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YOUR DOWNTOWN Transforming downtown spaces into places

A Study in Tactical Urbanism by the Downtown Denver Leadership Program Class of 2014 Downtown Denver Partnership, Inc.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction............................2-3 Case Studies.........................4-23 Tactical Urbanism DIY..........24-25 Resources................................. 25 Permitting Report Excerpt.....26-27

INTRODUCTION How do you transform a parking lot into a canvas, or a train stop to a stage? Each year, the Downtown Denver Leadership Program provides an intense immersion in urban issues, policies and practices through an annual class project that challenges participants’ ability to research, analyze and collaborate. The Class of 2014 was tasked with the concept of Tactical Urbanism – the practice of activating underutilized urban spaces to temporarily improve downtown environments and stimulate permanent change. After months of research, interviews and community engagement, the 2014 project culminated in a free two-day event that encouraged attendees to view downtown Denver through a new lens. From Union Station to the 16th Street Mall to Arapahoe Square and along the Cherry Creek Path, downtown parks turned into dance studios, parking lots became works of art and alleyways doubled as community gathering places. “Reimagine Your Downtown” brought to life nine unique urban interventions aimed at transforming Denver public spaces in new and creative ways with the goal of inspiring future activity. Based on the class’ experiences and lessons learned, this Toolkit is intended to serve as a resource for others that may want to implement their own Tactical Urbanism interventions. It includes Case Studies of our interventions, a DIY guide and recommendations made to the City and County of Denver of efficiencies that could be gained in the permitting process to help facilitate local Tactical Urbanism interventions moving forward. What is Tactical Urbanism? Guerrilla gardening, pavement-to-parks, open streets…these are all Tactical Urbanism interventions – inexpensive, experimental projects that transform public spaces into more lively and enjoyable places. Urban spaces that are not actively programmed for regular use can often become magnets for negative activity. Tactical Urbanism is gaining momentum in cities across the world as a way of revitalizing underutilized public spaces in a replicable way and engaging citizens in a more vibrant urban life. Tactical Urbanism projects can serve many purposes – fostering community investment, stimulating economic development, improving public health, showcasing arts and culture, enhancing place making, and more. In many cities, these projects are effectively catalyzing changes to land use policies by providing proof of concept for longer-term improved uses of public spaces.


Tactical Urbanism has recently been embraced by local city leadership and organizations like the Downtown Denver Partnership. Denver Arts & Venues

is encouraging Tactical Urbanism and creative place making in its P.S. You are Here grant program. Other examples in Denver include pop-up bike lanes and bike parking areas, public art installations, “yarn bombing� of construction fences, the installation of pianos and games along the 16th Street Mall, the Oh Heck Yeah! street arcade and the Denver Better Block program. Tactical Urbanism will also play an important role in the creation and implementation of the forthcoming Downtown Denver Parks & Public Spaces Master Plan.



unique interventions

REIMAGINE YOUR DOWNTOWN OCTOBER 3 & 4, 2014 www.reimagineyourdowntown.com


hours of activation


emerging leaders


of new investment in Downtown Denver


Urban Backyard


Concrete Jungle




Play Denver: Reimagine Downtown With Your Kids


Reimagine Your Commute: Art In Motion


Reimagine Less Homelessness


Arapahoe United: Reimagining Space Today... Stronger Community Tomorrow


Chalk the Creek Front


Art Lot


community and corporate partners

Vision FLEXIBILITY CONTEXT Activation Community Engagement


Reimagine Parking






Reimagine Parking Purpose To convert two on-street parking spaces to parking for up to nine bikes and to create an associated hub of activity based around the bike parking.

Scale Two parking spots on Wynkoop Street between 16th and 17th Streets from Friday, October 3rd at 7:30 a.m. to Thursday, October 9th at 5:00 p.m.

The Opportunity

The following Case Studies

Denver has a lack of safe, mass-bike parking solutions within the Central Business District. Bike commuters who hold service industry jobs and visitors are affected because garage-based bike parking may not be an option or can fill up quickly.

reflect the experiences of the

Group Members

Downtown Denver Leadership

Sean Hanlon, Sean Gatzen, John Markovich, Patrick McLaughlin, Dan Orlinski, Ann Prouty, Mike Tilbury, Dominic Weilminster

Class of 2014 during our two-day “Reimagine Your Downtown” event.

About Reimagine Parking We constructed a demountable, mobile bike parklet as a case study tool to identify other permanent bike parklet locations. The bike parklet—which featured nine bike parking spaces, a bar level shelf and a chalkboard— was installed in front of Union Station for a week. Bike commuters could lock their bikes, drink free coffee, and use the chalkboard to discuss bike transportation.



2 cars and no other uses of the space.


