Architecture and design have the ability to change a place at two different scales. At the micro level, it can be as simple as a kitchen renovation or a fresh new hotel lobby. At the macro scale, it can define streets, neighborhoods and sometimes entire cities.
Some of the best architecture naturally brings change at both levels, purposeful or not, providing both a defined place for its visitors and – maybe more importantly – giving something back to its place in the city.
The 2016 Mayor’s Design Awards recognizes 17 City of Denver projects that have transformed a place, either through new construction or adaptive reuse. While each of these designs are stand-outs on their own, a few of them make a mark beyond their own property lines, bringing attention to the environment and community around them.
Here are four that do just that.
The Metlo and Torchy’s Tacos
Where: 11th and Broadway
Metlo Owners: Mark Rycroft & Dominique G. Cook-Rycroft. Builders: Jon C. Cook & Mark Rycroft
Torchy’s Owner: The Bailey Company, LLP. Architect: Chioco Design
What It Was: An uninviting pair of corner buildings at 11th and Broadway. To the south, an Arby’s Restaurant that had seen better days. To the north, a mid-century gem, the Broadway Plaza Motel, which had seen too many nights.
What It Has Become: Arby’s was gutted and expanded into the very eclectic and popular Texas-based Torchy’s Tacos. The Broadway Plaza Motel rearranged it’s name and peeled back layers of carpet to re-brand as a 21st Century commerce hub with retail and small business occupying former hotel rooms – think very cool stacked strip mall.
Why It Works: The impact of two hip destinations across the street from each other has brought new life to this Golden Triangle intersection. Torchy’s bold use of tile, glass, and geometry activates the street inviting both pedestrians and drivers. Many may lament the loss of a Arby’s Beef ‘N Cheddar sandwich, but perhaps they will find comfort in a fried chicken taco. The Metlo’s redesign brilliantly removed the entire wall of doors and windows on each floor that scream “no-tell motel” and replaced them with glass. This floods each business with daylight and connects retailers with the city.
Mental Health Center of Denver’s Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being
Where: 3401 Eudora Street
Owner: Mental Health Center of Denver. Architect: Anderson Mason Dale Architects. Builder: Taylor Kohrs
What It Was: A vacant, full city block in northeast Park Hill, once site to the largest African-American-owned shopping center in the U.S.
What It Has Become: A ground-breaking facility that offers early childhood education, pediatric dentistry, classes ranging from Art to Zumba, and a one-acre urban garden that provides fresh produce to this “food desert.”
Why It Works: Mental Health Center of Denver and the Park Hill community worked for over three years to develop a new model for services typically labeled as institutional, resulting in both an architecture and a mission that turned critics into champions. Materials on street-facing facades are contextual and modest in scale. A more colorful series of appendages and roof structures animate the connection to the urban farm.
Regency Athletic Complex
Where: 1600 W. Colfax Avenue
Owner: Metropolitan State University of Denver. Architect: Davis Partnership. Builder: Saunders Construction Inc.
What It Was: A blighted 13.5 acre industrial site along Colfax Avenue south of the Auraria Campus downtown.
What It Has Become: A multi-use sports complex with baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, press boxes, concessions, lockers and training rooms.
Why It Works: In trying to consolidate MSU’s Division II athletics into one location, it energized the edge of a neighborhood and made use of an urban brownfield needing much remediation. The facility welcomes community users while encouraging interaction between the residents and school. State-of-the-art synthetic turf, a handsome entry and facilities, and after-dark presence with lit fields brings attention to a site most would miss cruising down Colfax.
The full list of 2016 design winners:
Wheels Go Round, 16th Street Mall
Bindery on Blake, 2901 & 2875 Blake Street
Mental Health Center of Denver’s Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-Being, 3401 Eudora Street
Freight Residences, 3515 Ringsby Court
One City Block, 444 E. 19th Avenue
Blue Moon Brewing Company – RiNo District, 3750 Chestnut Place
Denizen, 415 S. Cherokee Street
Denver Art Museum Administration Building, 1226 Bannock Street
The Metlo, 1111 Broadway
The ART, a hotel, 1201 Broadway
Galaxie, 3520 E. Colfax Avenue
Room & Board, Cherry Creek, 222 Detroit Street
Torchy’s Tacos, 1085 Broadway
Halcyon Hotel, 245 Columbine Street
Regency Athletic Complex at Metropolitan State University of Denver, 1600 W. Colfax Ave.
Private residence, 4025 Grove Street
Private residence, 2510 S. Lowell Boulevard