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The preservation of Denver's historic Civic Center

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Title:
The preservation of Denver's historic Civic Center
Creator:
Lothian, Candance Clare
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
xiii, 113 leaves : illustrations ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
Historic preservation -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Historic preservation ( fast )
Civic Center (Denver, Colo.) ( lcsh )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 108-113).
General Note:
Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Statement of Responsibility:
by Candace Clare Lothian.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
166325742 ( OCLC )
ocn166325742
Classification:
LD1193.A78 2007m L67 ( lcc )

Full Text
THE PRESERVATION OF DENVERS HISTORIC CIVIC CENTER
by
Candace Clare Lothian
B.A. DePaul University Chicago, 1994
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Urban and Regional Planning
2007


This thesis for the Master of Urban and Regional Planning
degree by
Candace Clare Lothian
has been approved
by
Fahriye Sancar
Christie Murata
H'M -ol
April, 2007


Lothian, Candace, C (M.U.R.P. College of Architecture and Planning)
The Preservation of Denvers Historic Civic Center
Thesis directed by Professor Austin Allen
ABSTRACT
Denvers Civic Center is city land located in the heart of downtown in an
area that anchors Colorado government and cultural activities.
Understanding the history and significance of Civic Center is key to gain a
full appreciation of this historic place and why it should be saved from
inappropriate alterations and development. In 1974, the Civic Center
Historical District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This recognition stands due to its national significance and association
with the City Beautiful Movement and early twentieth-century planning. In
1976, the Civic Center District was established as a Local Landmark by
the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission.
This is a history of planning Denvers Civic Center and the cultural
significance of the area from the 1890s to 2007. Included in the Civic
Centers history are details surrounding the original design intent and the
Centers intended purpose. This document identifies the numerous
individuals, past and present, who have contributed to the design and use
throughout the years. Significant in the role of designer, architect,
advocate, stakeholder, financier, citizen and politician, but all important to


the framework of the plan that made this civic area what it is today, and
what it may be in the future. This study will reveal current new Civic
Center plans being proposed incorporating new design and use changes
for the Center and provide historic data of previous plans developed
throughout the Centers history. Lastly, it will examine the civic intent of
these projects, all planned to merge cultural, private, and public functions
with the work-a-day city, and make recommendations on design elements
to move forward while preserving the historic integrity of Denvers Civic
Center.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
I recommend its publication.
Signed
Austin Allen


DEDICATION
To Pam Erickson, whose tireless efforts and encouragement enabled the
successful completion of this document and department program.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
I am most grateful to those in the Historic Preservation Community who
have been most generous with me in sharing their time, insights, and
knowledge. This gratitude is especially extended to the staff of the
Western History Department of the Denver Public Library, the Denver
Landmark Office and the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City
and County of Denver.
In addition, to Professor Tom Noel, Professor Michael Holleran, Professor
Fahriye Sancur, and my Committee Chair, Professor Austin Allen for their
help and guidance throughout my study program in Preservation and
Planning.
To all of you, accept my heartfelt thanks.


CONTENTS
Figures.............................................IX
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION.....................................1
Purpose of the Study............................3
Scope of the Study..............................4
Study Limitations...............................4
Arrangement of the Thesis.......................5
2. METHODOLOGY......................................6
3. BACKGROUND AND RELATED WORK......................7
The White City..................................7
Civic Concept...................................9
Preservation Planning..........................13
Civic Center Threatened........................19
4. DENVERS CIVIC CENTER...........................21
Early Beginnings...............................21
Architecture and Monuments.....................26
Defferred Maintenance..........................45
5. CIVIC DESIGNS AND MASTER PLANS..................49
Civic Schemes..................................49
Modern Plans...................................62
6. CURRENT CONDITIONS..............................74
Civic Center Conservancy.......................74
Supplemental Design Concepts...................81
VII


Social Conditions............................82
7. CONCLUSION....................................85
Protect and Renovate.........................87
Recommendations From Plan Study and Observations.... 88
APPENDIX
A. ROBINSON RECAP ...............................94
B. FUTURE PLANNING...............................97
C. LIBESKIND CIVIC CENTER CONCEPT DESIGNS....... 100
WORKS..................................................108
VIII


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
I. I Welcome to Denver..........................................XII
l.ll Boundary of Historic District..............................XIII
3.1 The White City..............................................7
3.2 Civic Center 1917...........................................11
3.3 Civic Center Historic District..............................16
4.1 Denver Global Location......................................21
4.2 State Capitol Postcard......................................23
4.3 Mayor Speer.................................................24
4.4 State Capitol Building......................................27
4.5 Carnegie Library............................................28
4.6 2006 McNichols Building.....................................30
4.7 Greek Theatre...............................................30
4.8 Theatre Audience............................................31
4.9 Voorhies Memorial Postcard..................................32
4.10 Voohries Memorial 2006.................................... 33
4.11 Seal Pool..................................................33
4.12 City and County Building...................................34
4.13 Christmas Lights...........................................36
4.14 Restored Walkways..........................................37
4.15 1955 Central Library.......................................38
4.16 Modern Library Addition....................................39
IX


4.17 Ponti Building Denver Art Museum..........................40
4.18 New Wing Denver Art Museum.................................41
4.19 Webb Building..............................................42
4.20 Denver Newspaper Agency Building...........................44
4.21 Landscape Conditions.......................................45
4.22 Hardscape Conditions.......................................46
4.23 Tree Grove Conditions......................................46
5.1 Reporters Rough Sketch......................................49
5.2 Schuetze Winter Landscape...................................50
5.3 Robinson 1906 Design........................................52
5.4 MacMonnies Pioneer Monument.................................54
5.5 Municipal Facts Cover.......................................55
5.6 Olmsted Sketch..............................................56
5.7 Olmsted Plan................................................56
5.8 Bennett Plan................................................58
5.9 S.R. DeBoer Plan............................................60
5.10 Burnham Hoyt Plan..........................................61
5.11 1957 Demonstration Plan....................................62
5.12 1968 Comprehensive Plan....................................64
5.13 1992 Cultural Complex Plan.................................67
5.14 1998 Golden Triangle Plan..................................70
5.15 2005 Civic Center Master Plan..............................72
5.16 Civic Center District Plan.................................73
6.1 Chicago Millennium Park.....................................75
6.2 Daniel Libeskind Plan.......................................78
6.3 Backside Conditions.........................................82
X


6.4 Tryba Design...............................................82
6.5 Voohries Homeless Shelter..................................84
7.1 Public Gatherings..........................................86
7.2 Etter Evidence Plan........................................91
A. 1 Space Syntax...............................................99
B. 1 Spatial Patterns..........................................100
C. 1 LibeskindOverall Perspective Looking East................103
C.2 LibeskindMall Bridge.....................................104
C.3 LibeskindPavilion........................................104
C.4 LibeskindMaster Plan.....................................105
C.5 LibeskindWater Plaza.....................................106
C.6 LibeskindBridge Looking North............................107
C.7 LibeskindLooking North...................................108
XI


XII


Civic Center Landmark District
Figure l.ll Boundary of Historic District
XIII


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
"Place, is a multifaceted composite of history, natural environment and
personal experience. A sense and valuation of place may hold the secret
to living lovingly and sustainably on this endangered planet."
- Roderick Frazier Nash
The historic, cultural, and civic significance of Civic Center is Denvers
legacy. Currently, new public and private collaborative improvement
projects are proposed to better utilize the Civic Center, but will these plans
and projects preserve and protect the cultural integrity of this historic
district. What level of change can a historic district area accept, and still
retain its historic designation. A historic district is generally classified as an
area with an identifiable geographic boundary that contains a significant
concentration or continuity of sites, buildings, structures or objects united
by past events or aesthetically by physical development. In 1974, the Civic
Center Historical District was listed on the National Register of Historic
Places. A historic district can be defined as:
A regulatory overlay zone within which new developments
must be compatible with that of the architecture of the
historic structures, landscapes, and monuments within a
historic district. Alterations and improvements of historic
structures must be made with minimum interference with the
historic features of the place. Local legislature, generally by
local municipal ordinance, establishes standards and design
guidelines a historic preservation commission uses to permit,
condition, or deny project activity for historic buildings,
landscapes and districts.
1


Districts are significant for the buildings viewed as a group have a synergy
more significant than as individual landmark structures. A district relays a
sense of past time and place in an urban form. In 1976, Civic Center was
established as a Local Landmark. This recognition stands due to its
national significance and association with the City Beautiful Movement
and early twentieth-century planning, Mayor Speer, and the Centers role
in the historic development of Denver (DPO). Civic design is
characterized by open siting, accessibility, efficiency, spaciousness, and
diversity, including private as well as government offices(Robbins 64).
Civic Center is considered by many Denver citizens, the heart of the city,
and the public has demonstrated passion and concern for what happens
within this civic area. City master plan projects are in many different ways
funded by the public through bonds or taxes and it is the responsibility of
all good citizens of a city to become stewards and get involved in the
planning process for their city. Public participation in the design process
for public space has an enormous impact on the built environment of
today, the future, and the preservation of the past.
In Denver, preservation planning began in the 1960s when the Denver
Preservation Landmark Commission organized and gained some authority
over the built environment. In 1996, Denver established design guidelines
to monitor development and renovation impact on Denvers historic
properties. In some instances, the Preservation Landmark Commission is
limited in its authoritative duties and this is the case for Denvers Civic
Center.
2


Mary Voelz Chandler, art and architecture critic for the Rocky Mountain
News described Denver as a city ready to invent itself every 30 years. It
appears this statement may be true, for master plans for Civic Center
were developed, discussed and put on the shelf during many city
administrations. Mayor Robert Speer, the first mayor of Denver saw his
vision for a civic minded and beautiful Denver being fulfilled. This vision
became not only Speers legacy, but also a legacy for the City of Denver.
Purpose of the Study
Denvers Civic Center consists of historic, cultural and civic significant
public buildings, and a large landscaped area providing a center for urban
activities and festivals. Towards the later part of the ninetieth-century and
throughout the years, multiple master plans have been developed for this
area. Yet, very few of these plans were ever fully executed to realize their
original design intent. The reason or reasons may have been due to
funding, timing, or the publics disapproval of all or certain aspects of the
plans. Currently, there is a concern from the preservation community that
Civic Centers original design integrity is threatened by proposed radical
design changes for the Center.
This leads to unanswered questions regarding Civic Center. What was the
original design intent for Civic Center, and does this view still hold true for
todays built environment? What elements of each current design concept
could be implemented without diminishing the Centers current historic
designation? What events triggered the need for new recent plans, and
why is the public so interested and engaged with these proposed plans?
3


