Denver proposes safe occupancy program for buildings

Denver creatives may soon breathe easier thanks to the efforts of the RiNo Art District's persistence and tenacity. Following the numerous inspections by the City of Denver and the Denver Fire Department of DIY spaces throughout the RiNo Art District, the City of Denver has proposed a program that would allow DIY Artists to remain in their live/work spaces without the exorbitant costs previously required to bring these buildings up to code. RiNo has been closely involved in the development of the bill concept and we feel this is a step in the right direction towards finding creative solutions to address the needs of our artist community. 

The City of Denver has proposed a conditional building occupancy program for unpermitted spaces that will ensure life safety, limit displacement, and allow extended deadlines and collaborative solutions to achieve code compliance. The program is designed to incentivise the owners and tenants of unpermitted spaces to come forward and work with the city to make their buildings safe - thereby increasing safety for occupants, visitors, neighbors and the general public.

The program would make Denver the first city in the country with a law explicitly granting legal occupancy of unpermitted spaces while a building is being brought up to code voluntarily. While first and foremost ensuring public safety, the program offers three key benefits to users:

  • Allows people to remain in place 

  • Offers an extended deadline for compliance

  • Encourages collaboration for creative and potentially cheaper solutions

The safe occupancy program was designed with creative spaces in mind but is applicable to many other uses of existing buildings. The proposal will be reviewed by Denver City Council at a committee meeting on June 28. Visit

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RiNo donates to Artspace, committing to keeping creatives in neighborhood

DENVER— The RiNo Art District just took a big step toward keeping artists in the neighborhood. The River North (RiNo) Business Improvement District (BID) voted this week to contribute $20,000 toward Artspace and their efforts to develop affordable artist housing in the RiNo Art District, bringing the BID’s total contribution to this effort to $40,000.

As a nonprofit real estate developer, Artspace is in predevelopment on an affordable mixed-use project in RiNo that will include live/work space for low income creatives and their families, commercial space for creative business and nonprofit tenants, a community gallery, and flexible program space at the development on Brighton Blvd and 43rd St.

“One of the biggest concerns we hear from artists is the cost of living and working in the neighborhood,” said RiNo Art District President, Jamie Licko. “We believe Artspace is a critical project that emphasizes attainable housing for creatives and addresses two of our key areas of focus for RiNo: Affordability and Retaining Neighborhood Character.”

The RiNo BID’s total predevelopment contribution of $40,000 has helped leverage more than $300,000 in additional funding from local sources, and demonstrates to the broader community that this is truly a neighborhood objective that fits squarely with RiNo’s overall strategy to address affordability and sustainability for the creative community.

“Artspace is thrilled that our first Denver project will create permanently affordable spaces for creatives and their families to live and work in the River North Art District,” said Shannon Joern, Vice-President of National Advancement with Artspace. “The partnership and support between Artspace, RiNo, the City and other local funders, has been tremendous and we are especially grateful to the RiNo district for its vision and leadership to support making this project a reality.”

The BID’s contribution will go toward Artspace’s work in predevelopment, advancing site analysis, design development, financing, and fundraising on the mixed-use concept that will be built new on property owned by Westfield Companies on RiNo’s west side.

This project would join with Artspace’s other 40 artist-centered projects across the country to further their mission to create and preserve affordable space for the creative sector. The RiNo BID has identified an urgent need and demand for safe and affordable creative space that such a development would address very directly in a changing market.

“We will continue to support, advocate for, and champion Artspace,” said Licko. “The BID supports projects which are finding creative ways to keep our neighborhood intact and reserve a place and space for everyone.”

About the RiNo BID

With more than 25 district stakeholders sitting on RiNo’s boards, five staff leading strategic projects, and a budget of $1 million+ to invest, RiNo is moving forward on critical initiatives that will shape the neighborhood for years to come, while investing in programs to activate this gritty neighborhood. Through creativity, collaboration, partnerships and pushing the envelope, the RiNo Art District is setting a new standard for how neighborhoods evolve. The BID assesses commercial property in nearly all of RiNo to generate funding for advocacy, placemaking, affordability and marketing the district. In 2016, the BID is generating approximately $600,000 to support RiNo. These funds are dedicated towards projects and programming in four key areas: Advocacy, Placemaking, Marketing and Branding and Support for RiNo’s Artists and Creatives. Visit for more information.

About Artspace

Artspace is non-profit organization that uses the tools of real estate development to create affordable, appropriate places where artists can live and work. We consistently develop these projects in ways that also support more stable, healthy communities anchored in existing assets. Because Artspace owns each of the projects it develops, we are able to ensure that they remain affordable and accessible to artists in perpetuity. Over the last three decades, Artspace has led an accelerating national movement of artist-led community transformation. While embracing the value the arts bring to individual lives, Artspace has championed the once-radical idea that artists living on the edge of poverty and chronically underfunded arts organizations can leverage fundamental social change. With headquarters in Minneapolis and offices in Denver, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington D.C., Artspace is America’s leading developer of arts facilities and has served as a consultant to hundreds of communities and arts organizations nationwide. Additional information is available at


Jamie Licko
President, RiNo Art District

Tracy Weil
Co-Founder and Creative Director, RiNo Art District

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