Successes • The bike parklet attracted significant participation, leading the Downtown Denver Partnership to extend the permit for a week and incorporate it into future bike events. • The parklet generated great discussion about alternative transportation in Denver.

9 bikes, Community conversation about transportation.

Challenges • Proximity to existing bike parking. The permanent bike parking at Union Station was installed after we selected the project location. • Skepticism over security and/or purpose. • Designing a mobile parklet that is secure, communicative, and provides sufficient space for activity within a parking space.

Lessons Learned • The business community is enthusiastic to partner on this type of project, which presents a great opportunity for similar future projects. • Even minor additional amenities, like free coffee, attracted many more users.

Observations • While our original idea focused on providing more bike parking, in reality the parklet attracted a large number of users who simply wanted a forum to discuss bike infrastructure and alternative transportation. Providing chalk and a chalkboard allowed us to serve this need.

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Urban Backyard Purpose Activate an alley in a way that entices Denverites to engage with a space through a variety of installations.

Scale One alley, between 15 and 16 Streets and between Market and Blake Streets on Friday, October 3rd from 12-4 p.m. th


The Opportunity Alleys in downtown Denver provide fantastic opportunities for engagement, redevelopment and utilization. Denverites are beginning to acknowledge this opportunity; however, they are unsure about how to start the process for alleyway activation.

Group Members Philippe Dujardin, Brady Campbell, Tom Dooley, Jamie Fogle, Sam Hosfelt, Jessica Andersen, Piper Fairbanks, Angie Whitford, Jonathan Rogers, Lunden MacDonald, Tamika Pumphrey, Bryce Hall, Tristin Gleason

About Urban Backyard We transformed the alley by bringing in temporary installations and games. These games included life-size chess, corn hole, foosball, ladder golf, etc. The Urban Backyard was designed to increase foot traffic in the alley and stimulate engagement in a previously underutilized space.



Pedestrian Survey: 15 people entered during a one hour period. • Stationary Activity: 4 of the 15 people lingered and smoked.

Successes • Acknowledgment of the clean and activated alleyway. • Participation in the games. • Hope for future action/activation.


• Age & Gender Survey: 15 people entered the alley and 65% were young males.


• Cooperation and participation from stakeholders. Friday afternoon deliveries were a direct concern. While this was a challenge, it was not impossible to deal with.

Lessons Learned • Activation needed at both ends of the alley to draw in participants. • Support and participation by all stakeholders is critical. • Contact building tenants, owners and managers to coordinate loading/deliveries and other alley activities the day of the event. • Working with an alley that has less tenants and dumpsters would make it easier. • Seed the event with invitees for friendly participation and to generate activity. • Relocate trash and recycling bins. • Determine the best activation time, i.e. lunch hour did not provide the best response.

Observations • People are curious about such a drastic change, but apprehensive to engage. • Critical factors include power washing, timing (morning), and weather (cool temperatures and no precipitation). • People inquired about food and beverages. Providing these accommodations would attract more people.

Pedestrian Survey: 18 people entered during a one hour period. There was a 20% increase. • Stationary Activity: 14 people were engaged in the alleyway activation. • Age & Gender Survey: Of the 18 people counted, 62% were male and 38% were female.

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Concrete Jungle Purpose To activate the 16th Street Mall by making it a safe, enjoyable and soughtafter destination during all times of the day and week.

Scale One block on the 16 Street Mall between Stout Street and Champa Street. th

The Opportunity The 16 Street Mall is a place for connection. Whether it is a business man walking down the street or the tourist taking the Free Mall Ride, the 16th Street Mall brings people together from all different walks of life. The Mall attracts a variety of individuals, with certain types being more prevalent during certain times of day. The block selected had an opportunity to not only increase social behavior, but serve as a medium to reach a diverse group of individuals at all hours of the day. th

Group Members Christine Comer, Daniel Nichols, Sean Fitzhugh, Rebecca Stallworth, Marc Diamant, Maureen McDonnell, Ana Sandomire, Nicole Sisk, Brandon Sobiech, Taber Sweet


About Concrete Jungle Concrete Jungle was an idea that stemmed from a “Cultural Block.” A “Cultural Block” would serve as a platform for different events, art exhibits, and cultural centers to advertise to a large group of people. Organizations, like the Denver Zoo, would have the opportunity to hang banners on the street lights and bring exhibits to the Mall for a certain period of time. For our activation, the Denver Zoo was going to create a three-part exhibit on our Cultural Block. The benefits of events like these would be increased publicity for cultural organizations, positive city relationships, and an increase in social behavior. These benefits will have a positive impact on the Mall and create a safe, enjoyable and sought-after destination

Successes • While we were not able to successfully complete the project, we were able to find groups like the Denver Zoo who are extremely interested in this idea. • The 16th Street Mall has a variety of stakeholders and we were able to get in front of those decision makers. • The Downtown Denver Partnership has seen incredible success from interventions like the Garden Block, Patio 16 and Skyline Park.