What is the role of preservation planning, and who has the final authority
to approve enhancements or changes to Civic Center. This study is an
attempt to answer these questions. This study identifies the significance of
Denvers Civic Center, and the consequences that will ensue if the 2006
Libeskind Master Plan design is implemented.
Scope of the Study
The starting point of this analysis is to understand the civic concept and
determine if this concept has remained constant for Denver city planners
and consultants throughout the decades. A study of early conceptual and
implemented designs for Civic Center. Define the intended purpose of the
plans, and determine if the plans succeeded in rendering the design
intent. Analyze the purpose of the recently approved Civic Center Master
Plan. Research the public reaction to a plan proposed by a private/public
venture concerning Civic Center. Document the Public and Medias
reaction to the Libeskind commissioned plan. Determine the interference
the Libeskind plan would create with Civic Centers National and Local
Landmark Designations.
Study Limitations
Documentation describing the purpose and intent for each plan is not
readily available. The Denver Public Library has copies of most of the
published plans, but is limited in the supporting literature for each.
Numerous individuals involved with Denver planning for the Civic Center
District are no longer with us and left few records, correspondence, or
4


papers for review. A nuance of historic research is discovering conflicting
information on persons, dates, and places from different sources in
researching the same subject, and lastly discussing important elements of
the research that may be sensitive in nature, and the inability to use the
information in the final document.
The Arrangement of the Thesis
Chapter I introduces the purpose of the study. Chapter 2 discusses the
methodology employed by this study. Chapter 3 reveals background
information and related works regarding Civic Centers historic
significance and reasons to preserve the Center. Chapter 4 introduces
Denvers Civic Center and its social, cultural and economic characteristics,
providing a brief survey of important landmark and non-landmark buildings
constructed in different eras, of diverse architecture, forming a universal
boundary for the District.
Chapter 5 identifies master plans prepared for Civic Center throughout the
years, including the purpose, affects, and public reaction for each, all
planned to merge cultural, private, and public functions with the work-a-
day city. Chapter 6 discuss current issues and conditions for Civic Center
and the final chapter concludes with design and policy recommendations
to preserve and protect the historic integrity and significance of Denvers
Civic Center. Appendices and works conclude the thesis.
5


CHAPTER 2
METHODOLOGY
This study process takes a thematic approach to city planning, reviewing
the economic, social, and cultural themes of a historic period, and how
these themes relate to the present day. The methodology to this study is a
survey of individual contributions and key events, provide a narrative of
such, and support the narrative with visual aids. The research process will
look at context of land use, activities, social and cultural traditions in an
urban environment. The objective and focus is on concrete evidence and
not conceptual theory to determine causal effect of past and potential
impact on proposed events. This approach in preservation research is
through primary research, archival investigation, and historical analysis.
6


CHAPTER 3
BACKGROUND AND RELATED WORK
Good planning entails one to look back before you go forward.
-Carolyn and Don Etter
The White City
Figure 3.1 The White City
7


The 1890s and early years of the twentieth-century were a turning point in
American society. The economic system struggled to define itself and
Americans witnessed the passing of the frontier and the rise of the United
States to a position of world power. The agrarian way of life was changing
and many Americans were now migrating to and living in the city. With
population centering on urban areas, the problems, questions, and
concerns of the city all came about near the turn of the century, questions
concerning the "good life," crime, poverty, urban blight, and civic idealism-
all came to the forefront. Preservationist Michael Holleran notes: near the
turn of the twentieth-century city dwellers became aware of the importance
of environmental orderliness.
City planning as a recognized profession began in 1893, with the Worlds
Columbian Exposition Fair in Chicago; here the City Beautiful Movement
was formed. The model was a design by Burnham and Root Architects on
"The White City" an aesthetic representation of the City Beautiful ideology
(Smith 21). This was primarily an aesthetic movement, but the promoters
felt it would lift the social consciousness as well (Smith 22). The Worlds
Columbian Exposition in Chicago promoted classical architecture as a
symbol of civic society. The City Beautiful ideology also emphasized
tourism, scenic values and civic pride. Design incorporated late 19th and
early 20th century mostly European concepts and attitudes evolving
around civic order, virtue, and wealth. Many American city-shapers
embraced these concepts and designed civic centers, grand boulevards
and parks in a quest for urban beauty (Hall 174).
8


The City Beautiful Movement inspired urban beautification in architecture,
landscapes and streetscapes. The Movement lasted in the United States
from the 1890s and up until the 1930s (Noel Lecture). City Beautiful
reforms were both organizational and environmental, organizational
reforms included cities hiring professional designers and planners to
develop coordinated schemes for capital improvements. These capital
improvements included such things as civic centers, public parks, public
buildings, improved streetscapes and transportation patterns (Smith 23),
Today, the idea behind the City Beautiful Movement is once again a
tremendous force in architecture and in planning, an objective to
harmoniously merge cultural and public functions with the workaday city
(Jacobs 74).
Civic Concept
City Beautiful was an environmental, sociocultural, and aesthetic
movement; it was also an exercise in participatory politics aimed at
changing the way citizens thought about their cities. This is the era when
government realized the importance of the public process. City Beautiful
was far from being just an elite concept. City Beautiful desin methods
encouraged citizen participation in the comprehensive planning process.
With its origins in civic improvements, the City Beautiful Movement was an
important catalyst for the rise of planning commissions, public-private
partnerships, and civic aesthetic awareness (Fishman 74).
9


Landscape Architect and Planner Tina Bishop in a public meeting held to
discuss Denvers 2005 Civic Center Master Plan spoke about Denver and
how the City Beautiful ideology and movement thrived here with its
principles and concepts:
A citys future should be planned and a good urban
environment can be achieved with a properly planned city.
On the human social scale, beauty has value and providing
recreational activities for the people of a city is a matter of
government concern. Civic parks and plazas in general,
create better environmental conditions, which makes a
livable city. Good city design and planning is in the best
interest of all citizens.
Matthew P. Bennett, in his thesis on Civic Crossroads writes:
Since the birth of the United States of America, architecture
has sought to express the purposes of the new institutions of
democratic government. The goal of the architects engaged
in this search was to create spaces symbolic of the hopes
and aspirations of the nations founders. The development
of architecture for democracy is closely connected to an
understanding of the nature and importance of the public
sphere within the built environment, and of the notion of civic
space in particular.
In 1904, Denver Mayor Robert W. Speer wished to construct a
monumental civic center for the public of structures, formal public gardens,
and a gathering space for public events. Speer told the citys leadership
the civic centers ornamental value for the future cannot be measured by
dollars this project will make our people proud of Denver (Moe 181).
Denvers Civic Center is located in the central part of the city and was
envisioned by city leaders as the grand center of commerce and
10


interaction for the city. A true study of how public space relates to
physical government and the physical Landscape.
Today, as noted in the national and local nomination documents, Civic
Center represents one of the United States premier examples of the City
Beautiful era of art and architecture that flourished in the early twentieth-
century. Denver Historian Thomas J. Noel writes how Denver A dusty,
drab, and unplanned area became a spacious plaza surrounded by
monumental government and public buildings. Denver is unique in the
arrangement of both state and local government buildings all sharing the
same central location. Civic Centers historic significance is also for its
cultural aspects, early on, Denver developed cultural functions within the
Center.
Cirie Center between ISlS-iMt
when no progress tras made
Figure 3.2 Civic Center 1917
Cultural centers pertain to the arts, customs, and habits that characterize
a particular society or nation. Civic Centers value is the beliefs, behavior
and material objects that constitute a people's way of life. A main reason
11


for establishing a historic district is for the context and make-up of the
place and for the passing the historical knowledge and history of the
people and place to new generations. Preservationist Richard Moe writes:
Civic Center has given Denver a destination and a sense of history that
needs protection and preservation (199). Preservationists see historic
buildings as an economic benefit to the community, and government
should use their powers to preserve and protect, sometimes even over the
will of private owners, historic districts and landmarks. Michael Holleran
believes city planners need to regard historic structures, landscapes, and
monuments in the planning process (248).
Local historic districts are areas in which historic buildings and their
settings are protected by unwanted change through public review. Historic
district ordinances are local laws adopted by communities, using powers
granted by the State. Historic districts comprise the city's significant
historic and architectural resources. Inclusion in a historic district signifies
that a property contributes to an ensemble that is worth protecting by
virtue of its historic importance or architectural quality (DPO).
12


Preservation Planning
Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever,
Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let
it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let
us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come
when those stones will be held sacred because our hands
have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon
the labor and wrought substance of them, See! This our
fathers did for us. For, indeed, the greatest glory of a
building is not in its stones, or in its gold. Its glory is in its
Age.- John Ruskin
Denver established a Landmark Preservation Commission in 1967 as an
outgrowth of the Denver Planning Board's Urban Environment
Subcommittee destruction of many of Denvers finest historic structures.
Many Denvers historic buildings were already or slated to be destroyed in
the 1950's and 1960's to make room for new development, so the Mayor
and City Council established a commission charged with identifying and
preserving Denver's historic and architectural treasures. City Council is
made up of elected representatives who are responsible to their
constituents in the community. City agencies follow policy, while city
council makes policy. The sole function of the Denver Landmark
Preservation Commission is to designate, preserve, enhance, perpetuate
structures or districts of architectural, historical, or geographical
significance within the City, and assist owners of historic properties with
their planning (DPO).
Denvers Landmark Preservation Commission consists of nine mayoral
appointees to serve a 3-year term. Members serve without receiving any
13


compensation for their services. Two out of the nine commissioners are
nominated by the Denver Chapter of the American Institute of Architects,
one nomination by the Denver Chapter of the American Society of
Landscape Architects, two by the Denver Planning Offices Chairperson,
and two by the President of the Colorado Historical Society. Since 1967,
this group has worked diligently to prevent the tear down of historic
buildings and districts. The Commission has the authority to designate
landmark status to historic structures and districts within the city to help
maintain the city's character (Noel, Auraria Library Archives).
Council Bill No. 179 designated the Civic Center as a district by ordinance
for preservation in April of 1976, and adopted design standards called out
in section 131.12 of the revised Municipal Code (DPO). Section 5 of the
ordinance contains the findings of City Council:
This ordinance is necessary for the immediate preservation
of the public health and public safety and determines that it
shall take effect immediately upon its final passage and
publication. The Civic Center District has character, interest
and value as part of the development, heritage, and cultural
characteristics of the city and state, is the site of historic
events having a significant effect upon society, is identified
with innumerable persons who contributed significantly to the
heritage of the city and state, portrays the environment of a
era characterized by distinctive architectural styles and
represents an established and familiar visual feature of the
City and State. Daily Journal, April 1976.
It is the sense of the council that the economic, cultural and
aesthetic standing of this city cannot be maintained or
enhanced by disregarding the historical, architectural and
geographic heritage of the city and by ignoring the
destruction or defacement of such cultural assets.
14


