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Doors Open Denver Preview: Boettcher Concert Hall

Boettcher Concert Hall was built in 1978 by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates with the late acoustician Christopher Jaffe as the home for the Denver Symphony Orchestra, now the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Boettcher, a part of the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC), the second largest performing arts complex in the U.S., is considered to be an architectural gem and period piece from Denver’s golden age of big-city architecture.

The Boettcher Concert Hall seats more than 2,700 people in five kinds of seating areas,  and was the nation’s first symphony hall in the round designed to place the audience close to the stage in a unique environment: 80% of the seats are within 65 feet of the stage. Boettcher’s walls are canted at a slight angle to disperse sound and prevent flutter echoes. On each curved surface of the hall is a wave-like band, approximately four feet high, technically called an undulating acoustical facia. These facias diffuse, reflect and channel sound throughout the venue. The seats in Boettcher are custom-designed, made from steam-bent plywood with their backs varying in height from 42 – 48 inches. Paul Goldberger, writing in the New York Times, called Boettcher a surprisingly warm room and loved its unconventional design with the orchestra smack-dab in the middle of the hall, allowing the audience to feel as if it is sharing with the orchestra the role of participant in a joyous ceremony.

Here is an image of the Boettcher Concert Hall, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.

Boettcher currently requires repairs to its mechanical, plumbing, and heating systems, and the city of Denver, with minimal available budget combined with the potential loss of the CSO as a permanent tenant, has changed its focus from renovating Boettcher to a broader DPAC site analysis.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Turntable Studios Brings Micro-Apartments to Denver

MARCH 5 UPDATE: JG Johnson Architects has finalized the renderings for Turntable Studios.  The three photos posted below include the final sign design and color scheme for the building.





Denver’s first micro-apartment building is under construction! The project is called Turntable Studios, and its introduction to Denver’s rental housing mix marks an important step toward expanding the affordable housing options for would-be city dwellers.


courtesy of JG Johnson Architects

Micro-apartments (also called micro-units or micro-housing) have been part of the housing mix in dense international cities like Hong Kong and Tokyo for decades, but they are just starting to catch on in the U.S. Though the maximum square footage varies depending on the source, most authorities consider a one-room apartment unit that is between 150-350 square feet to be “micro.”

There is a reason that micro-apartment development is on the rise. According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of single-person households in America has increased by 10% from 1970, and presently accounts for more than a quarter of all households. This rise in single-person households coupled with steadily increasing housing prices has created a new real estate market segment that appears quite willing to sacrifice square footage for affordable rents and desirable urban locations.

Though the concept has not yet reached Middle America, fast growing cities like Boston, San Francisco and Seattle have been offering micro apartments for several years now. Their introduction to the rental market has presented a challenge to city planning departments, who have no previous experience guiding policy decisions that speak to the unique housing arrangement that places kitchen components within mere feet of sleeping quarters. Nevertheless, the demand for affordable urban units in the U.S. is undeniable and Denver will soon have its first offering, courtesy of Nichols Partnership.

Probably best known locally for developing the Spire condominium building downtown, Nichols Partnership is in the midst of adapting the former VQ Hotel building next to Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High into 179 apartment units that will range in size from 330 square foot studios, to 820 square foot 2-bedroom units.

Originally erected in 1967, the 94,000 square foot, 13-story cast-in-place concrete structure stands out because of its unique design. It is shaped like a silo, with the elevator bank at its center and 16 hotel rooms per floor spoking out from the circular hallway.  Each of these rooms is being converted to an apartment unit, complete with a kitchen (featuring full-sized refrigerators and built-in microwaves), a full bathroom with a sliding barn door, and living / sleeping area.


Because of the limited square footage, the unit floorplans had to be carefully arranged. Nichols Partnership  tested the design with a real-life mock-up unit, to ensure the spaces were laid out to maximize livability for the future tenants.

turntable studios bed

Courtesy of Nichols Partnership

The windows are being re-glazed and each unit will feature a Juliette balcony, so that tenants can open up their doors and enjoy their remarkable view of downtown Denver.


Turntable Studios will offer a variety of amenities, such as a fitness room, swimming pool, and community room on the first floor, along with additional storage space for tenants.  The hotel’s former top floor restaurant space will be converted into penthouse apartment units and a common area. The development prioritizes access to multi-modal transportation, with plans for 144 covered bike racks, and its proximate location to I-25 and two light rail stops.

Property management company Boutique Apartments is already accepting inquiries for the project, which is scheduled to begin leasing in June, 2015.

