At the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission meeting earlier this week, two projects stood out:
- The request to demolish the South Ramp at Red Rocks and build a replacement,
- And a proposal to replace the existing stage cover with a new one that is much larger and taller, and includes a digital screen under the cover that would obscure views. The existing cover was erected in 1988, and it is universally disliked.
In both cases, these projects will be going back to the commission, because there were numerous questions.
In the case of the ramp, the applicant is Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., and a city agency called Arts & Venues. The commission usually (but not always) first seeks a way toward rehabilitation – not jump in first for demolition. It was noted during the presentation that the rehabilitation would add another 30 years of life. There is a concern, though, about the way the ramp is constructed (an I-beam encased in concrete, and a steel sheet on the bottom). As well, the ramp does not meet ADA standards.
Commission members wanted more information on this proposal, such as a condition report, a structural analysis, and a replacement plan. At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission decided to revisit the proposal on July 9.
Then, there’s the stage cover.
The first submittal for constructing a new stage cover addressed mass, form and context, with design to be discussed later. The height of the new cover concerned some in attendance, but for the most part, they believed adding a new stage cover was a good idea. The curved shape of the cover found favor, since it follows the curves of the stage.The architect on the project is Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc., with Anderson Hallas Architects, a firm known for its work in preservation.
What caused the most concern was the screen positioned right under the cover. Tad Bowman, the agency’s venue director, said there would be no ads beamed on that screen, just images for the band and messaging for the audience. The screen would be in use only during the concert season, but commission members were concerned that the screen would obscure Stage Rock and the city lights below. And at one point, Bowman said there could be no screen.
The commission members want more information, and they will get that when the stage cover proposal comes back to discuss design. The cover will be the same sort of fabric that is used in the DIA terminal; the application shows the cover to be white, though I have a sense that will change. In the end, the commission approved the concept, but asked for additional perspectives of the roof elements and that top screen. No date wa mentioned about when the project will return.
Why does this matter?
Red Rocks is a one-of-a-kind venue, attracting visitors to a place that is respected – and loved — worldwide. Over the past couple of decades, some proposals were shot down, like creating corporate seating boxes and beaming logos on the rocks. In the late 1990s, people who want to protect this beautiful site formed the group Friends of Red Rocks – and they are still involved. More recently, there was a plan to alter the planter boxes to create a permanent spectator area. That didn’t fly either. Thank you, Friends of Red Rocks.
We all know that the city’s venues need to make money, but Red Rocks needs to be approached carefully at every step taken. It’s that special. And a lot of what we see now in Denver and the metro area is certainly not.