Civic Center District Nomination followed the action of 1974, when the
Civic Center area was entered into the National Register of Historic
Places. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 helped define the
criteria for areas of significance. Civic Center held the distinction of being
of value for its significant architecture and for its social history (CHS). The
City and County of Denver Planning and Development Office issued new
Civic Center Design Guidelines for Historic District No. 6 in February of
1996. This 44 page document is intended to reinforce the existing
character and stature of Civic Center by providing guidance to future
development toward maintaining the distinctive urban design qualities of
Civic Center (DPO). The open space and pleasant surroundings of Civic
Center is one of Denvers significant assets and it is critical to preserve the
spaciousness of this place and not construct interfering structures within
its boundaries (1957 plan).
15


CIVIC
TER
ffiViTiftf . ft. j s i-M.if.i-..-.--------- "I'
Figure 3.3 Civic Center Historic District
Civic Centers historic value is due to individuals important to the planning,
design and use of Civic Center throughout the years, significant in the role
of designer, architect, advocate, stakeholder, financier, citizen and
politician, who have directly contributed to the Centers historic and
cultural significance. These individuals include: Reinhard Shuetze, Mayor
Robert W. Speer, Henry Read, Charles Mulford Robinson, Edward
Bennett, Frederick MacMonnies, Frederick Law Olmsted, Junior, Burnham
Hoyt, and S.R. DeBoer. Carolyn and Don Etter write: the documents and
16


plans of these individuals all stand as mileposts in the history of the city
and provide a source to sharpen an understanding and appreciation of
Denvers heritage (15).
Nowhere in the world are there such enchanting vistas as
can be seen in and around Denvers Civic Center. Under
the blue skies and bright sunlight of Colorado, here is the
center for life and color, children, youth, manhood and age,
happiness and vigor, health and vitality, all commingling. In
summer or winter, spring or autumn, Denvers Civic Center
fills the purpose of civic recreation, culture, health, and
happiness, and as all the years roll around, it is the place in
the hearts of humanity, and will become more and more
monumental. Denver Post, December 31, 1928
Denvers Civic Center is an outstanding example of
municipal pride in development. Denver Post, December
1934
A Framework for the Future
Don and Carolyn Etter are two Denver natives who served jointly as
manager of Denvers Department of Parks and Recreation during Denver
Mayor Federico Penas eight-year administration. The Etters are honorary
lifetime members of the American Society of Landscape Architects and
recipients of the Robert W. Speer Award from the American Institute of
Architects, Denver Chapter. The Etters have served as trustees of the
National Association for Olmsted Parks and the Friends of the Mesa
Verde National Park.
Currently, the Etters are involved in efforts to preserve the natural and
built environments in Denver and Colorado. The Etters propose seven
strategies for the preservation of Denvers park and parkway system,
17


including Civic Center. One of the first rules of preservation is to spend the
necessary time to review past documents and drawings, these tools will
reveal well-established paths and clear guideposts. Public places are
special places, a scenic refuge from urban tensions and connect the
people of the city with a democratic gathering place of quality."
Furthermore:
Park resources are valuable precisely because they cannot
be bought and sold, because they belong to all citizens,
because they are a refuge from commerce, because they
are not and never have been intended to generate a profit in
the convention sense. Thus, public parks should neither be,
nor perceived to be owned by private interests; public park
departments should not relinquish control of the ways and
means to implement the public interest; and these public
agencies should be the stewards of park resources.
The Etters last four recommendations for the preservation of Denvers
parks is on infrastructure maintenance, the prevention of inappropriate
development, citizen responsibility to be stewards, participating in the
funding, building and preservation of civic resources, and lastly to think of
Denvers park and parkways as a statewide resource. The Civic Center
District represents Denver Citys legacy and the protection and
preservation of these resources is important and central to Denvers
quality of place(Parks and Parkways).
18


Civic Center Threatened
Currently, there are two main threats to Civic Center, the first is the urgent
need to preserve and protect the deteriorating existing infrastructure, and
second is the threat to the original design intent by proposing modern
design elements that overshadow the Centers sense of place. The Citys
Parks and Recreations website states three primary strategies for
the first phase of the 2005 Civic Center Master Plan: This plan is intended
to revitalize the civic center area, preserve all historic structures and
elements, encourage more activity, energy, and interest in the area by
hosting summer farmers markets, and a film and concert series in the
evening(denvergov.org).
Also mentioned on the website is proposed enhancements to Civic Center
by adding new plazas, water features, gardens, outdoor exhibit spaces,
connections, food kiosks and other enhancements, According to Helen
Kuykendall, Parks Project Manager for Civic Center These
enhancements are conceived as a 21st century overlay that honors and
protects the historic features of the park. Parks needs to be reminded,
there needs to be a gentle balance when trying to adopt historic public
spaces to changing times.
Joanne Ditmer, a local historian, in a 1999 Denver Post article said she
could not understand why in the 1980s, Civic Center started to be called
Civic Center Park, the area for the past eighty years has been Civic
19


Center. In Ditmers opinion, Civic Center is equivalent to a town square
and should not be called a park.
Denvers City Charter grants the following authority to the Manager of
Parks and Recreation:
The following duties and powers are hereby vested
exclusively in the Department of Parks and
Recreation. Park and other recreational facilities.
Management, operation and control of all facilities, facility
activity and management and control of the operation, care,
repair and maintenance of all structures in which and all land
on which those facilities are located and operated
(Denvergov).
This means, even by ordinance, Denvers Preservation Landmark
Commissions Design Guidelines are not enforceable. Exclusive
authority over Civic Center is granted by City Charter to the
Manager of Parks and Recreation and not even City Council can
take away this authority without a special election. A charter
change can not occur without public vote and approval (Buckey).
The Civic Center Conservancy, a private ont-for-profit entity, sponsored
world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind to develop conceptual ideas
for the Center (denvergov). Libeskind presented his design scheme to the
general public in August of 2006, with over 700 in the audience. Towards
the end of the presentation it became evident the Libeskind plan would
drastically alter the historic context of Civic Center. According to Carolyn
Etter if you overlay the Libeskind plan on the existing center plan the
overlay greatly diminishes the quality of place and character of Civic
Center as a historic district.
20


CHAPTER 4
DENVERS CIVIC CENTER
In due time we reached Denver, which city I fell in love with from the first
time and had that feeling confirmed, the longer I stayed there.
-Walt Whitman
Early Beginnings
Denver was founded in 1858 at the beginning of the Colorado gold rush.
The City is located 346 miles west of the geographic center of the
continental United States. Denver sits at the western edge of the Great
Plains, bordered by the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and deemed
the "Mile High City because its elevation on the 13th step of the State
Capital Building is exactly 5280 feet above sea level (Denver facts Guide).
Denver was an instant city (Chandler 13) of the western plains, born out
21


of the discovery of gold at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South
Platte River. Within a generation, Denver went from an early rough
settlement of structures with sod roofs and dirt floors to mansions on a hill
In the 1870s, Denver became a supply point for the successful deep-rock
mining that began to flourish in the Colorado mountains.
The silver mining in Aspen, Leadville and other areas also contributed to
the citys expansion. Most of the successful mining barons did not stay in
the mountains, but came to live in Denver and often settled the high bluff
area just east of Broadway, known as Capital Hill. The origin of the Civic
Center District began in the early 1890s with the building of the State
Capitol, this building, completed in 1894, was the first landmark structure
for the Civic Center District. This area, covered in mansions in the 1880s
became known as Browns Bluff. Henry C. Brown, a land developer,
donated 10 acres of his homestead to the State of Colorado to build a
monumental building for government offices (Arps 22). This area was
where some of the citys most prominent and wealthy citizens lived.
Unfortunately, many of these fine homes are now gone, replaced by high-
rise apartment and office buildings.
Many early writers of the western plains promoted the romanticism of the
western frontier as a method to attract pioneers to The Great American
Desert. As one of the early land surveyors called the Colorado plains
(Noel). There are now generations of families that truly love this city and
write about its history, people, and its sense of place. Much of what has
22


occurred in Denver between 1858 and up to the year 2007 is centered
around the Civic Center District.
Figure 4.2. State Capitol Postcard
Denvers historicl activity is captured in numerous books, civic
publications, newspaper articles, journals, and master plan documents.
The most significant publications and reports on Denvers Civic Center
District come from historians, city and private planners, philanthropists,
architects, and visionaries.
Preservationist Richard Moe writes, At first glance there is no natural
explanation for a metropolis of 2 million people to be here. Denvers
South Platte River is neither wide nor widely used. Water is scarce, and
the land is dry (181).
23