Challenges • To approve an event on the Mall you do have to get approval from different City & County of Denver departments. This proved to be a struggle with the limited amount of time. Since there was such a long approval process, the Zoo could not commit without a date and specific safety measures met.

Lessons Learned • Timing, planning and communication are key to success.

Observations • While we were not able to implement our project, we have the tools and resources to plan an activation project in the future.



Parkivation Purpose To activate and reimagine downtown parks for community engagement and enjoyment with grassroots tactics that inspire future activity.

Scale Skyline Park “Block One” on Arapahoe Street between 15th and 16th Streets on October 3rd, 2014 from 3-7 p.m.

The Opportunity Parks and other urban spaces that are not actively programmed for regular use can become magnets for negative activity. Skyline Park, spanning three downtown blocks from 15th to 18th Streets on Arapahoe Street, had become an example of this problem. In recent years, organizations like the Downtown Denver Partnership have put resources toward daily activation through programming and design elements to encourage more regular use. Still, their full potential as vibrant places integrated into downtown life has yet to be realized. Home to a steady transient population sprinkled with occasional pop-up markets and downtown lunch-goers, Block One (between 15th and 16th Streets) remains an underutilized block that could benefit from increased activation.

Group Members Keeley Downs, Chad Kollar, Eric Lazzari, Andrea Pawlak, Ida Pennymon, Amanda Peters, Tommy Nigro, Mandy Renaud, Matt Spohn, Martha Weidmann

About Parktivation We identified three categories of easily re-created programming – recreation, arts and culture, and installation – and implemented them simultaneously throughout the park to create layers of activity. Rather than attempt to displace the park’s existing user-base, we attempted to invite new users through the use of lawn games (Frisbee Golf, Foosball, Ping Pong), an interactive chalkboard installation, dance steps, and live performances by cmDance.

Successes • Our group accomplished all the activities we set out to do. All of the components of the intervention received varying degrees of participation. • The chalkboard installation was active the entire time frame of the intervention. • We activated an underutilized block of Skyline Park that can sometimes be intimidating. People walked further into the park from 16th Street than they may have otherwise done.


Challenges • A booking conflict created a situation where we needed to share space with a pop-up market. • The pop-up market between our intervention and 16th Street created a visual and physical buffer that may have limited participation. • Existing transient population that uses the park may have intimidated other users from participating. • Late afternoon shade covering the majority of the park may have been a detractor.

Lessons Learned


• Empty green space and hardscape • Intimidating open park


• New layers of activity throughout • Inviting programmed park

• Attaching an intervention to an established event can boost participation. • Proximity to existing activities is an important consideration in determining where to locate an intervention, i.e. activities closer to existing activity on the 16th Street Mall got more attention and participation. • Layers of activities are key to prolonged engagement, i.e. the dancers by the 16th Street Mall attracted attention, chalk art and signage drew people further into the park where they could participate in dance steps and the games. • Observational activities, like watching the dancers, seemed to be more successful than interactive activities, like attempting the dance steps. • It is important to be proactive and persistent in the City permitting process.

Observations • Activities brought people together in unexpected ways – this was especially true with the lawn games where strangers from very different backgrounds often paired up to play the games. • At one point, nearly 30 people stopped to watch one of the dance performances. • People were often tentative to be the first one to participate in an activity, but once one person did, others joined in.

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Play Denver Purpose To change the experience for families who visit or live in downtown Denver by highlighting kid-friendly activities and attractions throughout downtown.

Scale Friday, October 3 , 2014 at Union Station from 4–7 p.m. and Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the surface parking lot between 16th and 15th Streets along California Street from 2–5 p.m. rd

The Opportunity The downtown area has more than 115,000 employees. The city center is a thriving metropolis full of cultural, economic and professional diversity. While the attraction for employees and young professionals is obvious, it oftentimes overshadows the incredible attractions and activities that can be enjoyed by families

Group Members Kristy Kline, Ryan Finch, David Stern, Mike Turman, Matt Harrington, Carrie Singer, Peter Spina, Abbey Lee

About Play Denver


Friday’s pop-up event encouraged engagement from downtown Denver residents and commuters. Break dancers and opera singers excited kids and adults alike. Saturday’s event encouraged prolonged attendance and nearly everyone stopped to gawk at the whimsical figure we constructed that could adorn the streets of downtown. A variety of people lingered in the empty parking lot to vote on four proposed murals that are being


Union station was mainly inhabited by busy professionals and commuters. The surface lot was vacant and unwelcoming.

considered for the side of a building. Both events were well-attended, and the family-friendly potential of Denver was revealed. More importantly, there was great excitement surrounding the itineraries created by the Denver Play Group and residents of the metro area can now reference the downtown Denver website for activities.

