At the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission meeting earlier this week, Red Rocks’ new stage cover design was approved. The cover erected in 1988 has drawn complaints for 30 years, and for good reason. An aspect of the new stage cover elicited some questions, but the commissioners approved the design. (The photo shows the existing cover, and below is the rendering of the approved cover.)
But at the end of the discussion about the stage cover, the person who helped found the Friends of Red Rocks suggested something that would make changes at Red Rocks even more sensible: Steve Good said he had “an elegant solution” and that “design guidelines need to be in place and establish an historic district.” A meeting was set to talk to members of the landmark staff.
This topic has been swirling around for almost 5 years, but Good and other Red Rocks stalwarts are ready to take this up again. Last summer, when there was a lengthy discussion of how to demolish the south ramp – with no replacement in hand – the request for a public hearing on this issue was not available. The ordinance notes: “Public hearings are only required for demolition of contributing structures in a historic district (see Section 30-6(6)(d) of the DRMC), because the definition of contributing and non-contributing refers specifically to structures in a historic district (Section 30-2).”
To the city, the ramp was not a contributing anything.
The discussions about an historic district years ago involved the Denver Mountain Parks Foundation, Denver’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, architects and landscape architects who have worked at Red Rocks, historians, preservationists, and Historic Denver. The concern was over the city’s proposal to build a large structure next to the Trading Post for the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
Those discussions fell apart for various reasons. After all, the Civic Center National Historic Landmark has design guidelines, and with a district, there are more opportunities for people to comment and have input (and know what is going on).
Speakers at the meeting last summer also touched on the need to protect all of Red Rocks and the amphitheatre as a district, in part because the city can redo elements that are not compatible for the architecture in the park. Some of these are not brought up at all, and they do not really fit, and often no one knows what has been changed.
At the meeting last summer, the landmark commission members spent quite a long time drilling down on what was troubling them about the ramp. Finally, the district came up. Denver’s Red Rocks’ designation as a landmark was limited in scope; it was completed in the 1970s. On the other hand, the relatively recent National Historic Landmark designation covered the full sweep of Red Rocks, naming the ramp as a contributing structure and of historical importance.
It became clear that even though the city A.) at times seemed hesitant to hold a public hearing on this, and B.) the National Historic Landmark information differed from the city’s earlier quite narrow work, commission members decided on the side of preservation. It became apparent, that the National Historic Landmark information in a way trumped everything, prompting a move to designate the ramp as a contributing structure.
It’s more than just a “hope” that this can happen. It’s time to make Red Rocks whole. It would be a big historic district, but this place beloved around the world deserves protection.
The links below lead to information about the new stage cover.