Part of The Mile High City just got a little higher and a little greener when Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock cut the ribbon of a new promenade at Denver’s RiNo Art Park along the South Platte River last week. Arkins Promenade is part of a new, mile-long riverfront pedestrian corridor that will run between 29th and 38th streets next to the city’s Five Points and River North Art Districts. Designed by Denver-based firms Tres Birds and Wenk Associates, the project features a 400-foot, steel-based walkway that uses reclaimed telephone poles as structural supports, raising it to 28 feet at its highest point.
Seven years in the making, the project transforms a former road leading to a Regional Transportation District bus parking lot into a linear park that connects to the South Platte River and the new RiNo Art Park, which opened in 2020. The concept for the park and elevated walkway evolved after a public outreach process that put forward the idea of making “a different way of experiencing the river by getting people off the ground, getting people to experience nature a little more directly,” according to Tres Birds founder Mike Moore.
The existing tree canopy along the South Platte was supplemented by the planting of “lots” of new trees and Moore said it’s going to make it great in five years, but even better in 10. With matured vegetation, the elevated walkway will eventually be less visible when passing by the promenade. The elevated walkway offers “little outdoor living rooms with different experiences of the river and looking at the city and experiencing the trees around you,” Moore said. There’s a spider web net for lounging and porch-type swings and the decking railings and picnic tables are crafted from sustainably sourced lumber that will weather to grey. Recycled plastic milk bottles formed into grey blocks have been constructed into ground seating. Next to the promenade, Tres Birds has designed a children’s playground constructed with recycled materials.
As a publicly funded project requiring one percent to be spent on art, the plaza includes an art installation featuring large metal hoppers reclaimed from a neighboring concrete plant that was relocating.
“I asked them what they’re going to do with all the concrete hoppers and such,” Moore said, adding, “they said they were going to take them down and then sell them for scrap metal.” Moore worked out a deal to purchase the hoppers with the intent to use them on a future project.
“When the art program came up, and Jaime Melina and Pedro Barrios [of The Worst Crew] were selected…we connected to Jaime and Pedro and said, ‘oh this can be your canvas’ and Tres Birds figured out how we’d use them on the site,” Moore said.
The promenade’s landscaping, native grass areas, and planters help filter stormwater, improving the water quality in the South Platte River, according to a city news release. The price tag for the entire park is $5.5 million, funded primarily by 2017 voter-approved bonds.
Tres Birds also designed an indoor performance space, which will repurpose a vacant existing single-story structure of brick, steel, and a wood roof on the south end of the park. Construction is expected to start later this summer. The flexible performance space will seat approximately 200 people and is expected to be completed by spring of 2023.