Successes The whimsical installation we created for kids drew attention from children and adults alike as they stopped to admire and interact with the nearly six foot tall figure. Everyone played with hula hoops or blew bubbles.



The areas where the events took place are still decorated with children’s chalk drawings. The Children’s Museum of Denver may even adopt the whimsical structure as an installation of their own to put at various locations around the city.

Commuters were not prone to engaging in events after work.

Lessons Learned Structures can aid in encouraging the “family-friendly feeling” of the downtown area. However, that feeling is influenced by times and locations for events and whimsical structures. People are more prone to interact when there is time on weekends rather than during the weeknight rush.

Observations Changing the feeling of downtown can be done by encouraging diverse interactions. At each event, individuals from vastly different social, economic and professional backgrounds took the time to talk. These interactions would likely not have happened had the Downtown Denver Partnership not been able to facilitate the pop-up events.

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Arts in Motion Purpose The purpose of our intervention was to bring unexpected art to different locations and individuals.

Scale The RTD Light Rail Stations at Union Station and 10th & Osage Streets, on Friday, October 3rd from 12:00–4:00 p.m.

The Opportunity The art experience is something that entices individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. Frequently, their access to art can be limited due to location, expenses or lack of knowledge. We wanted to increase the connection between Denver’s art districts and the surrounding neighborhoods by bringing art to people, allowing people the chance to experience various art mediums without having to go out of their everyday routines for exposure or involvement.

Group Members Shaina Burkett, Lynn Folkersen, Ann Hovland, Nneka Johnson, Blake Mackey, Christina McCalland, Ryan Stone, Jenny Topolosky

About Arts in Motion In partnership with RTD, we identified two transit hubs along a light rail line and created an evening of programming at these sites, featuring visual and performing arts to surprise and delight passersby and commuters. Visitors were able to view various art mediums, listen to live music and watch dance troupes perform.

Successes • Developing a strong partnership with RTD. We believe that collaboration with RTD was critical to the success of our intervention. • Conducting the proper amount of research to find the right space and location to stage performances. • The multiple performers were flexible, mobile and required little staging. They were able to adjust their acts on site based on the changing environment. • Variety of performances that could appeal to diverse audience. • Understanding the safety restrictions set by RTD.



• People passed through the space because of a sporting event or other outside activities. • People were focused on getting from point A to B.


Challenges • Restrictions and limitations created by collaborating partners. The group had to make decisions to satisfy all partners and modify the initial goal. • The safety restrictions set by RTD made us approach the execution of our project differently. • Environmental challenges, i.e. no access to power sources, inability to have art performances take place on actual trains, spoken word artists (not received as well as interactive art performances), limited number of locations to stage art.

• A realistic view of how a variety of people used the programmed spaces. • Individuals interacted with performers and other individuals present in the space. • Sparked unexpected conversation.

Lessons Learned • Proximity to existing activities is an important consideration in determining where to locate an intervention. • Advance preparation – conduct thorough research on performances and have prior experience with the talent beforehand. • The location can determine the type of programming that occurs. For example, more interactive artists should be in a location that has ample space for their craft. Visual mediums and unamplified poets should be staged in a smaller, more concentrated area.

Observations • The activities brought people together in unexpected ways. • Prior to the intervention, we noticed that people were focused on getting from point A to B without diverting from the path to their destination. At the time of the intervention, we noticed that people were more engaged with one another and took time to stop, observe, and experience the Art in Motion. • Overall, our project changed individuals’ traditional commutes.

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Reimagine Less Homelessness Purpose To reduce panhandling in popular urban areas by developing an outreach campaign to create awareness and facilitate citizen donations for organizations that can professionally assist homeless and vagrant people.

Scale The 16th Street Mall on Friday, October 3rd from 12-4 p.m.

The Opportunity There are existing blue meter collection locations on the sidewalks of the 16th Street Mall. Individuals can donate with coins or their credit/debit cards. The donations support Denver’s Road Home – an organization aimed at ending homelessness in Denver.

Group Members Greg Lewis, James Fipp, Doug Miller, Louise Fischer-Parish, Suzanne Hass, Jesse Kajer, Christopher Lueth, Kate Waggoner, Omar Yassine

About Reimagine Less Homelessness To make the blue meters stand out, our group “yarn-bombed” the pipes and covered them in yarn sweaters. We tightly sewed them together so they wouldn’t come off easily. Also, we were physically present along the Mall, handing out pamphlets and providing education to anyone who was interested in the meters.



• Blue meters that look like parking meters • Status quo informed people


• Blue meters with attractive features that grab attention and are different • Information in people’s hands about Denver’s Road Home • 20-30 informed people who were happy to learn about the concept

Successes • Over four hours, our group had meaningful conversations with 20 to 30 individuals. • Most appreciated our effort and were happy to learn more about the blue meters.

