Revitalizing the Arts:
A Plan to Breathe New Life Into The Denver Arts Complex
After seeing the decline in the performing arts attendance at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) a team of dedicated arts participants, led by Peter John Lucking, the Principal and Lead designer on the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and fronted by, Fabby Hillyard, former head of City and County of Denver’s, Theatres and Arenas now Denver Arts & Venues, created Only in Denver.
With the help and advice of multiple Performing Arts aficionado’s from Gully Stanford to Erik Dyce, the former Chief Marketing Officer of Theatres and Arenas a 176 page report, Revitalizing the Arts: A Plan to Breathe New Life Into The Arts Complex, was published By Real Magic Design on March 22, 2013, with the hope to start discussion and development. This is a summary of that plan.
After seeing the decline in the performing arts attendance at the DPAC a team of dedicated arts participants, Only in Denver, created a 180-page report, Revitalizing the Arts: A Plan to Breathe New Life Into The Arts Complex.
Introduction – Really Activating the Denver Theatre District!
Only In Denver has created an affirmative plan of action that increases City revenue and aids the “at risk” performing arts constituents in Denver, while creating educational outreach opportunities to Denver Public Schools and local Universities. This plan expands the arts audience to include the younger generations.
The Benefits of this plan of action are:
- Creates a new arts audience, bringing Generation X to the complex by repurposing Boettcher to a multiuse facility for generations to come.
- Creates additional revenue for the City of Denver by increasing the utilization of The Ellie Caulkins Opera House and The Boettcher Concert Hall with increased ticket sales and seat revenue with substantial downtown economic impact.
- Creates jobs in the local economy.
- The Denver Theatrical Stage Film IATSE #7 Unions would increase their member’s income.
- Provides a long-term opportunity for The Colorado Symphony Orchestra to raise funds whilst performing in a facility that meets and exceeds the audience’s expectations.
- Provides educational outreach opportunities, with community broadcast, performance, rehearsal and support rooms for all.
Only In Denver – transforming the City through the Arts and Education
It is time for a bold move! Only In Denver is a group of passionate professionals with a new vision to energize the Arts Complex, with a plan to repurpose Boettcher Concert Hall to host exciting events, increase City revenue, and provide educational outreach to younger generations.
Only In Denver plan includes the creation of The Classical Cornerstone of the Arts, the home of all Classical Performances with the appropriate audience facilities that this market segment expects. The Ellie is a “Grand Theatre” that can accommodate the symphony, with simple enhancements that bring the Ellie to the equivalent of the Bass Performance Hall, home of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Opera and Ballet and the world-renowned Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and Cliburn Concerts. The scheduling conflicts can easily be resolved.
Create, The Classical Cornerstone of the Arts to provide presence and a destination that meets and exceeds the high expectations of this demographic.
Repurposed and Reenergized Boettcher presentation program that includes and features contemporary music; Avant-garde theatre; and innovation multimedia shows that attract a new generation of show-goers.
Create, a Meaningful Educational Program as an integral part of the Complex partnering with higher education, as well as, k through 12, and IATSE to increase the opportunity for arts education and experience; exposure to professional artists in master class settings; and career path training in the technical arts of theatre “
1. The Arts are a critical thread in the fabric of Denver life.
2. Music and visual arts are the keys to the economic activity generated in the Denver Theatre District.
3. The Only In Denver plan includes a new and parallel real estate development for the Galleria, which will bring a crescendo to Downtown Denver.
Changes in Downtown:
Since the grand opening of the Denver Performing Arts Complex, changes in the Downtown Denver demographic have been dramatic. The Downtown Denver Partnership brought civic and business leaders together to focus on making downtown Denver a successful and vibrant urban center.
The City has blossomed as new neighborhoods have emerged, LoDo, LoHi, Civic Center, Golden Triangle, Ball Park, Arapahoe Square, and Riverfront among them. These vibrant, young neighborhoods respond to the market demands of strong pedestrian-friendly public spaces and easily available jobs and entertainment opportunities. Restaurants, clubs, and boutique retail have flourished in response to the demands of this new residential growth. A 24/7 business and entertainment center.
What hasn’t responded to this opportunity? The Performing Arts Complex.
The Second Largest Performing Arts Complex in the United States is Struggling
Audience attendance has dropped in the Ellie from 63% in 2005 to 57% in 2012, but more importantly, the facilities occupancy utilization has fallen in 2013 to an estimated 25%. The resulting loss of FDA seat tax income will affect all DPAC constituents.
Three of the major tenants are struggling financially – The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, The Colorado Ballet, and Opera Colorado, which just announced a major cut back of its current season.
“Suffering a disappointing year-end fundraising campaign in 2012, Opera Colorado is reducing its schedule by one-third, cutting back to just two productions for both the 2013 and 2014 season.”
The Galleria is an Empty Daytime Space
The Galleria is not flourishing as a 24/7 destination that the Downtown neighborhoods, business and theatre tenants and show-goers deserve. It is not a destination.
The “dark” days or vacancy in the Ellie and the Boettcher Concert Hall are too high. It is important that these institutions receive support from the city but they are currently underperforming and their futures are at risk. The current rate of return for the City on this major 12 acre and multimillion-dollar investment of the Performing Arts Complex is too low.
The workhorse of the Complex, the Buell Theatre, is going strong as long as there are great productions touring Denver. This will always be a destination…but the Ellie and the Boettcher are underutilized. The Galleria is outdated and needs revitalization.