Mayor Speer
In 1904, Denver adopted its own charter under
home rule creating the City and County of Denver
and establishing a powerful chief executive and a
city council (Noel 97, Rocky Mountain Gold). The
first mayor elected was Robert W. Speer. Mayor
Speer was among the many that had arrived in
Denver for seeking health improvements. Denver
at the time was swiftly gaining a reputation for its
clean dry air and abundant sunshine. Speer held
on to the office of Mayor from 1904 to 1912 and a
gain from 1916 until his death in 1918. Speers legacy can be experienced
today in Denvers Civic Center and the citys parks, and parkway system.
This boss politician (Johnson 4), sensitive to civic needs, implemented city
improvements based on civic principles of the City Beautiful Movement. In
1893, Speer attended the Worlds Columbian Exposition and it was here
he caught his civic vision for Denver:
A true civic center should be a focal point to gather up and
write converging lines of communication; it should provide
commanding sites for public and semi-public buildings, with
sufficient open frontage to justify and display that
architectural dignity which is the crowning distinction of a
beautiful city; finally, it should provide space for a public
promenade, suitable for adornment by private gifts and
bequests, where visitors as well as citizens may find
provision for the enjoyment of open-air music amid pleasant
and appropriate surroundings.
Mayor Speers Civic Center
Committee Report -February 19, 1907
Figure 4.3 Speer
24


Denvers Mayor Speer is remembered as a great city planner for all the
public projects his administration took on to beautify Denvers cityscape.
Denvers City Charter established the City of Denver as an incorporated
political entity. This document provides for fundamental authorities,
powers, offices, agencies, and direction in city operations. Denver is
governed by an elected mayor and council how they are elected is
established by the City Charter.
Denvers Art Commission
In order to implement his vision to blend high art and local interests, Speer
created the Denver Municipal Art League and its descendent the Denver
Art Commission. The Commission comprised of architects, sculptors, city
planners, and landscapists began to shape one of the countrys more
ambitious City Beautiful schemes. Speer sought to enlist public sculpture,
murals, neoclassical civic structures, and carefully designed parks and
boulevards on behalf of civic reform. The League pursued a built
environment worthy of Denvers great destiny and complementary to its
spectacular natural landscape (Harris 24). Henry Read, an English artist
who had come to Denver for his health (Noel 142 City Beautiful), chaired
the Municipal League. The Art Commission eventually morphed into the
Denver Planning office. The City Planning Commission was created on
February 24, 1926 (DPO).
25


Architecture and Monuments
Frank Lloyd Wright, in an address to architectural students at the
University of Denver in 1948, called Denvers architecture a pig pile
comparable to other of the wests pig piles (Noel 74 City Beautiful). It is
evident Mr. Wright must have skipped a visit to Civic Center, for the
buildings and monuments of the district are significant to Denver and are
constructed of fine local materials of substantial quality.
Today, Civic Center is framed by the State Capitol Building to the East
and the City and County Building to the West. On the north end near
Colfax sits the Voorhies Memorial and at the Southern end on 14th
Avenue is the Greek Theatre, these two classical structures were inspired
by the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition. Various sculptures and
monuments of different materials have been added to the Centr
throughout the years.
The Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library, Colorado History
Museum, Colorado State Judicial Building, the Wellington E. Webb
Municipal Office Building, and the Denver Newspaper Agency Building
complete the collection of civic and culture institutions centered around the
Center. All these buildings were constructed in different eras, and are of
diverse architecture, yet all form a universal boundary for the heart of the
Civic Center Historic District.
26


In addition to the government and cultural buildings framing Civic Center,
there is a major bus terminal and light rail line a few blocks north of the
Center. Transportation is important to the Centers comprehensive plan
(DPO).
The State Capitol
The State Capitol occupies the entire block at East Colfax Avenue to East
14th Avenue, Broadway to Grant Street. The Architect Elijah E. Myers of
Detroit, Michigan designed the building. Myers was known for his other
civic and capitol buildings in Texas, Michigan and Utah. The Capitol
Building is constructed of Colorado gray granite from Gunnison. The
interior is of polished Colorado onyx and marble. Government electives
and employees began occupying the building in 1894, yet the building was
not fully constructed until 1900 at a cost of $2, 500,000.
27


Figure 4.4 State Capitol Building
There is a large plat of green space on the west end of the building
between Lincoln and Broadway. Many believe this groomed and
landscaped State owned area to be an extension of Civic Centers
landscape.
The Carnegie Library
In 1902, the City purchased land on the northwest corner of Civic Center
from Northwest Mutual Life Insurance Co. and from Alida Burton a citizen,
for the amount of $98,000. Pittsburgh philanthropist Andrew Carnegie
gave Denver $200,000 to erect a library on this land located on the
northwest corner of Civic Center. The City matched the required funds,
and in 1910, the Carnegie Library opened its doors (Wirth). The building is
a three story classical edifice dedicated to the advancement of learning.
28


Figure 4.5. Carnegie Library
This building operated as a library until it outgrew its space and moved to
the new building designed by Burnham Hoyt, located on the corner of 14th
Avenue and Broadway, in 1956.
The Citys Treasury Department now occupies this building as its sole
occupant. The building has had numerous names over the years,
Carnegie Library, the Water Board Building, Annex III, and was renamed
the McNichols Building in 1999, after one of Denvers mayors.
The Citys Asset Management Departments records still refer to it as the
Annex III Building. The Assessors office has the building valued at $2,
252, 260 and the land at $7,897,500, but Asset Managements recent
report shows the building is not deserving of this value, this building
presents all sorts of problems, of which physical conditions and functional
utility are the two most important characteristics in determining value
(Wirh). The 2005 Civic Center Master Plan identifies the McNichols
Building to be restored and put to public use. The City is currently
contemplating selling the building to the State. The States plans are to
restore most of the interior and exterior to its original design and using the
building as a Colorado cultural and visitor center.
29


Figure 4.6. 2006 McNichols Building
Greek Theatre
Figure 4.7. Greek Theatre
The classic style Greek Theatre or Colonnade of Civic Benefactors was
dedicated in 1919. Designed by Marean and Norton and endorsed by
30


Edward Bennett. This monument is constructed out of Turkey Creek
sandstone from a quarry near Pueblo, Colorado. The Monument cost
$185,000 to construct. It is not really a theatre,but an arch embraced at
each end by a double colonnade of Ionic columns. The arch provides a
stage with seating for 1200 in the terraced area at is base.
Figure 4.8. Theatre Audience
The Theater was meant to be a focal point of civic center, providing a site
for concerts and public meetings. The Colonnade honors Denver citizens
who contributed materially to the beautification of the city. The names of
these citizens are spelled out in bronze letters on the east wall of the
colonnade. There are two Allen True murals on the east and west walls of
the arch, one called the Trapper and the other called The Prospector.
The theater paving and seating was renovated in 2004 to accommodate
seating for 1200. The Greek Theater arch on the south complements the
curvature of the Voorhies Memorial located on the other end of the Center
(Noel 46 Buildings of Colorado).
31


Voorhies Memorial
I5M6 Voorhit* Memorial. Civu. Center,
Denver. Colorado
Figure 4.9. Voorhies Memorial Postcard
At his death in 1915, John H.P. Voorhies and Georgia H. Voorhies, both
Denver socialites, left $125,000 to the city to erect a gateway to Civic
Center. This public monument is of classic design constructed of the same
Turkey Creek Sandstone as the Greek Theatre. The structure is designed
by Fisher and Fisher Architects and the builder was Frank Kickoff. The
Voorhies Monument consists of an arch embraced at each end by a
double colonnade of Ionic columns, it forms a northern gateway to Civic
Center. Voorhies was a mining engineer settling in Denver in 1885. who
lived for many years opposite Civic Center. Voohries became inspired by
Mayor Speers city beautification projects for Denver and gave almost his
entire estate to fund this monument.
32


Figure 4.10. Voorhies Memorial 2006
Plans were submitted to the city in 1919. Construction started, but was
interrupted by World War I. Toward the end of construction the funds for
the project exceeded the anticipated amount. The seal pool, consisting of
two bronzed seal lions and a fountain design by Robert Garrison, a fixture
of the original project was then constructed.
Figure 4.11 Seal Pool
33


Two murals painted by Allen True adorn the Monuments walls. These
murals were painted directly on the sandstone walls by the artist Allen
True, and depicts a group of native Colorado animals. The significance of
the Voorhies Memorial serves as a gateway from the northern end of
Center (Denver Facts).
The City and County Building
Figure 4.12. City and County Building
In 1912, the site for the new civic building was purchased at a cost of
$1,815,000. The City & County building, originally conceived by the
Denver group Associated Architects. The building was constructed 1932,
designed by the architects Roland L. Linder and George Koyle. The
building site was aligned symmetrically along the center axis opposite the
State Capitol Building. The footprint for the building shows up in the
34


Centers earlier plans. The City and County Building is of a classic
modified roman design with a curved facade of Doric columns and a large
central Corinthian portico of six massive granite columns. The building
consists of four stories a penthouse and a basement. The building is of
brick construction with granite veneer. The main entrance doors are made
of bronze and extremely large and heavy. A central clock tower containing
a Seth Thomas quarter hour striking clock caps off this building. The clock
and the Meneely chimes were a gift to the City from Mrs. Robert W. Speer
to honor her late husband (DPO).
The building contains eleven types of marble with Colorado travertine
pillars on the second floor. The pillars are eleven feet tall and weigh 6600
pounds each. At the top of the clock tower is a six feet by six feet bronze
eagle. The walls of the main corridor are also travertine and the floors are
terrazzo banded with contrasting marble. The Building's intended design
is long and low to allow a grand view of the Rocky Mountains from the
State Capitol Building.
Each year during the Christmas season, it is tradition for the City to adorn
the City and County Building with a massive display of colored lights. The
tradition of decorating the Civic Center started in 1919 when John
Malpiede changed the white globes in Civic Center Park to red and green
and twined some evergreen branches around the decorations, and from
that time forward, the public looked forward to the lights being changed
during the holiday season at Civic Center and this activity led to massive
decorations for City and County Building each year.
35