Challenges • It was challenging to get people’s attention while walking along the Mall. • An unknown person removed some of the decorations from the meters.

Lessons Learned • Creating more of a “fuss” to get passersby attention would have been meaningful to our group. • More people in one area may have been better than a couple of us at each location.

Observations • When we did capture people’s attention, they were generally happy to hear our information.

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Arapahoe United Purpose To foster activation and community engagement from all of the stakeholders in the Arapahoe Square community.

Scale The block on 21 Street between Curtis and Arapahoe Streets on Saturday October 4th, 2014. st

The Opportunity Many consider Arapahoe Square to be one of the most promising, yet challenging areas for growth in Downtown Denver. While there has been some investment into this largely blighted portion of downtown, many disagree on the best solution to create a sense of place and community in the area. Thus, our team focused on a two-pronged approach to generate a rich, pedestrian friendly space: 1) assemble stakeholders to provide input on issues and solutions 2) work with those stakeholders to activate the public right-of-way on 21st & Curtis Streets, creating a sense of vibrancy and place. Through a grant from The Colorado Trust, our team engaged Civic Canopy to facilitate these community gatherings.

Group Members Julie Lerudis, Michael Dulin, Peter Wall, Cris Torres, Michael Sapp, Darren Lemieux, Tanya Weinberg, Brad Boyle

About Arapahoe United Community stakeholders including business owners, residents, nonprofit service providers and homeless individuals participated in several community gatherings and created the Arapahoe United Vision Map. These stakeholders then came together on October 4th to create a better block at 21st and Curtis Streets. They tackled overgrown weed beds and replaced them with beautiful flowers, did yoga on the sidewalk, sang and danced



• Weeds and disrepair • Strangers • Blank walls and unused sidewalk


• Clean planters with colorful flowers • Friends • Community gathering spot

with the Denver Rescue Band, and built a foundation for a great tradition of bringing different types of folks together in a common effort to make the community a better place. Pedestrian traffic in the area increased by more than 200 individuals during this inspirational event.

Successes • Great community involvement and participation from many of the different stakeholders. • A beautified 21st Street between Arapahoe and Curtis Streets, including de-weeding and new vegetation. • Wide participation in live music, yoga and dancing. There were food and other provisions provided to the homeless. • The creation of a sense of neighborhood and community.

Challenges • Engaging all stakeholders • Infrastructure limitations • Time limitations

Lessons Learned • Positive engagement can exist among various stakeholders within Arapahoe Square. • Proximity to existing activities is an important consideration in determining where to locate an intervention. • Efforts to fully engage have benefits.

Observations • The activities brought people together in unexpected ways. This was especially true with street improvement efforts. Yoga and other activities paired up strangers from different backgrounds to engage in a manner that would not have happened without the intervention.

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Chalk the Creek Front Purpose To encourage more people to utilize the Cherry Creek trail and to enhance the experience of those who use it.

Scale The Cherry Creek Trail from Larimer Street to Platte Street along Speer Boulevard.

The Opportunity The Cherry Creek Trail spans more than 11 miles between the Platte River (Confluence Park) and the Cherry Creek Reservoir. Numerous areas along the trail are well-landscaped and have beautiful scenery, however, there is a stretch in the downtown Denver section that lacks an engaging experience. Our group conducted public polling and garnered feedback from social media. From the data collected, we discovered many suggestions on how to increase positive user experience. This includes better path access, water fountains, slow zones where traffic increases, etc.

Group Members Jessica Burey, Christin Marvin, Peter Merrion, Stephanie Martinez, Emily Holleran, Bill Peffer, Alison Bodor, Samuel Worthy, Tracy Zabel, Cassen LaBounty

About Chalk the Creek Front Our group identified an area of the Cherry Creek Trail that is often empty, yet a prime location for public interaction. To better showcase this stretch of the trail, we created a large canvas for the public to create chalk art. We also had a DJ and a food-cart which generated attention toward the event and caused a variety of people to stop and converse with our team.

Successes • More than $600 collected to benefit the Greenway Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the City’s waterways. • This location had never been permitted before and showed that it was underutilized. • Families and other members of the public delivered very positive feedback on the event in this location. • We used a multi-disciplinary approach (music, interactions) to broaden the appeal of the intervention. • Some passersby were thankful for the free Gatorade and water.



• Incorporating outside vendors was not well received. • Attracting people to the location was difficult as it was out of the way for people on street level.


• 6 stationary, 7 pedestrians, 9 cyclists • 0 children • A blank canvas of sidewalks/pedestrian/cyclist trails. No real reason to stop and enjoy the area and its amenities.


• Marketing of the event could have been more successful as the majority of public participants were people passing through, not people who had heard of the event from marketing efforts. • The security requirement of the permitting process caused difficulty.