Be sure to check back for updates, as we will certainly be keeping an eye on the development of this exciting new addition to Denver’s housing mix! Thanks to Melissa Rummel and Jodi Kopke for the tour!



Doors Open Denver: Blair-Caldwell African American Library

The Blair Caldwell African American Branch Library was built in 2003. This unique branch, named for the first African American Councilman in District 8 (Elvin Caldwell) and the first African American President of the Denver Public School Board (Omar Blair), is the only research library of its kind west of the Mississippi. The library replaced the much smaller former Five Points Branch Library. It is an exciting new space and the largest Denver Public Library Branch in the system at 40,000 square feet.

Each of the Library’s three spacious levels has a unique purpose. Level 1 has an entry gallery with exhibitions, conference and meeting rooms, study rooms, an area for children, teens and adults and a collection of more than 45,000 books, magazines and audiovisual materials. Level 2 hosts the Collection Archives and Research Library, as well as a gallery. Housed in the Archival Collection are more than 150 collections which showcase stories of African American musicians, gold miners, cowboys, homesteaders, politicians, physicians, educators, artists, business owners, religious leaders, scholars and everyday hard-working pioneers. Additionally, Young and old students, scholars or the merely curious can have access to the original personal and professional papers, artifacts, photos, and scrapbooks of great African Americans who shaped the West. Visitors to the the library also do not want to miss the Level 3 Western Legacies Museum and Exhibit Space highlighting African Americans who settled in the West. These exhibits tell stories of ranging from early pioneers to present-day heroes, where the public may follow the footsteps of African Americans who settled the West.

Here is an image of the Blair-Caldwell African American Library, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library is the gateway to Five Points and the Welton Street Historic District. The building merges with Sonny Lawson Park via a plaza connecting the two. The Blair-Caldwell AARL is conveniently located immediately across Welton Street from the light rail, and parking is available next to the building. The long three-story brick and glass building with enclosed porch is known for the views of downtown from atop the grand stairway, large bronze and mosaic reliefs on the front facade, and portraits of namesakes Blair and Caldwell. Modeled after Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel in Florence, Italy, The Blair-Caldwell AARL displays traditional masonry forms and modern detailing combine to create a handsome, dignified structure.
Several artists were selected to create unique works of art for the Blair-Caldwell AARL. Two 15-foot bronze and mosaic reliefs representing the noble strength, bearing and pioneer spirit of African American men and women in the West are located in the large niches on either side of the front facade of the Library. These striking sculptures were designed by internationally renowned artist Thomas Jay Warren. Renowned artist Yvonne Muinde was selected to create the mural just inside the library in the entrance foyer.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Doors Open Denver Preview: Bennett Wagner Architects Studio

This structure at 1301 Wazee was built in 1915, thereby celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. Over its life, the building has served various retail and warehouse purposes. In 2000, the building was renovated, subdivided, and condominiumized. The first floor was purchased by Martha Bennett, Linda Wagner, and Don Grody for their Architecture Studio: Bennett Wagner Grody Architects.

Here is an image of the Bennett Wagner Architects Studio, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


This building was one of the first board-formed cast-in-place concrete buildings constructed in Denver. It  is supported by 25’ chamfered and flared concrete columns, with concrete floor slabs and edge beams in-filled with thick masonry walls. The open studio environment invites human interaction, which is essential to the office’s team approach to design. The conference room is the only enclosed space in the studio. An interesting fact is that  the library space within the studio was furnished with wood recycled from the Library of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.

Doors Open Denver Preview: Balfour at Riverfront Park

Balfour at Riverfront Park is a master planned, senior living community with a 17-acre park on one side and downtown Denver on the other. The building is an elegant retirement community designed by Robert A.M. Stern, which broke ground in April 2013 and opened in late 2014. It consists of 205 independent living, assisted living, and memory care/Alzheimer’s apartment homes based on the concept of continuum of care. This allows residents to maintain relationships with friends and staff through every level without having to leave the Balfour community, although its proximity to several of Denver’s attractions and amenities allow many opportunities for socializing and entertainment.

Here is an image of the Balfour at Riverfront Park and the historic Moffat Depot, courtesy of Doors Open Denver.


Within Balfour are three restaurants, as well as a spa, pool and fitness center. Balfour at Riverfront Park is built around one of Denver’s last two remaining historic train terminals, Moffat Depot. The Moffat Depot was the Denver terminus of the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railroad. It represents the work of Denver Architect Edwin Moorman and provides an example of predominantly Georgian revival Architecture. The renovated Moffat Depot is now Balfour’s community room.

This building preview is part of DenverUrbanism’s special countdown series to Doors Open Denver 2015. Click here for more information on Doors Open Denver.