors
  • Be exposed to diverse arts and cultural programming
  • Feel welcomed, especially for immediate neighbors/community
  • Have the ability to utilize the spaces for community needs

To achieve this, the site must be: 

  • Welcoming and inviting, open beyond performances
  • Affordable to attend, participate, rent and perform
  • Flexible to accommodate diverse uses and programming
  • Tied to education, nurturing youth's artistic pursuits
  • Upgraded for safety, codes, accessibility and comfort
  • Connected, easy to get to - accessible by car, public transit, school bus, pedestrians, campus-wide, etc. 
  • Built to serve the current community, while still preserving the legacy of the theatre, campus, and neighborhood

From Arts Groups

Overall interest in the project was high. They agreed that renovating the theatre should be the priority, but with consideration to flexible spaces inside the theatre that would allow for pre- and post-function events, classes, rehearsals, and community gatherings. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Affordability - rental, production, F&B and for patrons
  • Balanced Booking - calendar should prioritize community use and access, especially for smaller organizations
  • Connected to Community - not only in the physical sense with parking, public transit access, drop-off accommodations, but also with programming and user experience
  • Theatre improvements - acoustics, accessible seating throughout, more bathrooms with accessible and all-gender options,  
  • Back-of-House improvements - flexible space to accommodate different uses and art forms, loading, storage, etc. 
  • Technology and lighting equipment with in-house rental package that is easy to use and affordable
  • Guest amenities - lobby improvements, open space, concessions, ticketing
  • Outdoor Spaces - Flexible with built-in capabilities for performances, events and community gatherings

Site & Facility Assessments

Pfeiffer and the design team made assessments of existing facilities and site conditions in order to make recommendations on planning and programming priorities.

Building Conditions: Initial assessments show that both buildings are structurally and physically in good condition, but they have reached their life expectancy in major infrastructure systems, equipment and finishes. Being constructed in the 1960’s, the buildings do not meet current standards in accessibility and energy codes.

  • The project will require complete building systems upgrades (electrical, mechanical, plumbing, windows, roof, new interior finishes, technology and communications upgrades, furniture, finishing and equipment.)
  • ADA/Accessibility code requirements include gutting theatre seats to increase seat spacing and pathways, a new elevator to balcony level, additional bathroom stalls, etc. 
  • Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) confirmed that the buildings will also require extensive environmental abatement before construction can begin.

Site Study: Pfeiffer and Dig Studios in coordination with a number of site stakeholders, did an extensive site study to help develop options for the landscape while respecting the existing defining elements, such as the grand views to the south and west toward the Rocky Mountain’s Front Range and integration into southwest hillside.

  • They analyzed the extended shared campus site conditions to evaluate potential interfaces with the neighboring campus developments, understand critical design drivers and define shared goals.
  • Initial conceptual design options have been developed for the immediate project site property lines as well as the influencing adjacent areas, including the area north to the Administration Building, the historical front door and connection to Pancratia and DSST Middle and Hight School parking and loading areas, and access to the new parking to the south. 

Continue to Follow Along

Check back here for updates on the design process and visit Pfeiffer's project page to learn more and contact the team.