Renovated Colfax People’s Building in Aurora missing one thing — people


AURORA | The city of Aurora is preparing to unveil its newest project in the Aurora Cultural Arts District in the coming weeks, although the recently renovated building at 9995 E. Colfax Ave. could remain without any long-term tenants for several months to come.

The city is putting the finishing touches on the freshly overhauled People’s Rent-To-Own building this month, expanding the growing suite of city-owned facilities in the bohemian corridor.

“The renovation itself essentially took this building, which was built in 1947, to a level where it’s the most modern building we have in the Arts District now,” said Julie Patterson, spokeswoman for the city.

The only hurdle preventing the building from opening to the public is some minor outstanding electrical work, according to Tony Chacon, urban renewal supervisor with the city. Chacon said the new completion target is by the end of this month.

But despite spending a combined $2.73 million on the building purchase and subsequent improvements, the city has yet to nail down many long-term tenants for the roughly 4,000-square-foot refurbished performing arts space, or an interested group to take over the adjoining 2,500-sqaure-foot restaurant shell.

Tim Gonerka, retail specialist with the city, has been heading the charge to get a restaurateur in that gastronomic sandbox, which has been outfitted with several necessary amenities, including grease traps and ventilation. However, nothing had been solidified as of mid-April.

The city received 39 letters of interest in response to a survey officials issued to the arts community earlier this year, according to Gary Margolis, cultural services manager with the city. However, those letters of interest haven’t been officially parlayed into contracts, partially because officials haven’t been able to give regular tours of the space while it’s been under construction. Chacon said a more formal courting process will begin when construction wraps up at the end of this month.

“We’ve been waiting to be able to show these prospects the space and we can’t do that again until we have the certificate of occupancy,” he said.

Chacon said the letters of interest came from a slew of groups, ranging from nonprofit organizations to dance troupes to comedy clubs to theater companies.

The city is planning on issuing a request for proposals to qualified arts management groups to run the space later this year, according to Patterson. In the meantime, city staff will help manage the new shell, evaluating interest and costs in the process.

“In the interim, we need to get a handle on what the costs are in terms of running that space,” Patterson said. “It’s a blank slate, so we’re working to figure out how we move forward with making the best use of that space.”

While staff await the aid of an outside management group, the city could rent the space to arts groups on an hourly basis, Chacon said.

Local dance maven Kim Robards, proprietor of Kim Robards Dance located across the street from the People’s Building, will christen the space’s 190-seat theater with a concert and dance performance May 19 at 7:30 p.m. The show is a reprisal of a collaborative event the local dance company debuted earlier this year with Spinphony, an all-female string quartet based in Denver.

Robards, who had initially expressed interest in solely operating the People’s Building but was unable to reach an agreement with the city, said the opening of the building is another milestone for the East Colfax corridor.

“It’s a big step forward for the arts district,” she said. “Other than the Aurora Fox and Vintage, it really will be a sort of major mark on the map for the arts district. And for it to be happening right on the corner of Colfax and Florence as part of the gateway to the district, I think, is really exciting.”

Robards is one of the few cultural entities that has committed to regularly renting out space at the building.

“While the space did not evolve to necessarily be our permanent home, we will be using it quite frequently,” she said. “Along with the city, we’ll figure out how much we’ll be in the space.”

Satya Wimbish, president of the ACAD board of directors and operator of another gallery just down the block from the People’s Building, said she’s optimistic the new space will help assuage the shrinking stock of performance and rehearsal space in the district.

“I think it’ll be great,” she said. “I believe that it will help us fill a need of having more performance space and rehearsal space for artists, whether it be visual, performing or makers.”

Wimbish added she’s looking forward to the possibility of expanding menu options on East Colfax.

“It would be nice to have some additional options for food choices,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops and how the creative community embraces it and what we’re able to bring it to, together.”