Figure 4.13. Christmas Lights
Partial funding for the lights comes from a non-profit foundation called
Keep the Lights Foundation, established by contract with the City to
solicit donations and maintain funds in order to purchase new fixtures to
assure the decorations are updated and preserved from year to year. The
building is lighted from the Friday after Thanksgiving through the end of
the National Western Stock Show, January 28 The buildings holiday
decorations is an attraction drawing thousands of citizens and visitors
each year.
City and County Building Preservation Committee
On October 8, 1991, Mayor Wellington Webb appointed a City and County
Building Preservation Committee to assist in the safeguarding and
improvements to the City and County Buildings appearance. The goals
36


included restoring the then sixty-year-old building to its original luster,
making it more user-friendly for Denver residents and improving its
attractiveness. Funding was sought to improve the lighting and install new
air conditioning equipment and controls (DPO). The Friends of the Parks
organization raised money in the 1990s to restore the Centers walkways.
Figure 4.14. Restored Walkways
Today, the City and County Building is in need of a new roof, windows,
and replacement of the frontal steps of the east grand entrance. The City
of Denver has deferred maintenance on the building due to recent years
budget constraints. It is anticipated a special public bond in 2008 may
bring in the severely needed funds to preserve and protect the character
of the building for years to come.
37


Central Library
The Central Library Building is of a modern style, but its scale, massing
and color blends with the classic design of Civic Center. Designed by the
architectural firm of Burnham Hoyt in 1955. This Building was listed as a
historic structure in 1990. There is a great lawn in front of the building and
a brick plaza connecting the Library with the Denver Art Museum.
Figure 4.15. 1955 Central Library
Ruth Falkenberg, past Chair for the Denver Landmark Preservation
Commission, sent a letter to then City Librarian Rick Ashton regarding the
purpose of the buildings historic designation, it is significant for its place
in the continuum of Architectural History, for its graceful and sensitive
relationship to the park, for its vital civic use as a library and because of
38


the importance of its architect. A colorful additon to the 1955 structure
was added in the 1990s.
The Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum was constructed in 1971 on the south side of
Civic Center at 14th Avenue and Bannock Street. The building was
designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and local architect James Sudler.
The building is of an irregular footprint constructed in a modern style of
reinforced concrete with gray reflective tiles. The exteriors have a strong
vertical presence with randomly placed narrow windows. This building
somewhat clashes with the classic styles of its neighbors, but is important
39


for its cultural contribution to the Center and the relationship with the
Denver Public Library and the Colorado State Museum.
Figure 4.17 Ponti Building Denver Art Museum
The new Hamilton Wing for the Denver Art Museum, completed in 2006,
is a 62.5 million dollar Expansion project approved by the public in a 1999
bond issuance. Studio Daniel Libeskind of New York and Davis Partners
of Denver designed the new wing across the street from the DAMs Ponti
Building. The two buildings are connected by a overhead bridge over 13th
Avenue.
40


Figure 4.18. New Wing Denver Art Museum
The vision of the Civic Center Cultural Complex is one that
emphatically creates and opens a matrix for encounter and
public address. By extending the Civic Park and its
downtown horizon into the center of the cultural institutions.
The plan develops a dynamic and connective weave
between the various elements.
The continuity of the ground plane through parks, paving,
public entrances, building profiles, sculpture, streets and
urban connections brings together the individual members of
the urban composition into a significant civic purpose, a
place for people to meet, learn, celebrate, relax,
communicate, and enjoy.
-Daniel Libeskind August 2002.
The Webb Building
This building is not part of the historic district, but is important in context
and to the civic meaning of Civic Center. The Wellington E. Webb
Municipal Office Building was completed in August of 2002 a cost of $132
41


million. The building has 664,000 square feet of office space and 248,000
square feet of parking and utility space. The building was designed by
David Owen Tryba Architects and the interior space by RNL Design, both
local Denver firms.
This construction of this building was the result of a master plan to
consolidate all city agencies from various leased locations and bring them
all together at Civic Center was the purpose to construct the Webb
Building. David Owen Tryba Architects incorporated and rehabilitated the
historic Civic Center Classroom Building (Annex 1) into the new design.
The Webb Building is occupied by over 1800 city employees with small
retail on the ground floor. The building encompasses the entire block at
15th Avenue and Colfax Avenue (Robinson).
Figure 4.19 Webb Building
42


Initially called the Civic Center Municipal Office Building. The name
changed in 2002 to honor Mayor Webb while he was still in office. As part
of his legacy, Wellington Webb contributed to the beautification of Denver
by passing an ordinance whereby of all new building and renovation
projects required 1 percent of the total project budget for art, including city
buildings. As a result, many new commissioned public sculptures appear
in the Civic Center, at the Convention Center, and along Speer Boulevard
near the Denver Performing Arts Complex. As part of current Mayor John
Hickenlooper's sustainability platform, the idea of submitting the Webb
Building to the U.S. Green Building Council to try and attain LEED-EB
certification surfaced last February and became an action item with the
launch of Greenprint Denver in July. LEED-EB stands for Leadership in
Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings. The Webb
Building should receive LEED-EB certification prior to the Mayors 2007
State of the City Address in July.
Denver Newspaper Agency Building
In June of 2004, the Architectural firm of Newman Cavender and Doane
presented their plans for the new Denver Newspaper Agency Building,
designed for 101 W. Colfax to the Denver Landmark Preservation
Commission (Chandler 2-06). The buildings design and footprint looked
like a half-pint size replication of the Webb Building with its beige colored
oval section shooting out of a rectangle design. A concern for the
Commission, other than design, was the fact that this was the last piece of
vacant land for Civic Center. The Commission felt the building needed to
make more of an individual statement. The Webb Building design was a
43


result of a public design competition as required of the public process, the
DNA Building did not, but perhaps it should have (Chandler 2-06).
A positive aspect of design competitions is many different design options
are explored throughout the process. The Newspaper Agency Building
could have benefited by a competitive public process, especially when the
structure neighbors a civic space. The Commission felt the building
needed to represent the role of the free press to protect civic ideals. The
architects solution, a white clad building with green glass windows, with
exterior balconies in a stepped down design. The final product is an
eleven story 310,000 square foot building with underground and above
grade parking with retail on the ground floor. This building residing on the
northern edge of Civic Center represents another cultural aspect of the
Center, representing democracy and freedom of speech.
44


Deferred Maintenance
In the summer of 2006, Mayor John Hickenlooper established an
Infrastructure Task Force to examine the Citys capital facility and
infrastructure needs:
With the economic challenges of the past several years,
many infrastructure needs were understandably put on hold
We are (now) committed to addressing these deferred
needs, but we also want to do so in a fiscally responsible,
strategic and forward-looking manner.
Mayor John Hickenlooper
July 12, 2006
State of the City Address
Figure 4.21. Landscape Conditions
45


Figure 4.22 Hardscape Conditions
Figure 4.23. Tree Grove Conditions
Eight sub-committees of the task force were developed consisting of
notable citizens and city staff to research and nominate different agency
projects. The purpose, to transform Denver into a model of intelligent
infill development, cultural vibrancy, and forward looking transportation
systems. Historically, maintenance and replacement of the Citys
important assets was deferred for up to ten years, and in order to catch
46


up, a bond issuance would occur every ten years. The Mayor realized this
is not the way to manage a citys infrastructure. Through the deferred
maintenance process, many of the citys prized historic assets have
significant deterioration in appearance and functionality. One of the key
objectives for the Mayors Infrastructure Task Force was to address the
Citys current capital maintenance deficit. Put Denver on a sustainable
and prudent course regarding the funding and maintenance of the civic
assets in which we all take pride (Hickenlooper speech).
In April of 2007, each sub-committee provided a draft report to the Mayors
Office with results of their findings. Listed as one of the critical projects is
the preservation and rehabilitation of Civic Center. Civic Center is listed as
a project under Community Planning and Development and not as a Parks
and Recreation critical project. This act solidifies the fact that Civic Center
is an important cultural institution of the City. Unfortunately, Civic Center
did not make the top five critical project list. The proposed bond issue is
currently at 700 million, but most likely will be proposed to the public in the
moderate amount of 300 million. There is a good chance Civic Center
may not make the cut, and the restoration project proposed in the 2005
Civic Center Master Plan may not be part of the 2008 Bond.
The City engaged the an estimating firm to investigate the funding
requirements for each of the projects. The firm of Rider, Hunt, Levett, and
Bailey estimated the renovation of the Greek Theatre at 5 million, the
Voorhies Memorial at 2 million, the McNichols Building restoration at 20
million, pedestrian improvements at 600 thousand, and the irrigation at
47


500 thousand, for a total of over 28 million dollars (Wirth). The value of
the McNichols Building, Greek Theatre and Voorhies Memorial in 1936 at
just over 740 thousand dollars (DPO).
48


CHAPTER 5
CIVIC DESIGNS AND MASTER PLANS
There is a vast history of design plans for Denvers Civic Center, although
most have ended up on a shelf, four of these plans show the shape and
location of present day Civic Center. The Centers legacy is a result of the
following individuals, who left their imprint on the footprint of the City of
Denver. Civic design embraces the concept of the master plan and is
concerned generally with major civic buildings
The major characteristics is the arrangement
of physical objects with human activities, this
space and the relationship of elements
embraces the discipline of landscape
architecture (Gosling 13).
Reinhard Schuetze
The first design for the Civic Center District
was performed by Reinhard Schuetze, a
German landscape architect who competed in
a design competition for the Colorado Capitol
Grounds in 1890, and won. The 1890 plan
was put on the shelf and a new competition
was called in 1895, Schuetze won again.
5.1 Reporters Rough Sketch
49


It is suggested that Schuetze along with other extraordinary persons, such
as Mayor Speer, came to Denver seeking a better climate for health
reasons. Schuetzes remarkable understanding of soils and climatology
irrigation helped him become a success (Etter 11). Schuetze knew how to
work with Denvers semi-arid and mostly treeless terrain by implementing
subtle contours to the site to maximize natural retention, absorption and
distribution of whatever water was available. The1895 plan designed by
Schuetze for the capital grounds cannot be found, but a newspaper
reporter made a crude sketch to meet a deadline on the project.
Schuetzes design resulted in a landscape of measured lines and accurate
proportions. Schuetzes simple, but elegant sample of the application of
City Beautiful principles is exhibited within the landscape of the State
50


