A Tent Grows in Denver
After months of speculation, the temporary occupant for the vacant lot that comprises much of Block 162, the dilapidated downtown block whose purchase and planned redevelopment by developer Evan Makovsky made waves last summer, has been determined. And it’s a tent.
And not just any tent. A mega tent, called the Peak, capable of hosting concerts, trade shows, banquets and other special events. One whose dimensions are 160 feet by 120 feet and that will reach 50 feet into the sky, with the capacity to seat 1,500 to 2,000 people – making it one of the biggest tents in the world.
“There’s nothing else that looks like it,” says Allen Wollard, executive director of the Wright Group Event Services, a Denver event-management company that’s leased from Makovsky the space on California Street between 15th and 16th (behind the long-neglected Fontius building, which is midway through its renovation). There the company will erect the specially designed structure, which it has used for events in Las Vegas and California, as well as occasions closer to home, like the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Weekend Festival and the grand opening of Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
Makovsky eventually plans multi-use development on the block, the specifics of which have yet to be determined and construction of which won’t begin for several years. In the meantime, he’s been pondering a creative temporary use for the largely empty space and, through an initiative spearheaded last fall by the non-profit Downtown Denver Partnership, has sought suggestions from the public on what that should look like. Until now, there’s been little word as to what those suggestions were or what he’s going to do.
Preliminary construction on the Peak has already begun, says Wollard, and it should be ready to host events by June 1. The venue has a 180-day temporary structure permit through the fire department, which means it will be up for the Democratic National Convention in August and other downtown events this summer – and may stay up even longer, depending on what the city will allow, since the heated tent can withstand the winter. “We are seeing if we might be able to do something long-term,” says Wollard.
Wollard doesn’t know yet what specific events the mega tent will host – but he insists the possibilities are endless. “We hope to bring some things downtown that may not be able to fit into the Convention Center or Paramount or other nearby venues,” he says. “We could do anything from a farmers' market to a flower show to a dog show to an indoor ice rink.” If folks have specific ideas, Wollard suggests they send them his way, via a website that will go up soon at www.thedenverpeak.com.
Here’s a tent-friendly idea: How about a circus? Denver hasn’t had one of those for a while — unless, of course, you count the one Doug Bruce has been running in the Statehouse. – Joel Warner