River North Park opens on the South Platte River in Denver — The Know

Denver’s just got a new park along the South Platte River, the culmination of a decade-long project between the city and community partners.

Denver Parks and Recreation live-streamed a virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony on its Facebook page on Thursday afternoon to open River North Park, which includes new green space, river access, performance areas, art installations and two industrial buildings, where the city plans to house a Denver Public Library branch, art space from contemporary venue Redline and will include other community partners including the northeast Denver nonprofit, Focus Points Family Resource Center.

Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, spoke at the ribbon-cutting on Thursday to a small crowd of socially distanced residents and reporters. The new park is a part of her department’s 20-year plan to increase access to green spaces so that every Denver resident is within a 10-minute walk of a park. She added that this is the first park in the River North Art District area.

“Although the path to this park was long and sometimes complicated, the steady heartbeat that continued to pump life into this project remains, and that is the commitment that the city has to work with residents and the organizations in this area to ensure that neighborhoods have access to nature and gathering spaces,” Haynes said during the live-stream.

The 3.5-acre park is located along the river on Atkins Court between 33rd and 35th streets. In 2010, The city purchased the land with guidance from the Greenway Foundation, Trust for Public Land and a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. The plot cost $2.4 million in 2010 and is now worth upwards of $12 million, as RiNo has become one of the most expensive development areas in Denver. The city broke ground on the park in spring 2019, spending $6 million in improvements through grant funding, private donations and support from community partners, including the North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative.

Haynes said Parks and Recreation also worked with community members and organizations to determine what residents wanted and needed. Residents suggested repurposing the buildings on the property rather than tearing them down, and Andrew Feinstein, co-founder of the River North Art District, said his organization collaborated with the city to use the buildings as community art space, with the hope of opening them by 2021.

“This is what RiNo is all about — saving the old and reactivating it as the new,” Feinstein said during the live-stream. “It’s critically important that we have affordable space for art in our community.”

At the ceremony on Thursday, Haynes and Mayor Michael Hancock also broke ground on the riverfront promenade connected to the new park, which the city will develop with funds from the Elevate Denver Bond Program and is slated to open in 2021.

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In an interview with The Denver Post on Thursday, Gordon Robertson, director of planning, design and construction at Parks and Recreation, said the promenade aims to connect the park to residents across northeast Denver, including Five Points and Globeville Elyria-Swansea. The promenade will stretch across nine blocks along the river, leading residents to the park for its community resources and green space.

Robertson acknowledged that RiNo is in and surrounded by some of Denver’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, and he said the city purchased the land anticipating that the industrial area would grow more residential. But his department made an intentional effort with River North Park to provide services and programming aimed at residents of greater northeast Denver.

“Typically when we open a park, we’ve done all the work,” he said. “This park is different. This park has ownership from businesses and the neighborhoods around it … We opened the park together, with the neighborhoods, in a way we have never done before.”

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