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Plans underway to redevelop historic Evans School building in Denver's Golden Triangle

Evans School currently houses more than 50 local artists
Evans School building Denver
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 04, 2024

DENVER — Plans are underway to redevelop the historic Evans School building in Denver's Golden Triangle neighborhood.

The Denver City Council on Monday will consider a pair of proposals to help redevelop the site.

The building opened in 1904 and served as a school for nearly 70 years. In 1980, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated as a Denver local landmark in 2001.

In 2020, local investors bought the property and have been working to redevelop it. One of them, Joe Vostrejs, helped renovate Union Station.

In 2019, heVostrejs told Denver7 what his plans were for the Evans School building.

“It has been sitting unused for such a long time,” said Vostrejs. “The exterior grounds on the first floor will be a collection of food and beverage and retail use, much like our Union Station project.”

Evans School building Denver
Second floor hallway in Evans School building

The latest plans call for a restaurant and beer garden, coffee shop and ice cream parlor, and retail spaces on the first floor of the building. On the second floor, there would be retail space for wellness providers and craftspeople. Additional retail space, office and studio space would be located on the third floor.

Plans also call for refurbishing the 5,500 square-foot auditorium so it can host private and community events and upgrading the building’s infrastructure.

Tracy Huggins, executive director of Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA), said once the project is complete, it would serve as a hub for the neighborhood.

“Not only is it a gorgeous building that has sat vacant and underutilized for way too long, but really providing an opportunity for it to be a respite in the Golden Triangle neighborhood that has seen an awful lot of dense residential development, but there is not really a place for new residents of that area. And this could be that place,” said Huggins.

Evans School building Denver
Moe Gram, a visual artist, inside her studio space at the Evans School building.

The building currently houses more than 50 artists who pay below-market rent for the space. Moe Gram, a visual arts artist, has been a tenant in the building for the past year and a half.

“Being able to be here has been really special,” said Gram.

Gram said while the artists knew their leases were short-term, they were able to stay longer.

“We all signed our leases with the understanding that this was a temporary solution for our needs for studios,” said Gram. “When we first moved in, we had four months to be able to be here. And then four months became six months, [which] became a year.”

While there would still be space for artists once the building is redeveloped, some worry they won’t be able to afford the higher rent.

“I really enjoyed the community here and I would really like to see artists be able to stay in the space at a reasonable rate,” said Rochelle Johnston, another artist and tenant.

Evans School building Denver
The artists working out of the Evans Building say they have enjoyed being able to use the space, but are concerned about future rent increases.

The Denver Urban Renewal Authority said while rents will go up, developers have agreed to work with the artists.

“They really have a commitment to work with those existing tenants in the building and over time increasing those rents so there won’t be a lot of displacement,” said Huggins.

The project is expected to cost developers around $26 million.

DURA is asking the city council to approve a $3.3 million tax increment financing (TIF) plan to reimburse developers some of the "costs associated with environmental remediation, life safety repairs, ADA compliance and historic building rehabilitation." The city council will also consider a proposal to create a new urban redevelopment area.

Evans School building Denver
Evans School, which sits at the corner of 11th and Acoma in downtown Denver, opened in 1904. The school remained open until the 1970s.

The council is scheduled to take an initial vote on the proposals on Monday. A public hearing and final vote are scheduled for July 22.

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