Lessons Learned • It would have been helpful to have an event checklist to make sure that prior to the intervention commencing we had all our bases covered. • There could have been better connection amongst the various interventions to better showcase the entire “Reimagine Denver” experience. • Interventions should be planned in locations that work in your favor. • Our group should have been more aware of the public nature of the intervention and the difficulties dealing with situations like theft of backpacks and food, intoxicated vagrants, etc.

• 23 stationary, 24 pedestrians, 65 cyclists • 4 children ages 0-7, 2 children ages 7-14 • A transformed sidewalk area, above and near the trails, with outlined areas to create chalk art. Instead of passing by, people were able to enjoy the area and its amenities.

Observations • Once one person participated in creating chalk art, other people were more inclined to engage. • The two-leveled nature of our event space provided some logistical difficulties. • People in the area seemed to appreciate the music.

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Art Lot Purpose To activate surface parking lots in our city center with the creation and display of public art.

Scale All surface parking lots downtown and in the surrounding neighborhood. The first installation and gathering took place at the surface lot on California Street between 15th and 16th Streets on Saturday, October 4th from 2 – 5 p.m.

The Opportunity Surface parking lots in downtown Denver are cultural voids in the urban fabric of the city. By reimagining these spaces as blank canvasses to create and showcase art and to hold community gatherings, surface parking lots are activated and can make positive contributions to our city center.

Group Members Jessica Kosares, Chris Schramm, Cazes Martin, Jake Whitted, Ryan Balakas, Aaron Harcek, Nick Deutsch

About Art Lot We identified several parking lots with blank adjacent walls that would support an art mural installation. After working with the owners of the lot and the adjacent building, we were able to secure the lot for the installation and hosted an online competition to gather mural designs from the public. A cash prize was offered as both an incentive and as an acknowledgment of the artists’ time. With the competition underway, we began seeking sponsorships to meet our funding needs. As an incentive we included sponsor logos in our online communications, as well as on signage at our event. At the event we activated the parking lot with food trucks, local craft beer, live music and an area for kids, with various activities like chalk art. Prior to the event we narrowed down the contest submissions, which were then displayed on the mural wall at the event, and the public was able to vote for the winning entry, which was installed on the wall after the event.

Successes • Engaged the community on a spot of asphalt that previously was underutilized. Art + Food + Beer served as additional catalyst for discourse. • Involving the public in the creation and selection of the vinyl mural. The people who attended the art lot event were excited to be a part of improving downtown through the mural. • The location worked well, especially given its proximity to a light rail stop and the Great American Beer Festival. Also, the online competition generated a large number of strong entries.


Challenges • Our reliance on a 3 party partnership ended up being slightly detrimental to the end result. • Ensuring that the winning entry would not be offensive or controversial. • Didn’t allocate enough time for permitting/funding prior to the event. • We struggled to get members of the corporate community to buy into our project. • We relied on people with expertise to help us with specific aspects of our project. We would have been better off maintaining responsibility for more aspects of the event, i.e. marketing the event, promoting the contest, garnering entries, understanding the permitting/approval process. • Understanding how exactly the city’s rules, regulations and ordinances applied to this particular project. • We had difficulty generating spontaneous foot traffic. • The winning artist’s active campaigning near the voting area was problematic. • It would have been ideal to have the actual piece unveiled at the event. rd

Lessons Learned

BEFORE & AFTER The art mural is a significant change to the face of the building adjacent to the lot. During the event there was a noteworthy increase in foot traffic in the parking lot. After, it likely resumed to its initial state. There is a potential legacy for a reoccurring project on an annual basis if grant funding is secured. The event made a huge impact to the lot, but only for a day. The art mural is the most successful and lasting impact produced by our team. The parking lot will go from an area that detracts from the vibrant environment of downtown, to one that enhances the cityscape.

• Keep the intent simple and focused because it will always take more time than anticipated and the group members’ jobs will take precedent. • Establish project goals as early as possible to provide time for sponsors, permitting and generating publicity. • Pursue possible grants from organizations in the immediate area that could benefit from an improved space like parking lots. • Allocate more time for fundraising. This would have allowed us to apply for readily available grants and funds, rather than relying solely on private sponsors.

Observations • Different personalities and perspectives within the group successfully helped shape the final result. • A diverse group of people gathering in a parking lot, discussing what “Reimagining Your Downtown” means and its goals. A hard-working group of the leadership class members working together to create a canvas where it did not previously exist. • People who came to our event were enthusiastic about having a part in improving downtown Denver. This process made us realize that anyone can influence change and create a vision that improves our experience of downtown; we don’t need to rely on elected officials and urban planners. If you have an idea for improving your city, pursue that vision. It’s not as hard as you might imagine. • A well-intentioned, art-based event that made a surface lot something more for an afternoon. There was impressive interaction between the attendees, artists, vendors and participants that genuinely had an interest around the event.