Capitol grounds today.
Figure 5.2. Schuetze Winter Landscape
Schuetze placed public walkways and situated park benches in strategic
places, extending a grand panorama of the Rocky Mountains. Certain
elements in the original design, an elegant fountain, and commemorative
statuary, were not implemented due to a shortage of funds. Schuetzes
Capitol grounds project is important for it laid the framework for the
development of Denvers Civic Center (Etter 15).
51


Civic Schemes
In 1904, the city began soliciting nationally recognized architects, artists,
planners, and landscape architects to develop plans to fulfill Denvers
dream of a well composed city and civic center. The men engaged in this
endeavor were all leading designers of the City Beautiful Movement and
among the founders of the city planning profession in the United States.
The idea of a civic center project goes back to March of 1904, upon
Denvers becoming a home rule city and the Citys divorce from Arapahoe
County (Verduin).
Charles Mulford Robinson
Henry Read, President of the Art Commission recommended that a design
be formed for the center. Read received approval from Mayor Speer to
hire Charles Mulford Robinson, a New York engineer, and a distinguished
city planner for this purpose. Robinson, after a two-week visit, completed
a twenty-two page report dated January 18, 1906. In this report to the City
and County of Denver, Robinson recommended the designation of a land
tract for a mall three blocks long and two blocks wide, extending 16th
Street to the State Capitol.
52


w. *Ave avC
Figure 5.3. Robinson 1906 Design
Robinsons idea was to link the government center with the newly
completed library and to the downtown area. The downtown district would
be unified with a park surrounded by municipal buildings. A vision for a
true civic center, designed to make government more efficient by
clustering city, county, and state buildings, with a large linear open space
as the heart of this grouping. Robinson also recommended height
restrictions in the civic area to protect the Mountain View (Robinson).
Robinsons plan was presented by Mayor Speer to the voters at a public
meeting held at the Brown Palace Hotel on February 7, 1906. Robinsons
report estimated the plan would cost over 2 million dollars (Robinson 23).
Speer estimated the cost closer to 3 million to purchase and clear the
necessary land, plant trees and install fountains. Speer explained to the
53


press and to the public the value of the plan, and proposed a fifty-year
bond issue. Speer told the public, the impact would be minimal spread
over such a great length of time. Speer explained that his administration
would not force the civic center improvement project on the people of
Denver and continued to stress the necessity of the project:
It will pay, because: it will add to the citys beauty-thereby
attract and elevate; it will permanently establish the business
center-worth much to any city; it will be of great value for the
future cannot be measured by dollars; its cash value will
more than double in ten years; but above all it will make our
people more proud of Denver.
A special bond issue election was held, but the price tag seemed too
steep, even over a 50-year period, and the bond measure failed to pass
(Johnson 39). In January of 1907, Mayor Speer, relentless in his quest to
beautify Denver and his certainty of the need for a central public space,
created a twelve-member citizen committee. The purpose of the
committee was to study the needs of this government area and determine
the best arrangement of civic buildings for Denver. One consolation for
Speer was the completion of the new Carnegie Library in 1909, making
the proposed civic center a cultural destination.
Frederick MacMonnies
The 1906 Robinson plan was put on the shelf, until a visit by an out-of-
town sculptor, hired to construct a monument to the western pioneers,
took interest in the Robinson Plan. Frederick MacMonnies, who came to
work on the Pioneer Monument at Colfax and Broadway, refined the Civic
54


Center plan and introduced the semicircles formed by curving Colfax and
14th avenues between Broadway and Bannock. MacMonnies placed the
City and County Building on Bannock opposite the Capitol Building
showing both buildings guarding a large open plaza (Noel 15).
Figure 5.4. MacMonnies Pioneer Monument
The area land value for the MacMonnies plan was substantially less than
Robinsons scheme. The committee approved the plan and task at hand
was to find a funding source.
55


Figure 5.5. Municpal Facts Cover
The ensuing years were spent acquiring land, assessing taxpayers and
finalizing condemnation proceedings. In 1912, the civic center site was
purchased at a cost of $1,815,000, and with the required acreage and
funding finally secured, the existing structures shown on Robinsons plan
were demolished, and grass was planted. Mayor Speers vision of a civic
center was now becoming a reality (Johnson 45).
56


Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. contributed to
the 13-acre park plan in 1913, his design
was to include a concert grove on its
southern edge and a garden space on
the northern edge. Portions of the
Olmsted plan were built in 1914 (Bishop
Lecture). Figure 5.6 Olmsted Sketch
Figure 5.7. Olmsted Plan
The Olmsted Brothers firm was engaged by the City on the reputation of
their father Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. the designer for New Yorks
Central Park and other public spaces. Olmsteds legacy prevailed in his
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sons; their design incorporated many of the design doctrines for public
space initiated by their father. Olmsteds recommendation for Civic Center
was to form a green border around the Center to enclose it from ugly
streetscapes and provide visitors a sense of privacy and a means of
escape. The city fathers at the time saw Civic Center differently and
thought the Center should remain an open activity center (Noel Beautiful
23). Olmsted was dismissed from his Denver obligations in 1915, for the
Olmsted idea of enclosing a public civic area goes against the framework
of a civic centered design plan.
Bennett Plan
In 1916, Mayor Speer commissioned city planner Edward H. Bennett to
create a new design for the Civic Center. In Bennetts plan, a large formal
fountain was to be in the center to emphasize the east-west axis of the
site. The plan also shows a twin building opposite the Carnegie Library.
Mayor Speer hired Edward H. Bennett, Daniel Burnhams assistant for the
design of the 1893 Chicago Exposition, to come to Denver as consulting
architect. Bennett submitted his report The Denver Civic Center Plan to
Mayor Speer in 1916.
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Figure 5.8. Bennett Plan
Bennetts plan shows Olmsteds concert grove as the Greek Theatre with
an archway for the Colonnade of City Benefactors. This colonnade listed
the names of those who contributed to Mayor Speers city beautification
plan. New names of civic contributors have been added to the colonnade
throughout the years. The Bennett plan shows the proposed City and
County Building on the west end of the plan and the Voorhies Memorial
placed on the northern border across from the Greek Theatre, the plan
also shows a sister building for the Carnegie Library and a large fountain
in the middle of the plaza.
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DeBoer Plan 1924
Municipal elections come and go, usually without lasting
effect. But Civic Center is being built for all time. You judge
a man by his ability to complete the task he undertakes. Our
visitors and prospective residents will judge Denver by
the same standard. Civic Center Expansion Committee,
1923
S.R. DeBoer, a well-respected and admired landscape architect and city
planner began working for the City and County of Denvers Parks
Department in 1910. DeBoers legacy is still present in the design of
many Denvers parks and parkways. DeBoer saw himself as a planner
and his sense of beauty was primarily shaped by his love of horticulture a
beautiful city is nearly always a well planted city. As a city planner,
DeBoer was forced to shift from streetcar based to city design to
accommodate the automobile. DeBoer struggled to integrate the romantic
classicism of the City Beautiful movement into a dynamic, young, frontier
urban culture (Hill).
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CITY or PrnvtP
twasip-^
Figure 5.9. DeBoer Plan
DeBoer completed a Grand Plan for Denvers Civic Center in September
of 1924 for then Mayor Ben F. Stapleton. DeBoers plan shows a
courthouse opposite the Carnegie Library on the southwest corner of the
park, and the axis continuing from the State Capitol to Speer Boulevard. In
addition to the landscape work DeBoer performed for the city, DeBoer was
a consultant to the Denver Planning Commission and he was instrumental
in many of the Denver Planning Offices plans and publications. DeBoer
left the City for private practice in 1919, but became a consultant for the
city from 1920 to 1929. DeBoer was instrumental in developing the first
major city plan for all of Denver and in the Citys first zoning regulations.
The Denver Art Commission had ultimate authority to object or accept any
proposed alteration of Civic Center (Johnson 247).
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Burnham Hoyt 1929
Figure 5.10 1929 Burnham Hoyt Plan
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Modern Plans
A Demonstration Plan for Central Denver
Eventual expansion of City and State func-
tions would be accompanied by expansion of
the mall areas into an integrated whole.
Figure 5.11 1957 Demonstration Plan
A 1957 Demonstration Plan for Central Denver was more of a preliminary
planning report and not the official plan. Three individual groups
participated in the planning for this report, the City Planning Board, the
Downtown Denver Improvement Association, and the Urban Renewal
Commission. There are seven main points in the section called Design
Stage, with three pertaining to section 15 of the Demonstration Plan for
the Proposed Extension of Civic Center, (a) a specialized district for each
land use, (f) private remodeling and development of new buildings, item
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(g) large-scale land clearance of residential slums and blighted
commercial areas. This project called for additional building space for the
continued growth of city, state and other institutions. This plan
incorporated burying the streets around Civic Center and provided parking
under an expanded 16th Street Mall. The plan also shows no less than
five monolith hi-rises surrounding the center. The purpose of the plan was
to provide additional government building space, but at the same time to
preserve and expand the spacious effect of the Civic Center Mall. This
plan would have destroyed the surrounding character of Civic Center if it
were to go forward.
A Comprehensive Development Plan for Denvers Civic Center
In May of 1968, under the administration of Mayor Thomas G. Currigan, A
Comprehensive Development Plan for Denvers Civic Center was
published. This was a master plan prepared by the architectural firm of
James Sudler and Associates. This plan was financed in part by an urban
planning grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development
under the Housing Act of 1954. The purpose of the plan was to determine
where to build new public building to house the City and Countys growing
employee base. In 1968, fifteen city agencies workplaces were scattered
about the city and Mayor Currigan wanted relocate these agencies to Civic
Center. This master plan explored an option of relocating the Voorhies
Memorial to another section of the Center and build a new curved city
administration building in its place. The plan also indicates a pedestrian
overpass over Broadway to tie in with the State Capitol portion of Civic
Center.
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Throughout the formation and development of this plan and
report, the participants endeavored to preserve and expand
upon the original design and above all, to match the
standard of excellence which those of the past have set in
the development of Civic Center. An additional amount of
excitement and active use has been consciously designed
into the central area to make it more than just the desirable
open space that it is currently D. B. Grove for Sudler
Architects.
Figure 5.12. 1968 Comprehensive Plan
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Civic Center Task Force
In August of 1990, then Mayor Federico Pena established a Civic Center
Task Force. This task force was comprised of Denver citizens and city
staff for the purpose of updating design guidelines for the general civic
center area and for developing design criteria for a competition for the
expansion of the Denver Public Library. As a city grows, its cultural
institutions must also expand. The Initial 1976 design guidelines in the
ordinance for Denvers Civic Center District concentrated on height,
proportion and directional expression of facades, scale of the building
mass, units of construction and architectural details, materials and texture
of materials used in exterior construction, position and set-back of
buildings and position of entrances, walls, and openings. Language was
also added for the location and landscaping of automobile parking areas
and structures and the location of access to such areas.
These 1990 Civic Center design guidelines focused on an urban design
context for directing future development in the area. The main objective of
these guidelines was to maintain the existing character and stature of civic
center. These guidelines were necessary to guide development of the
private and public property, streets and infrastructure, as more urban
development commenced in the area, specifically the area south of Civic
Center known as the Golden Triangle.
The Civic Center Task Force studied all areas within the Civic Center
Landmark District to review proposed structures within the district and the
possibility of expanding the Civic Center Landmark District boundaries to
include a larger land area studied by the Task Force. A Civic Center
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Overlay District was proposed to encompass a quarter mile radius of the
Historic District. This twelve-page document showed figure ground
sketches for building, mass, form, and organization and how the center
joins with the surrounding neighborhoods of Lincoln Park, Central
Downtown, Lower Downtown, Capital Hill, North Capital Hill, and the
Golden Triangle. The document stressed the importance of the library
design relationship to the four anchoring elements of Civic Center, the
State Capitol, the City and County Building, the Greek Theatre, and the
Voohries Memorial. Tthe State Capital and City and County Building must
remain dominant to any new design scheme and must honor the overall
spatial and architecture unity of the Civic Center and its open space and
landscaping must be preserved.
Civic Center Cultural Complex
In 1992, three Denver cultural organizations, the Denver Art Museum, the
Denver Public Library, and the Colorado Historical Society engaged the
services of an architectural firm out of Philadelphia to produce a Civic
Center Cultural Complex Master Plan. All three of these cultural
institutions border the south and southeast section of Civic Center.
Funded by a grant from the State Historic Fund, Venturi, Scott Brown and
Associates were charged with creating a master plan for the Civic Center
Cultural Complex by looking at ways for these three institutions to share
synergies between the three and better plan for future public services
within the Civic Center Historic District.
The 1992 Master Plan was a project initiated by the Colorado Historical
Society, Denver Public Library, and the Denver Art Museum, as neighbors
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on Denvers Civic Center, to plan for an expansion of the amenities each
cultural institution offered to the public. The goals and objectives were to
develop a plan in which to share programs and create a common urban
landscape(Ashton).
Figure 5.13. 1992 Cultural Complex Plan
The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation funded this project. A Steering
Committee of twenty-three City and State agencies and citizens from the
Architectural community met for a year to explore ways to expand the
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Civic Center Cultural Complex, and provide more cultural programs to the
citizens of Denver. A large part of the project was to explore physical
linkages between the three cultural institutions. Prior to this project all
three operated as self managed institutions. The Denver Art Museum is a
private/public institution, the Denver Public Library is a public/private
institution funded 90% from city general funds, and the Colorado Historical
Society, operating as a State Agency (Hornby Intro).
The Steering Committee continued meeting throughout the plan
development to comment on the Architects proposals and to understand
common problems and develop mutual solutions (Hornby). The Denver
Public Library was preparing to start construction on the sixty-million dollar
expansion project. The Library needed assistance in the placement of
their rich collection of historical literature, personal papers, maps of early
Denver and the western frontier.
The Cultural Complex Schematic Design completed by Venturi, Scott
Brown provided a framework for these institutions to form an innovate
partnership. The Cultural Complex is now a superb education center and
resource for the West with plans to expand the Colorado History Museum
and Hart Research Library in the near future.
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The Cultural Complex plan indicated an expansion for the Denver Art
Museum. Daniel Libeskind, in August of 2002, after being chosen as the
architect for the project said:
The vision of the Civic Center Cultural Complex is one that
emphatically creates and opens a matrix for encounter and
public access. By extending the Civic Park and its
downtown horizon into the center of the cultural institutions.
The plan develops a dynamic and connective weave
between the various elements.
1998 Golden Triangle Neighborhood Plan
The Golden Triangle Neighborhood is located just south of Civic Center.
In July of 1998, then Mayor Wellington Webb approved a strategic
development plan for this city sub-area. The Golden Triangle plan map
includes Civic Center within its boundary and was written in urban context,
quite different from past city development plans. The plan called out for
zoning changes to provide a framework for a community where people
live, work, play, and celebrate Denvers cultural heritage.
The neighborhoods name the Golden Triangle came about because of
its central location and numerous natural, public, and cultural amenities.
The goals of the plan were to create an urban village. The plan outlines
attributes desirable of new urban schemes; build to the human scale,
encourage a pedestrian-oriented environment with wide sidewalks, a
pleasant streetscape, with retail ground floor uses and community
gathering places. The plan recommended improving the connections and
pathways to Civic Center and encouraging use of the Center with daytime
70