It is time for another bold move.
Only In Denver has created a plan to repurpose Boettcher Concert Hall to host exciting events, increase City revenue, and provide educational outreach to younger generations, whilst revitalizing the Ellie to create the “Cornerstone of the Classic Arts.” Along with a new parallel real estate development, for the Galleria, that brings a crescendo to Downtown Denver and The Performing Arts Complex.
Only In Denver and its partners are proposing to complete and contemporize the Denver Performing Arts Complex by adding (2) two new and important programming components.
First, a repurposed and reenergized Boettcher Concert Hall presentation program that features contemporary music, avant-guard theatre, and innovative multimedia shows.
Second, a meaningful educational program that partners with higher education as well as K-12 to increase the opportunity for arts education and experience. This allows exposure to professional artists in master class settings and career path training in the technical arts of theatre via the IATSE Stagehands.
Only In Denver plans is to capture a major share of the music market: Rock and Roll, Hip-Hop, Pop, Country, etc. A new Audience market for the DPAC. Maximize the spaces musical potential.
Global sales by Genre (2010): Capture the Market as a Multiuse Music Space.
Only In Denver plan is to capture a major market share of the Shows presently appearing outside of the greater metropolitan region.
Only In Denver plans to create opportunities through educational outreach and exposure for DPS, Third tier constituents, and local Universities.
Only in Denver, envisions Boettcher becoming the people’s house.
The Benefits of this plan of action are to
- Maximize the utilization of the Ellie and Boettcher.
- Create additional revenue for the City of & County of Denver, Denver Performing Arts Complex, (DPAC), etc.
- Provide educational outreach opportunities, with community broadcast, performance, rehearsal and support rooms for all
- Create jobs in the local economy.
- Repurpose Boettcher to a multiuse facility for New Generations.
- Create a new arts audience, bringing Generation X to the complex by repurposing Boettcher to a multiuse facility for generations to come.
- Provide a long-term opportunity for The Colorado Symphony Orchestra to raise funds and or increases the center’s profitability which can aid in building an appropriate Shoe Box Concert Hall in the future that meets their long-term goals.
- Provide The Colorado Symphony Orchestra with a facility that meets and exceeds the audience’s expectations…
- Provide performance, rehearsal and support rooms for all arts community tiers.
- The Denver Theatrical Stage Film And Exhibition Employees Union IATSE #7 Unions would increase their member’s potential income.
By increasing the Ellie and the Boettcher facilities utilization, ticket sales – seat tax sales increase and the downtown economic impact is maximized.
By maximizing the utilization of the facilities, all operational aspects of the facilities can be improved. An example; the bars in the Ellie are undermanned. Why? It is economically not feasible to operate the five-station bar on the Loge level due to the simple fact that at 23% – 35% building occupancy rates and 65% seat occupancy rates the, “Food and Beverages Contractor” cannot afford to employ full-time staff for the empty days.
The Only In Denver plan doubles the Ellie and Boettcher income potential and will enable the best services to be provided to the constituents audience.
Facilities + Attitude + Service = Excellence
Repurposing Boettcher: Why not just tear it down?
Boettcher Concert Hall has a unique in-the-round configuration that provides an intimate relationship to the performer; it’s audience amenities are poor by comparison to other facilities. However, the facility has substantial value and represents an investment that can be cost-effectively repurposed, for new audiences and performance type.
Boettcher’s uniquely distinctive hall configuration with 80% of its seats within 65 feet of the stage provides a unique opportunity that could be repurposed for a multitude of performance genres with simple improvements to the overhead stage area and house to create a multipurpose space, which would exceed audience expectations. Boettcher Concert Hall is designed to keep the noise out, conversely, it will keep noise in!
Only In Denver performance types do not require lavish improvements to the audience front of house facilities to meet their expectations, nor are the houses technical improvements cost prohibitive. The house ceiling shell winches and technical systems presently need total refurbishing. The seating width in the facility is adequate for audiences who presently sit in 17” seats in comparable spaces.
Why not respond to the market of the future by repurposing Boettcher cost-effectively to in increasing attendance, occupancy income and service the vibrant, young neighborhoods?
Presently, audiences are traveling to the Pikes Peak Center to see bands, speakers and lecture series etc… Let’s get them downtown spending dollars in Denver.
Only In Denver is proposing: A Phased Development with Phased Funding:
A phased development that will benefit all major tenants, to increase all tenants visibility and presence in the center and create a vibrant 24/7 destination.
Only In Denver is proposing to create an Entertainment Center that attracts the vibrant, young generation x market, to create a new generation of the show–goers, that response to their needs.
The Only In Denver plan includes a new parallel real estate development for the Galleria, which brings a crescendo to Downtown Denver and The Performing Arts Complex.
Only In Denver and its Partners plan to fund 1/3 of all project costs to create:
A 24/7 Entertainment Center for Generations to Come.
If You would like to read the full report you can download a PDF version here.
Only In Denver
Fabby Hillyard, Director
Peter Lucking, Project Development – Theater Architecture – Programming and Design
Erik Dyce, Facility Management, and Marketing
David J. Cole, Community Relationships.
Revitalizing the Arts: A Plan to Breathe New Life Into The Arts Complex, published By Real Magic Design LLC.
Copyright © 2013 by Peter Lucking, Fabby Hillyard, Erik Dyce. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the Authors.