TACTICAL URBANISM DIY Inspired to implement your own Tactical Urbanism intervention? Use this Do-It-Yourself guide to help get started. 1. Define your project. Identify the problem you are trying to address. Want to activate a vacant parking lot or generate community conversation through public art? Clearly defining your vision in writing and through imagery is an essential first step. See examples of vision statements in the Purpose and Opportunity sections of our Case Studies. 2. Identify Community partners and funding mechanisms. Many projects require some degree of financial investment and all require collaboration. Think about who has a stake in your project and reach out to community organizations that align with your goals. The most successful interventions tend to be ones that reflect the wants and needs of the communities they serve. Concepts imagined in the isolation of a designer’s desk or board room can feel top-down and heavyhanded. Research available grants and sponsorship opportunities that can help make your vision a reality. Crowd sourcing is becoming an increasingly popular way to build support for worthy initiatives. 3. Choose a date, time and location. Location and timing are two of the most important factors for a successful intervention. Determine whether your specific intervention will be better suited for a weekday or weekend based on the type of audience you’d like to attract. Are you looking to engage a business crowd? Choose a weekday in the city center. Hoping for more of a family dynamic? Weekends work better for families in places where parking or reliable transportation are readily available. Consider locating your intervention close to existing activity centers where it can be easily seen and attractive to passing traffic. Check, double-check and lock-in any necessary venue schedules to ensure your intervention won’t create any programming conflicts. Be prepared with back-up dates if your preferred slots aren’t available.


4. Prepare for likely scenarios, but expect the unexpected. While you can never anticipate every scenario, think through potential occurrences that could impact your project. Do you need a weather back-up plan? Are there other events or factors that could affect your ability to be successful? The more you prepare for such circumstances, the more responsive you will be able to be when the unexpected arises. On the day-of, roll with the punches and do your best to be flexible or adjust as needed. 5. Apply for any necessary permits. Although not necessary for all projects, most organized uses of public space require some type of city permit. Allow at least eight weeks to apply for and secure the appropriate permit(s). See our Permitting Report in this Toolkit for more information about Denver’s permitting process. Your vision statement will be an important part of your permit application. 6. Talk about it. This is grassroots outreach at its core. Engage your community partners and seek their help in spreading the word. Invite local neighborhood organizations to get involved. Share your event on social media and through your networks. The more you can talk about your project in advance, the better chance you have of generating meaningful community participation. 7. Have fun and learn from your experience. By their very nature, Tactical Urbanism projects are meant to be experimental. Enjoy the experience and pass your insights onto others. Something went wrong? Define what you would do differently next time. Was your project a huge success? Celebrate and share your story! See our


Learn more about the Tactical Urbanism movement and get involved: Community Coordinating District No. 1 Facebook Page www.facebook.com/pages/ Community-Coordinating-DistrictNo-1/336043063072531 Depave www.depave.org Parking Day www.parkingday.org Project for Public Spaces www.pps.org Reimagine Your Downtown www.reimagineyourdowntown.com Tactical Urbanism Here www.tacticalurbanismhere.com The Better Block www.betterblock.org

Resources section for information on Tactical Urbanism forums. 8. Be a good example. Respect the area around you and be sure to clean up and remove any installations after your intervention is complete. Bad examples make the process harder for everyone.

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PERMITTING REPORT The following is an excerpt from a report written by the Permitting Group of the Downtown Denver Leadership Program Class of 2014 that was presented to City and County of Denver staff on November 12, 2014. To view the full report, visit www.reimagineyourdowntown.com. Tactical Urbanism Permitting Recommendations Based upon Tactical Urbanism programs throughout the United States, we recommend a program for Denver which is transparent in its process and requirements for Tactical Urbanism projects.

Clearly outlining the submission process and identifying the design expectations and the responsibilities for all parties involved is a common framework within other cities’ programs. We recommend the City and County of Denver consider developing a permitting process for both temporary Tactical Urbanism installations and potentially resultant permanent urbanism projects. The permitting process for temporary Tactical Urbanism installations could be structured as follows: 1. Initial Application Proposal for Temporary Project

Application to address idea, location, design and timeframe 2. Initial Proposal Review (1-2 weeks) Proposal Review Meeting and Formal Comments for Project location, design and timeframe. Identify what objects will need construction documents. Assign city staff member to project as designated Permitting Coordinator. 3. Final Construction Documentation

Submission of drawings of built objects as identified in Review Meeting 4. Final Review, Approval & Permit Issuance (1-2 weeks) Review construction documents and final plans for project. Award permit. 5. Pre-Installation On-site Walk-Thru with Permitting Coordinator (within one week of permit) 6. Installation/Construction (We recommend a construction timeframe of one week in an effort to keep installation small.) 7. Post-Construction On-site Walk-Thru with Permitting Coordinator. 8. Monitoring from Denver Planning and Special Events during period of installation.