and evening events to attract residents and visitors to enjoy the Center in
a passive manner.
Figure 5.14. Golden Triangle Plan
This plan has already seen change and activity occurring in the Golden
Triangle with the completion of the Cultural Center Parking Garage and
construction of million dollar condominiums connected to side and top of
the public garage. Plans are in development for a new boutique hotel with
bottom floor retail and more condominiums are planned. The new
Hamilton Wing of the Denver Art Museum opened last October and
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Acoma Plaza was extended across 13th Street, creating a pedestrian
pathway from 12th Street to Civic Center.
2005 Civic Center Master Plan
The State Historical Fund was established to provide up to $15 million
annually for preservation projects demonstrating strong public benefits
and community support in the restoration, rehabilitation of historic
buildings, assessments, preservation planning studies and education
programs. The fund was created by a constitutional amendment allowing
gambling in Colorados specified ghost towns with a stipulation that a
portion of such funds be directed to the State for historic preservation
purposes. This fund is responsible for the many historic restoration
projects you see in Denvers Lower Downtown.
Denvers Parks and Recreation Department received $56,000 grant from
the Colorado Historical Fund to conduct a Civic Center Historic
Assessment and Master Plan. The purpose of the plan was to investigate
how to encourage more public use of this public space, conduct a
condition assessment of significant features and determine the integrity of
these significant features (denver.gov)
The City engaged Tina Bishop, a Denver Landscape Architect and former
member of the Preservation Landmark Commission to create a new plan
and vision for Civic Center with the goal of keeping intact the historical
design concepts previously laid out by past planning masters. The
projects goal is to revitalize the area, but in addition, have the park remain
an active town square and a special events venue that is safe, open and
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inviting to the public through its open space, landscape and
architecture(Kuykendall).
V- Srm - s~: l
s. -X. i
Figure 5.15. 2005 Civic Center Master Plan
The plans goals and recommendations went through a series of private,
public-private, and public investigations and design test fits. Areas
73