Should both the applicant and the City and County of Denver consider the temporary Tactical Urbanism project successful, we propose a streamlined permitting process to capitalize on the “lessons learned” with the temporary installation to help manifest a permanent installation.

The permitting process for resultant permanent urbanism projects could be structured as follows: 1. Application for Permanent Installation

Review of materials used in temporary installation, metrics on area improvement, proposal of any modifications for permanent project. 2. Proposal Review (1-2 weeks) Proposal Review Meeting with original Permitting Coordinator. Formal Comments for Project location, design and timeframe. Identify what objects will need construction documents. 3. Final Construction Documentation

Submission of drawings of built objects as identified in Review Meeting. 4. Final Review, Approval & Permit Issuance (1-2 weeks) Review construction documents and final plans for project. Award permit. 5. Pre-Installation On-site Walk-Thru with Permitting Coordinator (within one week of permit) 6. Installation/Construction 7. Post-Construction On-site Walk-Thru with Permitting Coordinator


8. Monitoring from Denver Planning and Special Events for site monitoring and maintenance inspections.

Submission of Concept for Review It is our recommendation that the City and County of Denver make Tactical Urbanism projects accessible for all to propose ideas to the City for review – not just those with access to computer aided drafting tools (architects, engineers, etc.).

Essentially, the submission should be a “pitch” of the project concept for review. Applicants would be asked to convey their idea, the location, the design and the timeframe of the project. Essential components would include information such as: The Idea: This section would ask the question “What problem are you trying to solve?” The Location: This section would ask the applicant to identify “Where’s the need?”

Applicants would submit existing metrics of the proposed location and of the problem the project will help solve. The submission would include photos to illustrate the problem at the chosen location and documentation of neighborhood support for the project idea. The Design: This section would ask: “What are you going to do?” Applicants would submit drawings and photos that convey what they want to achieve and describe how their project will help solve the problem. Detailed architectural drawings would not be required. The Timeframe: This section would ask: “How long are you going to do this for?” Applicant’s Responsibilities We recommend the City include an easy to understand summary within the application that explains all of the components of an event that fall under the applicant’s responsibility. This would help create a user-friendly permitting process for individuals

or organizations that may not have experience with a city review process. Some of these responsibilities fall under the following categories: Insurance: For the event or installation itself, and for any additional liability components such as providing alcoholic beverages.

The insurance company will assist the organizer with amount and types of insurance required for various components. Site Cleaning and Maintenance: The event or installation site should be maintained throughout the period of time it is in place, and the site returned to its original condition once the event/installation is completed. Site Programming/Activation: The applicant should provide a site plan of the installation for the City’s review, and will be responsible for all set up and take down of any installation components, and for the management of the installation in a manner that assures the public safety. Security: Security may be required if an installation is approved which requires that a Right of Way be closed or if alcoholic beverages will be provided, among other possible reasons required by the City. The applicant should verify any necessary security requirements with the City. Community Approval: Many installations will require approval by the surrounding community, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to obtain letters of approval and support from adjacent community members or business and property owners that might be impacted by the installation. City’s Responsibilities The City and County of Denver has to be prepared to deal with the evolving world of tactical urbanism: post construction inspections and site monitoring. These two considerations would not apply to all Tactical Urbanism projects, only to those that are semi-permanent or permanent build projects. We recommend the city have project oversight to ensure the built Tactical Urbanism projects are safe for the public. It is possible that this duty already exists in one or more city departments and could be added to the current process.


DENVER TACTICAL URBANISM TOOLKIT Thank you to the following partners for their participation and support of the Downtown Denver Leadership Program Class of 2014. Alderman Bernstein

Denver Urban Gardens

Phoenix Multisport

Bboy Factory

Downtown Denver Partnership

Regional Transportation District

Bonfils-Stanton Foundation


RNL Design


Greenway Foundation

Saunders Construction

Central City Opera

Holland & Hart LLP


Imbibe Events

Shears Adkins Rockmore Architects

Community-Minded Dance

Ink Monstr

Swallow Hill Music Association

Davis Graham & Stubbs

JE Dunn Construction

The Civic Canopy

Denver Housing Authority

Life/Art Dance Ensemble

The Colorado Trust

Denver Parks and Recreation

Minor Disturbance

The Ginn Mill

Denver Rescue Mission Band

NAI Shames Makovsky

The Nichols Partnership

Denver Special Events and Film Production

Oasis Brewery

UMB Bank

OneWall Project

Youth On Record

Denver’s Road Home

Park Plus

Zebra Incorporated

Profile for DowntownDenver

2014 Downtown Denver Leadership Toolkit  

2014 Downtown Denver Leadership Toolkit