explored included regulatory and infrastructure strategies (Denver.gov).
Parks and Recreation as well as the Department of Community Planning
and Design held public meetings beginning in 2004 to get feedback from
citizens and stakeholders on plan renderings displayed in open
presentations showing the proposed designs. This plan was completed
and approved by City Council in May of 2005.
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CHAPTER 6
CURRENT CONDITIONS
Civic Center Conservancy
The recently formed Civic Center Conservancy is a public and private
collaborative improvement committee created to preserve and protect the
significance of Civic Center as outlined in the 2005 Civic Center Master
Plan. A memorandum of understanding between the City and County of
Denver and the Civic Center Conservancy was signed in 2006. The Civic
Center Conservancys current and past list of members worked closely
with the City in the development of the2005 Master Plan. Two key
members include Elaine Asarch, President of the Conservancy and Helen
Kuykendall, Landscape Architect and Project Manager for the City and
County of Denvers Department of Parks and Recreation.
Former members include Vicki Aybar Sterling, Denver Art Museum, Kim
Bailey, Manager, City and County of Denver Parks and Recreation, Susan
Barnes Gelt, former council member and now community activist. The list
included Dana Crawford, of Urban Denver. Dana Crawford is a legend and
leader in Denvers Preservation efforts. Ms Crawford and her crusade to
save the historic buildings in Denvers Lower Downtown during Denvers
urban renewal projects in the late 50s, 60s and 70s, planted a seed
sprouting an awareness of the significance of historic properties and
fostering the emergence of a strong preservation scene for Denver.
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The Conservancys Vision:
Civic Center Park offers a magnificent opportunity to
experience the important role of being a citizen. It is our
vision that citizens working with government can restore and
refurbish this remarkable public space that symbolizes civic
engagement at its best while lessening the burden of
government.
Mission: Civic Center Conservancy, in partnership with the
City and County of Denver Department of Parks and
Recreation, will enhance, restore and revitalize Civic Center
Park. We will use the Civic Center Park Master Plan as our
guide and will strive to implement the Master Plan. This
initiative will return the park to its historical role as the center
of cultural life in Denver (Denvergov).
The Conservancy met with planners from New Yorks Central and Bryant
Parks, and Chicagos Millennium Park to research how New York and
Chicago conservancy groups partner with government in planning, fund
raising and event planning.
Figure 6.1. Chicago Millennium Park
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In November of 2005, the Conservancy engaged Daniel Libeskind to
develop a vision plan for Civic Center. Libeskind is the architect of record
for the controversial and extremely modern design for the expansion wing
of the Denver Art Museum.
Interestingly, the Conservancy worked with the City on the development of
the recent Civic Center Master Plan. The plans purpose is to address the
need to shore up the current infrastructure, provide a better use for the old
Carnegie Library, improve pedestrian access and increase security for the
Center. Yet, the Conservancy privately commissioned Daniel Libeskind to
design a new master plan for Civic Center.
Funding for Libeskinds work came from a private citizen who was very
much involved in the Libeskind Denver Art Museums expansion. The new
Hamilton Wings construction and operating costs came from a
combination of public and private donors. In January of 2006, twelve
members of the Conservancy traveled to New York to meet with Studio
Libeskind and review the first draft of the plan.
The Libeskind Plan
In August of 2006, Studio Daniel Libeskind presented his new Civic Center
design this plan to the citizens of Denver in a public meeting held at
Denvers downtown Convention Center. The meeting was advertised as
the Civic Center Town Hall Meeting. Current Mayor Hickenlooper, an
advocate for Libeskind addressed the attendees:
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Many great plans end up on a shelf. Great plans need a
champion; the Civic Center Conservancy is this champion. If
you create a great place, people will fill it. Daniel Libeskind
is not just an architect, but an architect willing to be
audatious, bold, and pushes us ... to think things we
normally would not push ourselves to, but to something we
can achieve, and once achieved, take great delight in.
During the presentation of his design scheme, Libeskind mostly reiterated
what is written in most of the modern plans. Preserve the historic and
significant elements of Civic Center, the promenade paving, the McNichols
Building, the balustrades, the sculptures, the Voorhries Memorial, the Seal
Pond, and the Olmsted tree groves. Libeskind said the Center should be a
destination and an urban connection to the 16th Street Mall, the
Convention Center on 14th Street, and to the civic buildings surrounding
the Center. Libeskind's plan shows an open trellis for the Greek theatre, a
curving geometric water feature, a gazebo cafe, and a bridge to connect to
the 16th Street mall. Once presented, the design plan clearly, would
overshadow the historic character of the Center.
A number of subsequent public meetings were held to discuss the
Libeskind proposed design. During these meetings, the Citys project
manager and representatives from the Civic Center Conservancy
repeatedly told the public attendees the Libeskind design was developed
to spur interest and engage the public in conversation of what Civic
Centers use should be for the future.(Kuykendall). The public, in
general, thought Libeskinds design too radical for this sacred space.
One comment from a citizen summarized the publics opinion of being left
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out of the public process and expressed his concern about the Libeskind
design was being shoved down our throats.
In response, the City and the Conservancy tried to gain face and repair
the damage from the August meeting, City Staff has heard the public
saying that what was needed first was the care for what we have in Civic
Center, including restoration of historic structures. Mainly the restoration
and new use for the McNichols Building being the primary goal
(Kuykendall), but the publics negative sentiment about being excluded
from the public process remains today.
Figure 6.3 Libeskind Master Plan
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Public Response
Post reaction to the $75,000 Libeskind plan produced a flurry of articles in
the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Westword, a liberal free
newspaper, and even out of state publications. Citizens, community
activists, building architects, landscape architects attended these public
meetings and some were openly vocal against the proposed plan.
On September 28, 2006, Mark Tabor, President of the Colorado Chapter
of the American Society of Landscape Architects, sent a letter to Kim
Bailey, Manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City
and County of Denver, and to Elaine Asarch, President of the Civic Center
Conservancy. In the letter, Mr. Tabor thanked both for their commitment to
the preservation and improvement to Civic Center:
We recognize that Denver Parks and the Conservancy has
performed a valuable public service by helping to bring the
needs of the park to the broader publics attention and has
begun a lively design discussion with the unveiling of the
recent Vision Plan, by architect Daniel Libeskind.
Mr. Tabors letter soon changed in tone:
In the spirit of cooperation, we write today with several
important concerns, and requests. We are concerned that a
non-competitive selection process was used to contract an
architect, with limited parks and recreation experience, to
design and plan Denvers most prominent park.......we
feel that any planning for Civic Center could be greatly
enhanced by the involvement of an experienced landscape
architecture firm.
The letter continued with ASLAs concern with the Libeskind plan:
We are equally concerned with the design and planning
content of the Vision Plan, particularly with regard to
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respecting the historic character of the park and how the
concepts work within the framework of the recent Civic
Center Master Plan.
The Chapter then requested an invitation for representation in an advisory
capacity to serve the Conservancy and Civic Center planning teams.
The City and the Conservancy received correspondence from many
individuals and organizations involved in planning and development
around the city expressing concerns about the future of Civic Center.
John Desmond, Downtown Denver Partnerships Vice President of Urban
Planning & Environment wrote:
We believe that a plan can be developed, through an open
and expanded public process, in a way that both enhances
the parks historic legacy and ensures that the park will be
inviting and attractive to the entire community for the next
century.
In November of 2006, Sarah McClean of the Downtown Denver
Partnership sent out a press release with the City and County of Denver
Parks and Recreation Department and the Civic Center Conservancy as
the primary audience. In this release, Ms. McClean acknowledged the
Libeskinds design stimulated public discussion about the future of Civic
Center:
But urged the City and Conservancy to lead a public design
competition, involving both public and private stakeholders,
the Landmark Commission, historic preservation
representatives, adjoining neighborhoods and all the retail
investors in the festivals taking place each year. Further, the
release requests the 2005 Civic Center Master Plan and the
soon to be completed Downtown Area Plan be the nucleus
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for any further development. The importance of this
communication is paramount to planners.
The DDRO wants the City and possible developers to foster
a mixed land use for the area to create a vibrant setting for
urban activity. In order for future development to the area the
City needs to address societal defectives such as park
safety, maintenance, pedestrian access and programmed
activities (downtowndenver.com/
It became apparent, Mr. Libeskinds plan was not well received by the
community at large, yet the attention gained by the proposed plan sparked
an overwhelming response and renewed interest in Civic Center. Public
meetings regarding the Civic Center Plan were once again added to the
City and County of Denvers Parks and Recreation departments agenda
for 2006 and 2007.
Supplemental Design Concepts
In response to Libeskinds August presentation, several Denver
Architectural and Planning firms and private individuals presented
independent design concepts for Civic center at a public meeting held at
the Colorado History Museum in October of 2006. Among the architects
presenting was David Tryba, a Principal at David Owen Tryba Architects.
Tryba is the architect of record for the Wellington E. Webb Municipal
Office Building and is currently the Master Urban Design Architect for
Denvers new Justice Center Complex, just west of Civic Center. In a 2004
interview in Westword, Tryba said, we need to think about what we need
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to do with Civic Center for the next hundred years. One of Trybas earlier
ideas was to put Colfax underground, similar to what was done to Speer
near Broadway (a $24 million dollar cost in 1994) Tryba further added we
could turn Civic Center into a positive gathering place where people feel
comfortable eating and hanging out In the October meeting Tryba
showed colored pencil renderings of his vision for Civic Center.
Figure 6.3 Backside Conditions Figure 6.4.Tryba Design
Social Conditions
Historically, Civic Center has been used for major public events and
celebrations representing the diversity and cultural heritage of Colorado
and Denver. From its earliest days of free public concerts in the 1920s,
the space has been associated with milestone events in the history of the
City and State. Many events, such as Cinco de Mayo, the Capitol Hill
Peoples Fair, Theatre in the Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Taste
of Colorado are traditionally held annually in Civic Center, and most
recently, farmers markets in the summer and film viewing in the evening.
All of these events are free and open to the public.
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Denvers website reinforces the public view of Civic Center as being the
city's primary public gathering space and governmental center and is one
of the State's most symbolic places. The Citys Department of Parks and
Recreation has maintained this park throughout the years. The current
problems as well as past use problems with Civic Center are
socioeconomic and not necessarily a design issue. A large problem for the
public is the lack of a sense of security when entering and walking through
the Center. During the day and night the Center harbors many homeless
and sketchy individuals. These are not new social problems for the
Center.
In July 25, 1951, an article by Bernard Beckwith wrote an article for the
Denver Post titled Centuries Old Morals Problem Hangs Over Denver
Civic Center.
The most beautiful spot in Denver is well on the way toward
becoming the most dangerous. Civic Center and State
Capitol grounds, green lawns, beautiful trees and graceful
walk areas haven of rest by day and a haven of potential
horror by night.
Mayor Newton drafted the first Denver vagrancy law in May, 1951.
The Center and the Capitol grounds area at the time was an area
populated by homosexuals in the evening. This behavior pattern
continued until the 1970s. An article in a Capitol Hill paper
mentioned the problem with the hippies that would hang out in the
Center and get stoned during the day would be vulnerable to the
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predators (homosexuals) at night. The homosexual problem
appears to have moved on, but in its place at night are the
homeless and drug dealers. These two issues keep the public from
utilizing the Center in the evening.
Figure 6.5. Voorhies Homeless Shelter
We all need such places...just to know who we are...These
places where we have created our stories, where we find our
shared memories...the places where we have experienced
community and where we can learn to create it again....Past,
present and future are not separate. But we who are in the
present are now accountable for the story. -Robert Archibald
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CHAPTER 7
CONCLUSION
The public process is fundamental to good planning and beginning with
Charles Mulford Robinsons 1906 scheme for the Civic Center area, the
public were engaged in the process, and for good reason, historically,
most funding sources for public infrastructure, whether it be streetscapes,
building rehabilitations, new facilities, pedestrian pathways, or park
benches, comes from public funds. Funds collected from city bond
initiatives, tax revenues, special assessments, head tax, or by raising the
mill levy.
During Mayor Speers third term, after visiting Europe, Speer realized that
city planning is much more than creating a City Beautiful, the inhabitants
of a city are of a diverse culture with diverse needs and it is a matter of
government concern to ensure these needs are addressed. Community
involvement in planning contributes to the stability of the community and is
essential to the planning process in a democratic society. The growing
recognition that planning with involved citizen support is the most vital tool
for beneficial future community development (Smith 183).
City planning methods today recognize, planning is for the people, and the
people are an integral part of the planning process. The negative reaction
to the Libeskind plan (it was a brilliant plan for somewhere else) came
mostly from the publics sense of being purposely left out of the planning
86


process. The design development of the plan process appeared shrouded
in secrecy to the major stakeholder organizations with a vested interest in
Civic Center. The public reaction to the Libeskind plan might have turned
out differently if a public process took place early in design development.
According to David Tryba, Civic Center is downtown Denvers front yard
and has been the prime gathering place for public celebrations, rallies and
major events in the history of the Denver community. The recent extensive
public dialogue has reinforced the importance of Civic Center as well as
stressing the need to develop a working plan to address the Centers
current and future challenges.
Figure 7.1. Public Gatherings
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